MORE than 140 years after being killed by the Kelly Gang, three policeman will be saluted through new tributes being unveiled on Saturday.
Sergeant Michael Kennedy and constables Thomas Lonigan and Michael Scanlan will be recognised by the police hierarchy at a ceremony at Stringybark Creek near Mansfield.
Plinths with family statements describing the officers’ service and new signs outlining the events of October 1878 will be formally opened with descendants of the police and bushrangers in attendance.
Kennedy’s great-grandson Leo Kennedy, who wrote Black Snake – The Real Story of Ned Kelly, a book published in October, said today “will be a restart to the healing process for the police families”.
“The Stringybark Creek site has been refocussed on what actually occurred at Stringybark Creek on the 26th of October and the impact that had on all families,” Mr Kennedy said.
“Previously it wasn’t accurate, it was made up and for 25 years it was on the wrong side of the creek – that was deeply upsetting to police and gang families, that the whole site was inaccurate.”
Mr Kennedy welcomed the removal of Ned Kelly helmet bollards and a barbecue and seating from where police were murdered.
“It seemed to be heading and heading more that way (glorifying Kelly); every time I visited there was another piece of kitsch added without proper input,” he said.
Former Wangaratta mayor Anthony Griffiths, a Kelly descendant, welcomed the revamp to the site, saying “the signage there before was average from any perspective, particularly where the policemen got shot, it wasn’t appropriate at all”.
“Last time the signage was done it was very Kelly centric, which might seem a strange thing to say from my perspective,” he said.
“It gave very little mention or recognition from the policemen’s side, which seemed very strange.”
Mr Griffiths has been in a stakeholder group discussing the changes, but will not be at Saturday’s ceremony due to a family commitment.
However, his relative Joanne Griffiths has accepted her invitation.
“We see it as a day for the police,” she said.
“We’ll be attending and standing in the background somewhere.”
The changes to the historic site are a collaboration of Victoria Police and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
The police has produced a podcast, A Shout from the Long Grass, recounting what happened at Stringybark Creek via historical sources.
The free four-part series can be downloaded via the Victoria Police Museum website, Spotify and iTunes.