It’s still one of Australia’s most controversial criminal cases. The death of Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in 1980 turned an ordinary family into villains and victims, as the media sensationalised the story and the prosecution tried to keep up with the narrative. Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton was convicted of murder on what would turn out to be unreliable evidence and later the convictions were quashed – but have the media and the justice system adequately stood trial for their part in this woeful story? Should we accept that there’s a margin of error in our courts and a terrible miscarriage of justice like this one can be used to improve them? And should the media accept blame for sabotaging a fair trial or does it ultimately deliver its own perverted form of justice? Hear from the woman at the heart of this tragic episode, who lost much more than a daughter as she fought a system that was supposed to be helping her.
This session is made possible thanks to the support of Simon Mordant AM and Catriona Mordant AM.
Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton is quite literally our own piece of Australia’s ‘living history’. On 17 August 1980, while on a family holiday, nine week old Azaria Chamberlain was taken by a dingo from a camping ground near Ayers Rock. After two inquests and a police raid on her house, Lindy Chamberlain was tried and convicted of the murder of her baby daughter. She was sentenced to life in prison with hard labour. While inside and outside the prison, Lindy and thousands of others fought to clear her name. Lindy’s fourth child was born while Lindy was in the custody of Darwin Prison.
In February 1986 the missing matinee jacket was found along with several other items and after two previous appeals against Lindy’s sentence had been rejected, the Northern Territory Government remitted Lindy’s life sentence and she was immediately released from jail and announced a Royal commission. The 1987 commission found her innocent and revealed that a jury would not have convicted if the new evidence had been available. In September 1988, after forcing a new law through Parliament, Lindy Chamberlain returned to court and this time the criminal convictions were finally quashed by the NT Court of Criminal Appeal.
There is still enormous media interest in Lindy and her life and gives seminars, lectures and keynote addresses on a variety of topics including how to deal with stress; grief and forgiveness; privacy and the media’s responsibilities in news reporting; lawyers’ responsibilities to seek the truth and be impartial; and prison life.