A MOVE to spend $1 million of taxpayers’ money saving Ned Kelly’s old home has split biographers of the bushranger with one “shocked” and the other “delighted”.
The author of Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life, Doug Morrissey, is stunned the Victorian Government will outlay $1 million to preserve the Kelly homestead at Beveridge.
“It’s appalling really, $1 million being spent on a place that there is only one room in that has any relevance, the rest of it is add-on,” Morrissey said.
“Do you really want to commemorate a criminal and murderer and would-be terrorist, with what he was going to do at Glenrowan?
“I have no qualms with preserving history, this is going beyond preserving history, they’re turning it into a shrine for Ned Kelly.”
The author of Ned Kelly – A Short Life, Ian Jones, rejected Morrissey’s opinion that it would be a shrine.
“This is the view of the Ned Kelly as a baddie school, which is rather like saying nothing connected with King John should be preserved because he was a bad king – that’s not the way history should be approached,” Jones said.
“Men who have played a significant role in our past, things related to their life should not be left to rot simply because they were ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
“If they had an impact on our history, as Ned Kelly undoubtedly did, then artefacts and sites connected with them are worth preserving.”
Jones said while he was delighted at the government’s action he was concerned it came 24 years after a recommendation to save the home.
“I said in 1992 that 100 years from now, if nothing is done, history’s judgement on those not making the decision will be very severe or words to that effect,” Jones said.
“At that point, 24 years ago, it was in a critical state, it’s in a parlous state now.”
Jones says the house, built in 1860 by Kelly’s father, had architectural significance, beyond its famous occupant, as a pioneer home and he wanted additions to be demolished.
Morrissey, whose book has been shortlisted in the Australian history section of this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, said he would be glad if private money funded the preservation project.
“I think it should be preserved but I’m not sure the state government should be involved and spending money on it,” he said.
“I would be quite happy if private citizens were involved in it.
“I would like to see the thing preserved but not in a way that makes it a place of pilgrimage.
“I’m for history and heritage but it must be accurate and not biased to one side, the police or the Kellys.”