The Momentum Blog
Posted June 12, 2012 by Mark
I’m writing this late on Friday night. We’ve been informed that on Tuesday, the final ruling of the coronial inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain will be handed down. As someone who has just begun a career in publishing, working on this book has been an amazing opportunity. I had grown up with the case on as background noise. Azaria vanished a little over a year before I was born, and Lindy’s ordeal through the court system, imprisonment and then freedom went on during my early childhood. It was always on in the news, spoken about by my parents and their friends at social gatherings, and as the years progressed the saga continued.
As a child, my understanding of the case was limited. How much can a child understand the many layers of the case? My parents didn’t have strong opinions on it, at least nothing they shared with me. My father was always a passionate advocate of outback and rural Australia, and he always spoke of the need to protect dingoes. He is a country person stuck in a city person’s life and body. At least, that’s how I think he perceived himself for several years.
He took us on a trip to Uluru when I was eleven. I loved it and felt connected to that place in a very real way. Whenever I return from an overseas journey, the first sense I have of being ‘home’ comes when I see the red centre of this country from 30,000 feet.
The first time I saw a dingo was near Uluru on that trip. We were on a day trip with a group of others and we’d stopped for lunch. We were fairly isolated. There was no main road, just a dirt track. One or two trees were the only shelter from the sun. It was eerily silent. Our tour guide whispered, and pointed. We all looked and there was a dingo, simply walking past. He wasn’t close, and barely paid us any attention, and was soon gone. What I remember most is the uneasy look in my father’s eye, and the way he positioned himself between me and the dingo.
I went to Uluru when I was eleven and I didn’t think of Lindy or Azaria Chamberlain once. When I go back, I know that I will.
I have a child of my own now, and working on this book has been a harrowing experience. My daughter is 18 months old. Over the previous year and a half I’ve watched her grow, watched her personality develop, and taken great pride in all her little achievements – learning to say ‘bath’ and ‘more’, understanding that she needs to cover her mouth when she coughs, playing hide and seek. But my favourite part of being a parent comes from those moments when she needs her daddy. Today I took her for a needle at the doctor’s. It hurt and she cried, and I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. When she’s distressed or in pain I need to hold her and protect her. I can’t stop the pain, but my grip on her makes her think that I can.
I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for Lindy and Michael. To know that despite their daughter’s pain and distress there was nothing they could do. They didn’t get to hold her tight and whisper that everything would be ok. Because of this they never got to see her grow, and take pride in hearing her say ‘bath’.
Had Azaria lived, she would be a grown woman. Older than me, probably with a career and family of her own. And the world would not have known her name, and her mother would have never been wrongly imprisoned for her death.
Today is about many things for Lindy. It will be a painful and satisfying day where she will no doubt reflect on what she has lost but finally get to close a traumatic chapter of her life. I’ve never met Lindy, but I’m sure she’ll be thinking of Azaria.
I hope one day to take my daughter to Uluru, as my father took me and as Lindy and Michael took Azaria. And when I’m there I’m going to think about the little girl who vanished that night. Her body was never found. That place is now her place.
Tagged: Australia, azaria, azaria chamberlain, dingo, fatherhood, lindy chamberlain, parenthood, publishing, uluru
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