Posts Tagged ‘Uluru’

I wrote yesterday of the horror of widespread bushfires at this time of the year in Australia.

Today comes the welcome news that no-one has died in the Tasmanian fires, although there has been considerable property damage, but one family’s story has “gone viral” around the world. It will certainly touch the heart of anyone who has experienced a wildfire.

The family shelter under the sea jetty – this powerful image has captured the imagination of the world.

Tim Holmes yesterday told how his wife Tammy and their five grandchildren huddled in water under a jetty for two and a half hours to avoid the fire which destroyed the couple’s home in Dunalley, Tasmania.

Mr Holmes and his wife were looking after grandchildren Matilda, 11, Liam, 9, Caleb, 6, Esther, 4, and Charlotte, 1, while their mum Bonnie and dad David were out.

Mr Holmes thought he had prepared his property for Friday’s bushfire, but when he saw smoke rise from a nearby ridge, he sent Tammy and the grandchildren to the nearby sea jetty.

Despite the arrival of three fire trucks, the 62-year-old could not defend the home he built himself.

“I looked at the firefighters and said, ‘I have to go to Tammy and the kids’.” Mr Holmes ran downhill and found Tammy and the five grandchildren huddled in the water, with their pet dog Polly on the jetty.

“For the next 2½ hours we huddled under the jetty as the fire intensified and produced a plume of smoke, ash and debris that left us with very little oxygen,” he said.

“There were times when we had to move out deeper because it was too hot, and there were times when the jetty itself caught fire.

“I was able to scoop some water onto the jetty and put it out.”

They eventually made their way to safety as the fire burnt itself out.

“It’s all gone, every last item, but it’s a great sense of relief to think that we lost not one hair on a child’s head,” Mr Holmes said.

I don’t doubt that these brave kids’ parents will be forever thankful for the wisdom and alertness of Grandad and Grandma. I have been at the coast in Australia when a nearby bushfire started raining ash on us. (At Metung, on the Gippsland Lakes, in Victoria.) Over our heads the smoke loomed ominously, and the unmistakeable eucalypt-and-grass tinged smell of the fire pervaded everything, but thankfully the fire was far enough away that we were not directly threatened. It was, nevertheless, a deeply disturbing experience.

As I write, NSW is still burning, despite a cool south-westerly change helping the situation. It appears no one has died there either, which is a blessing.

Next week will also, apparently, be a very bad one for fire danger throughout the country. We have family working at Uluru, where they are looking forward to temperatures in the shade in excess of 50 degrees Celcius, or a balmy 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

So all of you sitting staring at rain or snow in northern climes – count your blessings.

(Yahoo and others)

Azaria Chamberlain disappearance

After 30 years, finally, the truth. Lindy and Azaria before their world was savaged and taken from them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people have passed on since Lindy Chamberlain was wrongly convicted of the murder of her daughter, Azaria. Young people born since then will hardly begin to comprehend the obsessive interest in the case that swept Australia and, indeed, the English-speaking world. The nine-week-old baby’s disappearance from a campground at Uluru more than 30 years ago became one of Australia’s most sensational legal cases and saturated the media for years. It also spawned a popular movie, called Evil Angels (also called “A cry in the dark”) with Lindy played memorably by Meryl Streep.

It was the most horrifying examples of a miscarriage of justice, because of the complicity of the whole society in its perpetration – a grieving and bereaved pair of parents, robbed of their baby daughter in awful circumstances, clearly with no motive for such an act, were convicted and punished in an atmosphere of a public lynching. It was a riotous circus of botched forensic evidence, the refusal of authorities to consider alternate explanations other than the fact that the baby had been murdered, and the constant howl of a public scenting blood. “Surely she did it, look at her face, she doesn’t care –  doesn’t Azaria mean something about “sacrifice” – they belong to a weird religion, you know.” And so it went on, endlessly.

What is most terrifying about the case is that it was conducted in full view of the so-called impartial media, and despite the manifest failings of the case, that media largely failed to apply any intellectual rigour to the Chamberlain’s defence. Instead they were swept along by the lust of the public for a neat, sensationalist conclusion.

Canis lupus dingo Fraser Island Queensland, Au...

Canis lupus – the “Wolf Dog” – not a pet, not a friendly toy, a wild animal.

Well now the Northern Territory coroner finally found that Azaria Chamberlain was attacked or taken by a dingo in 1980. There were emotional scenes in court on Tuesday as the findings were handed down, with even the coroner’s voice quivering as she delivered what is likely to be the final chapter in a bitter legal battle.

Coroner Elizabeth Morris told a Darwin inquest on Tuesday morning that all of the evidence indicates a dingo was responsible for Azaria’s death.

“Azaria Chamberlain died at Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock, on the 17th of August 1980,” she said. “The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo. It is clear that there is evidence that a dingo is capable of attacking, taking and causing the death of young children.”

There have been four coronal inquiries, a murder trial and a royal commission into the case.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton was jailed for murder despite an initial inquest ruling that a dingo had killed her daughter.

The conviction was overturned in 1988 after Azaria’s mangled and torn jacket was found near a known dingo lair. What would have happened if that jacket had never been found hardly bears consideration, and yet we must consider it, because only happenstance saved Lindy from spending decades in prison, just as only happenstance – and the ignorance of justice conducted as a blood sport – saw her in there in the first place.

“Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special and loved daughter and sister, Azaria,” the coroner told the family after handing down her finding. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child.”

Outside the court, Ms Chamberlain-Creighton fought back tears but said she was “relieved and delighted to come to the end of this saga. No longer will Australians be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous, and that they only attack if provoked. The truth is out,” Mr Chamberlain added, saying that the family welcomed “a chance to put our daughter’s spirit to rest.”

Ms Chamberlain Creighton and former husband Michael Chamberlain were applauded outside the Darwin Magistrates Court by a large media contingent and members of the public. Mr Chamberlain said the coroner’s ruling was a triumph of justice. “This battle to get to the legal truth has taken too long,” he said. “However, I am here to tell you that you can get justice even when you think that all is lost.”

Some, it appears, though, will never be convinced. At 2.38 pm on 13th June, a Yahoo poll of so-far 3,000 people (a statistically significant figure) was showing this result.

Does Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton deserve an official apology?

  • Yes (1969) 65%
  • No (1051) 35%

One can only shake one’s head sadly and wonder what, if anything, the state can do to an innocent family that does deserve an apology.

(With Yahoo, ABC and others)