Like Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, my parents have grieved the loss of a child. Like the Chamberlains, my parents took a healthy, vibrant baby girl home from hospital expecting a lifetime of happiness but instead experiencing the ultimate sadness. In my family’s case, it was a decade earlier and my sister – Susan – died at home from meningitis, asleep in her cot, a little younger than Azaria and only two weeks old. Like Lindy and Michael, my parents never fully recovered from the loss of their daughter. Only unlike the Chamberlains, my family wasn’t torn apart, publicly vilified and my parents incarcerated for the sad circumstances that beset them.
Yesterday when the deputy coroner finally confirmed a dingo snatched baby Azaria from her bassinet on that fateful night in the Australian Outback, what were you thinking?
Did you remember the media circus that turned the death of a voiceless child into a witch-hunt of grieving parents, while their hearts were breaking? I did.
Did you recall the indigenous people of Uluru, and the park rangers, who were steadfast in their belief that – of course – a dingo could drag a baby away, though their advice was ignored? I did.
Did you remember – like I do – the accusations directed at Lindy, the public disdain that she’d even gone on a camping trip and wasn’t at home – where a mother should be (of course) – with her youngest newborn child?
Or did you wonder: what if Australia had learned from Azaria’s death, and responded to it way back then? Could the families of those other children killed or injured by dingos have paid a lesser price? Could an innocent family been spared a lifetime of injustice?
Thank goodness the public record has finally been set straight, but what a price the Chamberlains have paid. Particularly Lindy, who spent three years in prison when she should have been home in the comfort of her remaining family.
As Lindy says on her website,
“This is the story of a little girl who lived, and breathed,
and loved, and was loved. She was part of me.
She grew within my body and when she died, part of me died,
and nothing will ever alter that fact.”
As an Australian, I would add this is also a story of a nation coming of age, of raised consciousness, and of a family that has taught us all so much about persistence, courage, commitment and forgiveness. If only they needn’t have done so.