Ausculture’s tagline is ‘In search of Australia 2.0’. Well, anyone wanting an illustration of the sensationalist, retrograde groupthink we need to move beyond need look no further than the Azaria Chamberlain case. The tragic loss of the two-month-old to a dingo at Uluru in the Red Centre in 1980 was followed by a frenzied (mis)trial by media and a life sentence for murder for mother Lindy. In a case drenched in cultural misogyny, father Michael received only a suspended sentence. Lindy Chamberlain was acquitted in 1986, but it was not until 2012, 32 years after the incident, that a fourth inquest finally confirmed Lindy’s original account.
The cultural impact of the case has reached far and wide, Lindy in her large sunnies having her iconic place alongside Harold Holt in his wetsuit and Hoges with his cheeky grin. And across the pond tasteless jokes about dingoes taking babies are told by people clueless as to what a dingo actually is.
The dingo is Australia’s apex predator. And it’s in trouble. Classified as Threatened, the canine with the big PR problem has suffered over a century of persecution, as European settlers claimed vast tracts of its territory for farming, aggressively culled it and built a five and a half thousand kilometre Dingo Fence to keep it out of south-eastern Australia. It is also under threat from cross-breeding with feral dogs. The publicity around the Azaria Chamberlain incident has hardly helped the dingo’s cause. But half-sister Zahra is turning that around. As seen in this video, she has teamed up with the Durong Dingo Sanctuary in south-east Queensland and is quickly becoming an ambassador for the much maligned animal. So after ending an ugly story with no winners here begins a beautiful one with no losers.