Letters to Lindy show outpouring of support
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Letters to Lindy show outpouring of support

If you were one of the tens of thousands of Australians who wrote, for good or ill, to Lindy Chamberlain between 1980 and the present, don't assume your letter ended up in the bin.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton read every single letter she received, gave it a star rating and then carefully filed it under the appropriate category in one of 199 document boxes. Those boxes are now at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

Alana Valentine has been researching hundreds of letters sent to Lindy Chamberlain.

Alana Valentine has been researching hundreds of letters sent to Lindy Chamberlain.Credit:Katheirne Griffiths

Alana Valentine, an award-winning Redfern playwright, is studying the files in preparation for a documentary play with the working title Letters to Lindy.

Valentine said the letters were a fascinating window on the public's response to one of the most compelling legal and human dramas of recent times.

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Lindy Chamberlain and her daughter, Azaria, in an image supplied by The Chamberlains for an article in <i>Woman's Day</i> on Oct 1 1980. Copyright ACP

Lindy Chamberlain and her daughter, Azaria, in an image supplied by The Chamberlains for an article in Woman's Day on Oct 1 1980. Copyright ACP

"Much of this correspondence predates the electronic age," she said. "People had to take the time to sit down and write a letter to someone they only knew through the media. [One of the things that comes through] is that people do admire Lindy; they see her as an extreme example of what has happened or may be happening in their own lives."

There are many instances where people cut through the legal drama to address the real grief Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton (she remarried after her divorce from Michael in 1991) was feeling for the loss of Azaria with many letters starting "I too have lost a child".

Other writers acknowledge her media profile, beginning: "You've never met me but I feel as if I know you", before going on to offer sympathy or support .

"There is overwhelming support for Lindy in the correspondence with only a very small percentage of hostile letters," Valentine said. Even these have been read, rated and filed for future reference. "She is a playwright's dream."

"There are frequently references to Daniel and Job. 'People are aware of the elements of classical and religious symbolism.

"There are beautiful and simple letters from children as well as letters from other prisoners who are concerned about Lindy's welfare."

Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton was branded a modern Medea by Northern Territory authorities after telling police a dingo had taken her two-month-old daughter, Azaria, from a camping ground at Uluru on August 17, 1980.

A first inquest in early 1981 cleared her of any involvement, but that decision was quashed and a new inquest was ordered.

She was committed for trial, convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on October 29, 1982.

She spent three years in jail, only being released when police discovered Azaria's jacket while searching for the body of a tourist who had fallen from the rock in 1986.

Her conviction was overturned on September 15, 1988.

■ Alana Valentine will speak about the letters at the conference room of the National Library at 5.30pm next Wednesday. To book, visit nla.gov.au/bookings

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