The squatters did not own the land they ran their sheep and cattle on. From the 1860's on the Government introduced a number of land reform acts that opened up land to be selected by small farmers. (Read about the Duffy Land Acts) (Sadleir) While some farmers were able to select good quality land with rich soil and plenty of water, most were not so lucky. They had to be content with blocks that were based upon the size of British farms, that required a lot of work to clear and provided a small income at best. Many of the sympathizers were selectors. They supported the KellyGang as friends and people who understood their problems.
The police used the system to attack the KellyGang. The law required that the selector do things to develop their property. They needed to clear the land and fence it etc. These laws were enforced by the authorities against KellyGang sympathizers.
Many of the sympathizers lost their land. For instance Mrs. Kelly, Maggie Skillion, Henry Perkins, Alex Gunn, William Tanner and many others lost their selections because they could not meet the payments for the land or meet the requirements to develop the land.
A tour to fine a selection (Ensign13/10/1874)
The Argus provided a series of articles on the economics of being a selector and farming in North Eastern Victoria. These articles give a good view of the struggle faced and the pressures on families like the Kellys. (Argus19/4/80) (Aragus21/6/80) and
The articles included a range of examples of particular selectors. They looked at issues such as the cost of production of crops, the cost of clearing land, types of fencing and cost, need for capital, etc. (Argus19/4/80) (Argus21/6/80)
Some of these cases were were pitiful and it is easy to see how someone could turn to crime in order to get food. (Argus19/4/80)
After some good years in 1878 the wheat crop was hit by rust. There were many other issues that selectors had to consider. (Alexandra4/1/1879)
I wrote Mr JH Graves. "Wombat, Mansfield, May 2nd, 1881.
I hope you have not forgotten to call on me in the Police Enquiry, please inform me if it is coming to Mansfield, and when. In consequence of my arrest as a Kelly sympathizer I have lost three situations. My family are still debarred from selecting."
One of the complaints in the district was that the police have given the names of people who are not entitled to select, and although a great number of those were cases of men well known to be connections and friends and sympathizers of the Kellys, still the indiscriminate way in which that power was used by the police has alienated a great number of people from the police. Henry Perkins. (RC15517)
The work of the Royal Commission into land (Argus6/3/79)
Insp Montfort had a view about the management of the community through controlling selectors.
A great deal of the difficulty with the community would solved if they felt they were treated with equal justice-that there was no "down" upon them. They are much more tractable if they feel that they are treated with equal justice.
The refusal of land to suspected persons
Insp Montfort sent a report to the Commissioner and asked him to take measures so that the Crown Lands Department should act in concert with the police. Under such a policy the police in the position so that they can use the provisions of the Land Act as a lever to influence the applicants for land in the North-Eastern district. This should more specially apply for a radius of fifty miles all around Benalla. Such a lever would be more potent than any army of police. It would prevent the people from harboring criminals, and would give them a direct incentive to place themselves on good terms with the police, and avoid doing anything that would alienate them from the police. Their whole object is to obtain land, and if their individual interests depended upon their good behaviour among the population where they are, it would be half the battle towards making good citizens of them. (RCApp1) See also (RC3515)
Find the hiding places and sites where the KellyGang found fame and fortune and where their friends indulged in horse stealing and tried to make a life against the challenges of the squatters and banks. Let the KellyGang show you the places where they found safety from the law in the bush.