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Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia is a National Museum of Australia exhibition exploring the stories of Irish men and women who have helped create a uniquely Australian way of life.

A true history of the Irish in Australia

The Irish have been part of Australian history since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. Thousands of Irish emigrants settled in Australia and today it is the most Irish country in the world outside Ireland.

Who were the Irish? Most were ordinary men and women who sought a better life in a new country. Among the thousands who came were some whose stories have become legends, or whose efforts have helped make Australia what it is today.

Patrick O'Farrell, in his lifetime a leading authority on the Irish in Australia wrote: 'Where the action was in Australian history, there also were the Irish.'

Without the Irish there would be no Kelly gang, no Peter Lalor at Eureka, no boxer Les Darcy and no Archbishop Daniel Mannix in the conscription debate.

These are just a few of the events and personalities which give colour and movement to a complex story, the real history of the Irish in Australia.

To tell this story in Not Just Ned the National Museum has assembled more than 450 objects from public institutions and private collections across Australia, Ireland, the United State and New Zealand.

Exhibition highlights

Not Just Ned takes the visitor on a journey with the Irish, from the dawn of European settlement in Australia to the present day.

It challenges some of the clichés about the presence of the Irish. As O’Farrell suggests, the Irish were always in the thick of things in Australia, and the national story is now unimaginable without them.

These online slideshows of exhibition highlights present stories old and new, sometimes challenging conventional beliefs.

Key objects

Not Just Ned brings together a fascinating collection of rare and precious objects, documents, paintings, drawings and photographs from across the globe.

For the first time, in a national exhibition, all four suits of the Kelly gang armour stand together, the best known symbols of that supposed anti-authoritarian wildness which characterised Irish Australians. But this exhibition, of course, is Not Just Ned. Visitors can also see the:

  • Rajah quilt, one of very few objects related to Australian convict women, hand-sewn on their journey to the colony
  • Cross of Cong replica, based on a 12th-century Irish processional cross and used by Australia's first Catholic cardinal
  • Catalpa's pennant, which flew above the American whaler when it was used to rescue six Irish republican convicts from Fremantle
  • Chair used by Ben Chifley at Catholic services after he married outside the church
  • Les Darcy mourning locket, worn by his sweetheart years after his death.

Explore more on the objects in the exhibition by clicking on the images below.

Exhibition launch

Mr Andrew Sayers AM, Director of the National Museum of Australia welcomed guests to the launch of Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia, 16 March 2011.

Mr Daniel Gilbert AM, Chair of the Museum's Council; The Hon. Simon Crean MP, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts; Ms Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children, Government of Ireland; and author Mr Thomas Keneally AO spoke at the launch.

Performance by the Alan Kelly Quartet.

Exhibition launch: Not Just Ned: A true history of the Irish in Australia

Author Tom Keneally officially launches the National Museum’s new exhibition about the Irish contribution to Australia. Includes a performance by the Alan Kelly Quartet and speeches by the Federal Arts Minister and new Irish children’s minister.
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Presenters: Simon Crean, Frances Fitzgerald, Daniel Gilbert, Tom Keneally and Andrew Sayers
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