HISTORIAN Michael Cathcart presents Australia On Trial, a three-parter that recreates historic Australia colonial trials that still resonate in the present day. Each case caused a sensation and attracted enormous public interest. Each triggered unprecedented social and political debate about subjects at the heart of Australian society: democracy, justice and the identity and behaviour of Australian men and their attitudes towards women and indigenous people.
The first episode revisits the Mount Rennie rape trial of 1886. In Darlinghurst Courthouse, nine young ‘‘larrikins’’ stand accused of serially raping and possibly torturing orphan Mary Jane Hicks, 16. Hicks, a stranger to Sydney, was looking for work when a cab driver stopped and offered to take her to the registry office. Instead, the driver took her to Waterloo and tried to assault her. She screamed and the young men – she believed them to be rescuers – led her to nearby bushland on Mount Rennie (now Moore Park) and raped her.
Presided over by Justice Windeyer, the trial attracts unprecedented press coverage. Is Hicks a strumpet or an innocent girl; are youths savages or virile Australian-born men?
Thursday, 8.30pm, ABC1.
Members of a gang called Waterloo Push stand accused of the rape of Mary Jane Hicks.