'...Australian writer Peter Carey's novel True History of the Kelly Gang, published in 2000, marks an important challenge to the heteromasculinity of Australian settler nationalism through its disruption of the gendered symbolism of one of Australia's most iconic historical figures, bushranger Ned Kelly. Ned Kelly is important to popular Australian nationalism because of the values his legend embodies-antiauthoritarianism, loyalty to family and 'mates,' and a fighting spirit-and because his career and death immediately preceded a critical moment in Australian nationalism in the 1880s and 1890s. Carey challenges the masculine symbolism of the Kelly gang through his invention of the Sons of Sieve, a secret society of Irish origin in which the men, including members of the Kelly gang and Ned Kelly's own father, ritually wear women's dresses and blacken their faces during demonstrations against police or governmental authority. While some critics have dismissed the sexual subtexts of the cross-dressing in Carey's novel by linking it to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Irish agrarian protest ritual, the Irish connection in fact strengthens the sexually disruptive force of the Kelly gang's cross-dressing, for Carey's novel unburies a host of cultural anxieties about gender and sexuality that circulate around the historical record of Ned Kelly himself and around the nationalist functions he iconically performs.
This article explores several of the functions of the Sons of Sieve in the novel and argues that the cross-dressing plays a central role in the novel's reimagining of gendered Australian identities and mythologies.' (p. 185)