Melbourne’s criminal history is legendary. From the very beginning, our story has been shaped as much by those who lived outside the law as by those within it. People like William Buckley, Ned Kelly, Squizzy Taylor and even Carl Williams have left an indelible mark on the city. They wont soon be forgotten.
Australia has always had an interesting relationship with crime and authority. It’s no secret we started out as the world’s largest penal colony. It was seen as shameful to have convict heritage of course but even that has changed. These days you will find Australian’s proudly tracing back to their criminal ancestry. It is a stamp of authenticity, a sign of credibility in a country with such unique character.
Conversely, or perhaps as a result of this, you will also find here, some of the worlds most conservative legislation. Voting is compulsory, as are bike helmets. Many of our cities have toyed with curfews in recent years including Melbourne and Sydney. We test drivers for drug use (a world first), and cyclists for drinking. We have heavy taxation on and stringent laws around the consumption and distribution of alcohol and tobacco; these are exorbitantly expensive. For most offences, fines are astonishingly high by global standards, and enforced with fervour. A sometimes ludicrously strong police presence can be felt in cities. For a liberal democracy in the Western tradition it is somewhat unique.
Still, it’s a country where Mark ‘Chopper’ Read can have a successful stand up career - he had his ears cut off in prison to show how tough he was. Where we’d sooner have him represent us, or Ned Kelly or even Russell Crowe than many a Prime Minister and certainly our present one. Bob Hawke is the exception for his well-documented talent for beer sculling.
Ours is a curious land but we are who we are. It’s a fertile land for storytelling and that’s a big part of what we do at Localing. Join us on a Melbourne tour for a unique insight into this peculiar place we call home.