The State Library of Victoria


The morning of our second full day in Morning, we decided to visit the State Library of Victoria, which is at the north end of the Central Business District.


It’s an interesting, impressive building, with a large, round, domed reading room.


The library also shows exhibitions, including two which are on permanent display, the Changing Face of Victoria  and Mirror of the World : books and ideas which are located on the galleries around the circumference of the dome, providing visitors with good views down into the void of the reading room!

One of the highlights of the exhibition about the history of Victoria was the section devoted to the famous Bushranger, Ned Kelly. The exhibits included the armour that he wore during some of the Kelly gang’s raid and during the final showdown with the police in the small ton of Glenrowan, where they were planning to rob a train, on 28 June 1880.


and his death mask.



I couldn’t help but note the library opening hours, 7 days a week – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday. What a contrast with libraries in the UK which are being starved of resources. The main library in Wigan has had it’s opening hours severely cut back , shutting at 5 p.m. weekdays and, unbelievably, at 2 p.m. on a Saturday! You can almost forget visiting the library if you are lucky enough to have a full time job.


Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series


I had an hour to spare before our tour of the Parliament building in Canberra so I took the opportunity to pop into the National Gallery (only a 20 minute walk from Parliament) to have a look at the iconic series of paintings by the Australian artist Sidney Nolan of the legendary bushranger, Ned Kelly.

The Gallery’s website tells us

Sidney Nolan’s 1946-47 paintings on the theme of the 19th-century bushranger Ned Kelly are one of the greatest series of Australian paintings of the 20th century. Nolan’s starkly simplified depiction of Kelly in his homemade armour has become an iconic Australian image. Highlighting these works makes the point that Australian art is part of the world, with its own stories to tell.

Ned Kelly was a controversial character; a violent criminal to some, including the establishment, but a hero to many. Nolan, who, like Kelly, had Irish roots, clearly fell into the latter category.


There are 25 paintings, displayed in a dedicated room with some related works, which tell the story of Kelly – the events that led him to become an outlaw, his exploits as a bushranger, the battle with the police that led to his capture and trial. They’re painted in a simple, colourful, naïve style, using house paints rather than oils. Kelly is depicted in his armour, in a simplified way, but it is as if the armour is part of him. His helmet becoming his head and the eye slit going right through.


The paintings are also noted for the way they depict the Australian landscape


They’re fantastic paintings and I’m glad I managed to find the time to see them. The whole series can be seen on the Australian National Gallery Website.

We would come across Ned Kelly again a few more times during our holiday, while we were in Melbourne.

Ned Kelly


Ned Kelly, the notorious “bushranger”, in his armour facing the bullets of the police is an iconic image of Australian rebellion against a corrupt establishment in the 19th Century


Kelly, was the son of poor Irish Catholics who became involved in petty crime including horse and cattle theft which led to a spell in jail. . After an incident at his family’s home in 1878,where a police officer was shot  Ned along with one of his brother and a couple of his friends went on the run. They were pursued by police and an altercation led to 3 officers being shot. Following this the Victorian government issued a proclamation of outlawry and offered rewards of £500 for each of the gang, alive or dead.

The gang became notorious for avoiding capture and for a series of daring bank raids

They were eventually cornered by the police in the small ton of Glenrowan, where they were planning to rob a train, on 28 June 1880. Kelly and his gang dressed in homemade plate metal armour and a helmet came out shooting but the police shot at their legs which were unprotected and Ned  was captured. He was convicted of three counts of wilful murder and hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880.

Numerous films have been made about the anti-hero and his story features in a novel by the Australian authour, Peter Carey – The True History of the Kelly Gang.

Today his armour is displayed in the State Library of Victoria as part of a permanent exhibition about the bushranger


A copy of his death mask is also included in the exhibition


The library have other free exhibitions on the Changing Face of Victoria  and Mirror of the World : books and ideas as well as some paid exhibitions.

The building itself is very impressive, especially the massive domed round reading room