Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton closeup

LINDY. WHAT’S LEFT TO SAY…

It is a bright and cold and beautiful June morning in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley when Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton comes to the phone and describes the view from her window.

 

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton in Darwin last week with Azaria’s death certificate.

 “I look out to the mountain and the ribbons of mist in the morning. There are kangaroos, wombats, possums, fruit bats… I even saw a quoll once. They eat everything I plant. I have two days grace when I see the fruit ripening and if I don’t get in quick, they eat the lot,” she laughs.

We settle in for a good, long (very long, as it turns out) chat on the themes that interest Lindy most these days – forgiveness, healing, faith and justice.

We talk a lot about justice.

At the moment she is updating her book A Dingo’s Got My Baby with what she calls the “epilogue”.

The last version of the book left the reader with uncertainty. An open finding. Now Lindy feels she can at last write “The End” after the fourth inquest into her nine-week-old baby’s death.

Thirty-two years ago, Azaria was killed by a dingo. The end.   

“My book’s called A Dingo’s Got My Baby because that’s a real story, it’s not just a comedy line. It’s my life. Part of who I am,” Lindy explains. “It’s my phrase. I said it. I’ll use it.”

“It’s done. This era’s over for me now, although I’m not naïve enough to think other people will let it go. I don’t suppose Australians will ever ask: Lindy who? My story is probably woven into the lore and fabric of Australia now, a bit like Ned Kelly.”

Just as opinions are still divided on Ned Kelly, she acknowledges that Australians either love her or hate her.

However, she relates with a laugh that her husband Rick has put a magnet on the fridge that reads: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

Lindy mentions a forthcoming television interview to be given by her ex-husband Michael Chamberlain and hopes the era is finished for him too.

“We’ll find out, I suppose,” she sighs.

It’s rumoured that Michael will ask for a formal apology from the Northern Territory Government for the family’s suffering. When I suggest it, Lindy replies smartly that she “doesn’t want to go there”.

“Forcing people to apologise is no good. In another 30 years we’ll all be dead. Time to move on.”

“I could handle things he couldn’t and he could handle things I couldn’t,” she says of Michael. “And sometimes it gets to the point where a couple can’t relate and have to rely upon friends or the strangers who come out of the woodwork.”

She is steeling herself for some sort of “backlash” from Michael’s interview, but if it does come, she will be ready with an arsenal of techniques she has gathered over the past 32 years to bring her to where she is now.

To a place where she has some wisdom to impart.

So we start with forgiveness.

I’m under no illusion that I have been given the chance to talk to Lindy by her representatives because when the coroner’s verdict came out I made a public apology to her for a comedy routine I performed about her in the 80s.

But still, it was surprising when the call came: “Would you like to talk to Lindy?”

We’ve never met that I can recall, although Lindy thinks we were once sat at opposite ends of a table at a birthday party, the Logies, a Women’s Weekly event? Neither of us can remember where or when. But we do agree that for a big country, Australia’s a small place.

Too damn small at times. I’ve been around long enough now to know that you say something rude about someone, they will surely hear of it.

I tell her the reason that I said sorry was that, when I looked back, I felt I’d been part of an unedifying free-for-all and I really should have known better.

She’s not about to give me absolution and say: “Thank you, Wendy. Good girl. Here’s a pat on the head for you.”

“You joined the mob mentality and you knew better than to do that,” she says. “That’s your lesson and it has absolutely nothing to do with me.”

 

 Lindy and Michael Chamberlain talk to the media after Azaria went missing.

 She’s been amused by reporters who interview her and interrupt with a mumbled: “I’m sorry too.”

“There are the ones who mean it and the ones who are just saying it because it’s popular, some afterthought. They’re not genuine. It just makes me laugh. You really can tell the difference.”

However, the outpouring of public emotion over the past days since the verdict was something she wasn’t expecting.

“I was really surprised that so many people felt so much relief at the verdict,” Lindy tells me.

“There was a massive level of personal ownership in what happened that so many people had. It was like a huge sigh of relief. The verdict was cathartic for them.

“I honestly didn’t know that. I had no idea. So many people said they were ashamed.”

But again, she is steadfast about her philosophy of forgiveness – that it’s not up to her to make anyone feel noble.

I suggest that perhaps many in Australia would like to hear her declare, publicly: “I forgive you.”

“If I say ‘I forgive you’, that in some way is setting me up to be better than you. That’s not my role. I don’t have that power. You have to forgive yourself,” she says firmly.

As for the haters who have found their voice to come back for another snarl and snap?

“I’m not letting anyone rent out my headspace any more. I’m going forwards, not backwards and I choose not to let these people disturb me.”

It’s a statement of some bravado and, when pressed, Lindy does admit that sometimes she has to give herself a “little lecture” to get back on track when people say things that remind her of the “horror”.

There was a time, long past now, when the public judgement did get her down.

In her darkest moments she turned to an envelope given to her by her late father that was stuffed with inspirational sayings from The Bible and snippets of wisdom. She dipped into it and always found something to buoy her spirits.

“My father always said: ‘Honey, you’re a bright girl. You and God have the ability to do anything. Don’t let discouragement grab you’.”

That’s her mantra: I choose not to be upset. I will ignore this. It is who you are. Not me. I am moving on.

She has the same clear intent of purpose when it comes to grieving: that it is in the past.

But that doesn’t mean she forgets.

“When the 17th of August comes around (the date of Azaria’s death) I don’t say ‘boo, hoo, I should cry today’. I like to remember her birthday instead. A happy day. Why would anyone want to make themselves miserable every single year?”

These days Lindy is often approached by those who are struggling to move on from grief and she recalls a woman who said she was frightened, as the years wore on, that she could not quite recall the face of her dead daughter in the way she once could. She was terrified of forgetting.

She admonished herself for that and was paralysed. Couldn’t go back or move forward.

“I didn’t know this woman,” says Lindy. “What was I going to say? I just told her she had to forgive herself for getting over it. That she would always remember. But that she would not find happiness as long as she lost her daughter all over again, every day.”

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton says she refuses to be defined by the death of her child, her time in prison or her trials in the media.

She sees that combination as a rare storm, but is adamant she’s not alone in her tribulations.

When we talk about “healing”, again the analogy of a storm is evoked.

It’s something Lindy is often asked about in her public speaking engagements and so had to come up with a concept her audiences could grasp.

In was when she was in living Seattle with her husband Rick that she observed the aftermath of a fierce storm and saw the foliage had been tossed and blown to reveal bare dirt. As she puts it: “the scar of the earth below”.

Days later, the branches and vines had bounced back and the same scene had been restored to serene loveliness.

“I thought, you know, that’s just how it is with grief and hurt. It doesn’t go away. It’s there all the time. Just underneath. Superficially, it’s disappeared, but it’s still there.”

“You learn to cope, a little bit here, a little bit there, but the hurt remains and sometimes the wind blows again and it’s all uncovered – you read something; someone does or says something. It’s the old scar again, exposed and painful.

“But you learn to recover more and more quickly.

“You’re not poking at a raw wound. You can touch the scar. It will not kill you any more.”

 

Then there’s faith.

Lindy is a Christian. Did God send her a trial as a test of her belief?

She rejects that notion out of hand, is adamant that there’s no rhyme nor reason for the way suffering is apportioned, but that we all have our own challenges – equal to hers.

“Everyone has something in their lives that is truly hard, but I believe that God will never give anyone a burden that can’t be borne with his help.”

And what of courage, I ask?

She simply says it’s doing what you know you have to – no matter how uncomfortable that may feel. No matter how unequipped you may be. No matter how old, how young, or how shy you might imagine you are.

Can she claim the title of  courageous for herself?

It’s not for her to say, she responds quickly. She just did what needed to be done at the time.

“It reminds me of prison where there was this girl who was always telling us she was a ‘lady’. We used to laugh and say: ‘If you were a real lady you wouldn’t feel the need to tell us’.”

It’s quite unnerving the way Lindy slips in and out of her time in prison. As if it were yesterday.

It’s a deeply disturbing reminder that she was incarcerated and spent three years in Berrimah Prison, convicted for murdering her baby, was escorted from prison to give birth to her fourth child, daughter Kahlia, and then taken back to her cell.

And all the while… innocent.

“There were three girls in with me who were good girls and I will lay my reputation on the line they did not do what they were accused of. One Aboriginal girl wasn’t even given a translator until her appeal was over.

“She sat with me day after day. I know she didn’t do it. She said: ‘Well that man alive before I leave.’ I believed her.”

Now what engages Lindy – apart from her art and craft and the busy renovation business she runs with her husband – is justice for those wrongly imprisoned.

She is the spokesperson for JUSTICEwa  and urges me to go and look on the site.

On it she is auctioning off one of her old suits (from the 80s… size 12, she hoots!) to raise money to pursue the cases of those seeking justice.

And here Lindy’s off – speaking at length with passion and all the knowledge gained from seeing the Australian legal system up close and personal for three decades.

“A lot of people must think that if I got justice after all these years, the system must be OK. But it’s not,” she declares with passion.

“If people want to apologise… if they are genuine. Perhaps they can make a donation to the cause.”

And on the topic of money.

Being THE Lindy Chamberlain made her unemployable, for years.

Even though many Australians think she and her family must be wealthy after the $1.3 million in compensation for wrongful imprisonment, it was a sum that covered less than one third of their legal expenses.

These days Lindy uses her Flybuys and forgoes cups of coffee to save up to visit her youngest, Kahlia who lives in the Virgin Islands.

She has “taken off the fake fingernails” to get down to the task of writing a book on forgiveness and hopes to have it finished by Christmas.

She can sense there’s a hunger out there for all she has learned.

“People stop me on the street and talk to me about a child they lost, 30, 40… even 60 years ago. They all speak to me like it was yesterday.”

“Now Rick and I have the time to give something back for all our good fortune, and all the people who have helped us.”

Forgiveness. Healing. Faith. Justice.

We have come back to these words over and over again in our warm and wonderful conversation.

Perhaps there was no need to mention “courage”.

It doesn’t seem to be part of her vocabulary. Even though in mine it is inextricably linked with the name Lindy Chamberlain.

 

Post Script: 

Lindy subsequently rings me after this article appears and says I left out one thing: “Wendy, you didn’t ask me if I forgave you?”

She’s right, I didn’t. That would have been an imposition, I think. And what if she hadn’t?

She says she did know I’d told jokes about her- in fact she remembers all the cartoons and comedy sketches.

“But I want you to know that I already had forgiven you. In my heart. Years ago. If people ask me directly I always say ‘yes’, because I have.”

*You can contact Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton through her website.

RELATED ARTICLES

Azaria. What was I thinking?

*Homepage photograph via The Examiner.

 

 

 

Follow us on

39 Comments

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Kate S.

    Lindy doesn’t want to be defined by what happened to her because of that event 32 years ago at Uluru.

    She faced it all with grace and courage. At times the loss and the injustice must been close to overwhelming,

    No matter what happens in life, you can go beyond it with grace and courage. And it doesn’t matter if that wavers from time to time.. That is what I take personally from Lindy’s experience although I never saw her waver.

    A truly strong and noble woman. Thanks for the story.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Carz

    Thank you Lindy, for still being willing to show your true self to a country that has caused you such pain.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    alan

    Wonderful read. Extraordinary. Words fail me

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Kaz

    Wow, what an amazing interview Wendy. And Lindy, despite your protestations otherwise, your faith, courage, bravery and truth in the face of such adversity is an inspiration.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Katherine

    Wonderful piece. Lindy Chamberlain is an extraordinary woman. Her strength of character comes through every word.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Belinda

    I hope there more articles to comes, I want to know more about what you talked about its like this article is only just getting started

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Leah pallaris.

    in life some people get to carry their own cross, and still come out of it alive, Lindy Chamberlain, your faith and hope were tested and you passed.
    POWER to WOMEN, everywhere, your strenght and courage was the LESSON we all can only hope to have in our own lives.
    GOD BLESS you and your family.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Marina

    Lindy is one classy lady. Graceful, brave and wise. I wish I could have some of her strength in me to face life’s awful moments which I hope are never the horrific that she has lived through. Amazing woman. Beautiful interview.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Tamsin Howse

    Amazing read, truly amazing.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Sleuthcity

    Good on Lindy. What dignity and grace in the face of unremitting mob criticism. I was working in the Alice when the trial was on in Darwin. When the verdict came in via ABC TV news the town was in uproar – the local community in Alice and at the Rock knew what dingoes were capable of. How could they find her guilty was the question we all asked. How could the prosecution succeed with its far fetched theory fueled by the infamous Joy Khul who mistook engine dampener for fetal blood. Then Joy destroyed her slides! The prosecution’s theory was pure madness. It was a tragedy for the Chamberlain family. Let it be a case study for all budding lawyers/police and hope that a case like that never happens again. Hats off Lindy. You are an inspiration.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Lynne

    It seems that when faced with adversity we have a choice to grow or shrivel up. It seems that Lindy has chosen the former & I gain inspiration from reading her story & the stories of others like her. Garry Lynch, who suffered through the violent murder of his daughter Anita Cobby, is also inspiring in his forgiveness of perpetrators.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Prue

    In tears over my lunch. Thank you Lindy and Wendy.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    sam

    http://housegoeshome.com/2012/06/20/help-not-hate/
    someone else who has been tried by the media

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Annie Also

    As an atheist I like that she says that forgiveness is something you need to give yourself, not for others to bestow.
    Wonderful interview.
    Thanks Wendy.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    kelli

    good intereview Wendy. Nice to see no sensationalism or ‘dirt digging’

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    VK

    In hindsight (a wonderful thing, as they say), it seems unbelievable that this ever happened to Lindy Chamberlain. Even more surprising, to me, though, is that she survived it intact.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    WENDY GREEN

    I’m wondering why Lindy Chamberlain is not The Hoopla’s Woman of the Week?

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Carole Lyden

    All this is too little too late for Lindy. http://www.psychebuzz.com

    • Reply June 20, 2012

      Wendy Harmer

      Oh, no it isn’t. Never too late. Lindy is full of plans for the future and bright, brilliant and optimistic.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Sharon Ellam

    Thank you Lindy & Wendy. I last saw a dingo at the Rock as a 10yo in 1979. I saw it take a boxed fruitcake from the front seat of our 4WD by climbing up into the vehicle as we were surveying a campsite. It ran off shaking its head to remove the wrapping. As a child I had that image in my little head for years with Azaria as I knew it was true.
    More tears fall from my eyes again today as I read this article. Maybe the recent response has been a ‘collective mourning’ that has been allowed to be expressed publicly without the media cynicism & hype finally. That beautiful baby, & those beautiful innocent little boys, will always raise a tear in my eyes.
    Wendy, can you forgive yourself? Will that ever happen? As a Counsellor, all I can say is that with time maybe you might be kinder towards yourself. As a girl who knows how to beat herself up, I often ask ‘What does forgiveness look like?’
    Lindy, I deeply hope that your sons are finally OK too (whatever OK looks like). I remember no-one asking if the boys were OK.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Maree

    A truly amazing lady filled with courage and grace. I am so happy for Lindy. Thanks for the interview.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Sian Morton

    What a good insight into a truly remarkable woman. I have always believed in her innocence, but I wish I had done more than just sign petitions.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Anne

    Thanks for such an inspirational article – great for a reread at times when old scars are exposed and one feels temporarily discouraged!

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Beth

    Thank you Wendy and thank you Lindy . I was 11 years old when Azaria was taken. the story touched me profoundly and was a defining moment in my childhood. It was the first time I realised that you can’t trust the Australian legal system. I remember being so shocked that so many adults could be so wrong.The other day when the inquest finally resolved the case I attempted to explain to my daughter (who is 11 this year) why this news meant so much to me. Sometimes it takes a long long time for the Truth to set you free.

    • Reply June 24, 2012

      Sharon Ellam

      Beth we must have inhabited the same rainbow. Same age – similar defining moment. I explained it to one of my children as I cried last week. My child solemnly listened.
      Forever in my memory as it was also the same year that I was first abused. The 10yo inside of me has that whole year mixed up together. Truth – justice – fear – abandonment. One day I hope she’ll come out the other side of the rainbow with a clean face. x

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Benison O'Reilly

    A privilege to be able to read this. What a woman. I’m disturbed just thinking about the innocents in gaol, without Lindy’s amazing strength of character and family support.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Georgie

    What a fabulous article! The thing I most like about Lindy is that, even after enduring decades worth of condemnation, she still has the generosity to forgive. Good for you, Lindy – and thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  • Reply June 20, 2012

    Mez

    Lindy is a National Treasure. It would take most of us five lifetimes to acquire the wisdom she has. I would love her to do a series of talks or workshops. Her lessons in dignity, self belief and resilience would be priceless for our young people. But most of all and above everything, I wish Lindy and her family every peace and happiness for the future xx

  • Reply June 21, 2012

    Sere

    Beautiful woman with such a strong character is Lindy

  • Reply June 22, 2012

    dramaqueen75

    Thank you Lindy and thank you Wendy
    An inspiring and thought provoking read

  • Reply June 24, 2012

    Pusskin

    Thank you Wendy, for this truly beautiful story. And thank you, Lindy, for living a life of grace.

  • Reply June 26, 2012

    Mel

    If her faith is the mainstay of what brought her through, Lindy is a wonderful exemplar for Christianity (or any other faith). Her stoicism and wisdom now is something she is giving back to a country which appeared to have abandoned her and certainly doubted her. For my part, I am humbled. Thank you for the revelations.

  • Reply June 29, 2012

    felicity

    truly inspiring…. great work wendy! lindy your determination and strength is something we can all learn from x

  • Reply June 29, 2012

    Miranda

    Lovely article, thanks Wendy. You come across kind of humbled by Lindy, which I suspect is the way a lot of Australians are feeling by now. Her trial appears to have been a horrifying example of groupthink. I eagerly await her book, her words and wisdom have often provided me with comfort.

  • Reply June 30, 2012

    More

    I learned the power of apology and forgiveness when my sister died last year. We’d had a major disagreement that kept us apart for ten years. It was only when I made a conscious effort to put the issue aside that my sister apologized – I forgave her instantly and apologized for my part too. From that point I felt we saw each other. I was with her for the last three months of her life and it was one of the greatest gifts – I glimpsed some of the beauty and mystery of death, it was not how I’d expected at all. Wendy, perhaps you and your writing team could assist Linda to communicate more of her wisdom through your site? (I recall the day of the verdict. I thought ‘Have I missed some vital piece of evidence? I never believed she was guilty, the whole trial was a disgrace).

  • Reply July 6, 2012

    Margy

    This article was sensitively and beautifully written. There is so much to learn from Lindy. It is hard to fathom that Azaria died so long ago and yet she and her family are very much a part of our story today. Thankyou Lindy for forgiving those who caused so much hurt and grief to you and your family. It reminds me of the words Jesus spoke as he was crucified: ” Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” It is hard for us to comprehend what you have suffered but this article helps us to see what a beautiful person you have become.

  • Reply July 24, 2012

    Rhoda

    I have often thought of Lindy and what she has gone through – is still going through. She is one in a million and I salute her.

    I used to cringe when I saw the awful graffiti. People forgot they were joking about the death of a baby girl.

    And there were few voices raised above the noise of the rabble. It has damaged the national character. I can’t ever think of the outback without thinking of Lindy and Azaria and what was done to them.

  • […] Lindy Chamberlain: What’s Left to Say? […]

  • Reply February 11, 2014

    Jan Lindop

    I never thought Lindy was guilty. Never.

    As for Schapelle the $2M would be better spent on the farmers of Australia who are doing it very tuff. $2M would go a long way to feeding all the starving cattle so that there would be less suicides by farmers. Shame on Channel 7.

Leave a Reply