New picture book captures lessons of history in Azaria Chamberlain case

New picture book captures lessons of history in Azaria Chamberlain case

The story of Azaria and Lindy Chamberlain is the subject of a new picture book by RMIT alumnus Maree Coote, launched at RMIT’s The Capitol last night.

Published by Melbournestyle, Azaria: A True History is based on the story of Azaria Chamberlain, the two-month old baby who was snatched by a wild dingo during a family camping trip at Uluru in the Northern Territory in 1980.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the case and Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, who has since remarried, was guest of honour at the event, where the book was launched by former judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Hon. Justice Lex Lasry AM.

Award winning author and illustrator, Coote said it told the tale of Australia’s most remarkable miscarriage of justice.

“Lurid media reports at the time accused baby Azaria’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain, of murder, for which she was sentenced and jailed before eventually being exonerated,” Coote said.

Speaking at the launch, Coote said the book told the story with care and empathy for a new audience.

“The nation’s demographic has changed rapidly, and the story is drifting from the national consciousness,” she said.

“I wanted to reiterate the truth for a new generation, which is that this mother did nothing wrong and that this dingo—although the guilty agent—remains an innocent animal.”

Author Maree Coote with Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton Author Maree Coote with Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton
04 February 2020

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Chamberlain spent more than three years in prison for the crime she didn’t commit before she and ex-husband Michael were fully exonerated.

The case has long fascinated Coote, inspiring her artwork for the past 20 years.

“It is an epic tale, filled with enough archetypal characters to rival a Greek tragedy, and for an artist that’s pure inspiration," she said.

While working on the book, Coote met Chamberlain-Creighton several times.

“Lindy was able to give her insight into events and I felt it was important to hear directly from her to learn the lessons of history,” she said.

Completing a Bachelor of Graphic Design at RMIT, Coote had a successful advertising career and later taught creative writing at the University.

Coote said she was drawn to write about the story because it touched on themes we still wrestled with as a nation including the relationship with wilderness, the treatment of indigenous people, and the treatment of women.

“It also contains ideas of the frontier mentality, the incontrovertible nature of the law and of science, the perils of mob-thinking and of prejudice against the ‘other', and of course of the media amplification and distortion of a story based on gossip for the purposes of entertainment and sales."

Coote said she wanted to explore what happened when the truth gets lost.

“We were as a nation readier to believe that a loving mother —with no motive, no means, no opportunity and no evidence —would do such an unlikely act, while ignoring that a dingo would do exactly what it would do in the wild,” she said.

“Lindy Chamberlain paid the price for our ignorance.”

 

Story: Diana Robertson

04 February 2020

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