Criminals in the media

Learning intention

Students examine the way criminals are presented, both in the media and in broader culture through detailed image study.

Students will:

  • Process and synthesise information from a range of sources for use as evidence in an historical argument (ACHHS170) (ACHHS188)
  • Identify and analyse the perspectives of people from the past (ACHHS172) (ACHHS190)


You can find background information for students in the Rebels & outlaws section of Explore history and in the Select resources section of Learn skills.


Primary sources on ergo:

Single image study - student template [Word 11.88 KB]
Comparing images - student template [Word 15.39 KB]


Look at the images detailed above in small groups or as individuals using an image study template. Students should explore the content and context of these images. Use questions like those below to guide discussion.

Ned Kelly

  • Who has heard of Ned Kelly?
  • What do you know about him and where did you hear it?
  • Where and when was the image published?
  • How is Ned portrayed in these images?
  • Does he seem like a hero or a criminal? How can you tell? Look at poses, positioning to give you a clue.
  • Why did news outlets publish so much Ned Kelly news at the time?
  • Do media representations of criminals affect how we feel about them?
  • Does the nature of the crimes committed affect how criminals are presented in the media?

Chopper Read and others

As an alternative, you can compare and contrast images of Ned Kelly with other criminals like Chopper Read, Squizzy Taylor, Harry Power and Dan Morgan.

In the case of Chopper Read, think about how he presents himself in the media. Has Chopper successfully recreated himself as a celebrity?

More to explore

Take these studies beyond ergo to examine media portrayals of other criminals, either modern or historical.

Discuss the current cultural fascination with criminals, as seen in shows like Underbelly. Is this a new phenomenon? 

Engraving of the Kelly Gang holding up a police station.
Engraving of Judge Redmond Barry presiding over the courtroom in Ned Kelly's trial.
Engraving of Ned approaching the gallows.
Self-portrait of criminal Mark Brandon Read, also known as 'Chopper'.