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Michael Chamberlain – Where Is He Now?

Continuing our weekly theme of 80s Adventist flashbacks, I thought that you, dear readers, would appreciate this interview with Michael Chamberlain, of dingo fame.

Below I’ve clipped some graphs from the Sydney Morning Herald, September 13, 2008

Click here to read the whole article.

It was never a dingo howl in the first place, just a growl in the Central Australian darkness, before a dingo snatched tiny Azaria Chamberlain in its jaws and made off. But the howls have continued ever since from the crude and bigoted, and it has been galling to Michael Chamberlain, who with his former wife Lindy was exonerated of involvement in the death of his daughter Azaria.

The Federal Court decision in Darwin 20 years ago on Monday to quash the convictions – Lindy for murder and Michael for being an accessory after the fact of murder – lifted a great weight from the couple and paved the way for a substantial compensation payout. But the Chamberlains, and their children, have not been allowed to forget.

In 2003 Michael Chamberlain, divorced from Lindy and remarried, and having gained a PhD from Newcastle University, was employed by the NSW Department of Education and sent to Brewarrina in the state’s far west for three years to teach high school English. He took to the task readily, adjusting to the fact that all his students were Aboriginal. The white high school students were being educated “out of town”, sent to boarding school and elsewhere. Michael, part of a staff of 23 at an “eight point” school – the highest hardship rating for teacher appointments – applied himself well and identified with the Aboriginal people. He had a long-standing gratitude to the Pitjantjatjara people, the traditional owners of Uluru, who backed up his and Lindy’s account that a dingo took Azaria at Uluru in 1980. “They were absolutely fearless,” he said. “They told the truth as they knew it.”

. . .

He agonised for the Aboriginal people. He knew their future lay in grasping literacy – normally a cinch for children from families in the mainstream population, but not for children coming from such disadvantaged backgrounds. “Seventy per cent or more of them have special education needs,” he said. He was never troubled by the students about his past troubles. But in the town at large came the odd dingo howl. “One man, an Aboriginal, accused me of murdering my baby,” said Chamberlain. “I said that his brothers and sisters at Uluru – Nippur Minyintiri, Barbara Twikadu, Nui Mintri, Daisy Walkabout – knew the truth. But it did not do any good. He assaulted me twice and I had to get an AVO taken out against him. He was convicted of assault and jailed.”

The New Zealander, now 64, migrated to Australia in 1965, and started studies at Avondale College, a Seventh-day Adventist Church institution at Cooranbong, a small town in the Lake Macquarie hinterland which the church had chosen for its Australasia and Pacific headquarters.

He married Lindy in 1969, and would probably have passed below the national radar like millions of others. It was only incidental, he said, that they went to Uluru in August 1980. “I wanted to go to Darwin to catch barramundi,” he said. “But Lindy had been to Uluru before, at the age of 16, and wanted to go again. We meant to spend three days there, then go on to Darwin. We arrived on the Saturday, August 16, and Azaria was taken the following night.”

. . .

In the aftermath of convictions and appeals, pressure had built on the Territory administration, brought about by a growing chorus of protest from lawyers, politicians, scientists, community activists and sections of the media. The Territory’s then solicitor-general, Brian Martin (he later became chief justice), had written a report in 1985 recommending there be no inquiry, but that was immediately attacked by critics who claimed the report was flawed.

When Azaria’s matinee jacket was found at the base of Uluru on February 1, 1986 – proving Lindy told the truth at least about Azaria wearing the jacket when she disappeared – a royal commission led by the former Federal Court judge Trevor Morling was appointed. Lindy was released from prison on February 7.

. . .

But the trauma runs deep from those dreadful events. He resigned as a pastor from the Seventh-Day Adventist ministry the day in 1984 the High Court decided by a 3-2 majority to dismiss his and Lindy’s appeals against their convictions.

He has not tried to get back to the ministry. “I did not think it would work,” he said. He found that as a man convicted of a sentence of more than 12 months (he got an 18-month suspended sentence), he could not go to Loma Linda University in Southern California to do a postgraduate degree. “They might not have let me back because I was a person of unsavoury character,” he said. “You are marked for life. I was not allowed to vote. It is like having a social AVO taken out on you.”

Click here to read the whole article.

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