Masks – Part of Victoria’s heritage since 1880


The news of mandatory mask wearing has taken me completely by surprise. Knowing that I’ll be fined $200 for not wearing a mask after Wednesday has made me regret continuing to panic buy toilet paper when everybody else was probably panic buying face masks.

How could I have got panic buying so wrong?

Now masks are going to be compulsory, the chances of getting one of those official-looking blue ones that Anthony Edwards used to wear on ‘ER’ are slim to none. Which means I’ll need to make my own.

Authors home-made pandemic mask

Luckily, I am incredibly practical by nature and willing to face the challenge head on (no pun intended). Using Google and whatever I could find around the house, I managed to create a prototype that is so fit for purpose it could do a three minute mile. If I’m being honest, the overall effect is less ‘pandemic’ and more ‘bushranger’. But also, a fitting nod to our unique Victorian heritage.

I’m going to call it the ‘Ned Kelly pandemic mask’.

As I write, I am wearing the ‘Ned Kelly pandemic mask’. That’s despite the fact that I’m currently indoors. It’s sturdy, although a little on the heavy side, which makes entering and exiting a vehicle kind of a challenge. But, boy, do I feel safe.

In the same way that Australia has invented everything useful in the past hundred years, including wine casks, the Hills Hoist and grunge music, we also invented the first full-functioning pandemic mask. Ned Kelly was an outlaw and a surprisingly early adopter of the face covering.

Like many of us, Ned made his mask at home. It’s as good a model as any – not only will it assist to protect you from coronavirus, you can also get your mail delivered to it.

But I’m not going to bore you with a full history of Ned and the Kelly Gang. Everybody knows the story. Well, perhaps a quick recap for those that have only arrived here in the last 140 years….

Ned had decided to get together with a few of his friends in Glenrowan for a house-party at the local inn they had hired out on Airbnb. Well above the number of people allowed in a single dwelling under Level Three Restrictions (especially considering they had 62 hostages), the constabulary were sent in to slap Ned with a $1652 fine. Ned would have none of it, and from there it all went pear-shaped.

Unfortunately for Ned, and contrary to modern epidemiology, the thing that would eventually take him down would end up embedded in his legs, and not in his upper nasal passage. If only the police had been firing airborne virus particles and not lead bullets, Ned would still be with us today.

Ned Kelly was convicted for the crimes of murder, armed robbery, and the excessive hoarding of toilet paper.  Some things never change. Although things didn’t work out for Ned, we can all enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Ned Kelly – bushranger, early adopter and Victoria’s first mask wearer. Thanks Ned.

As for me, if anybody would like to swap some masks for some toilet paper, please let me know.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 21 July 2020


Comments are closed.