There are three things that have divided this nation… Conscription, Whitlam and Lindy Chamberlain.
The words are spoken by an unnamed librarian in Alana Valentine’s finely-wrought play Letters to Lindy as he stacks some of the 20 000 letters that Lindy Chamberlain received during her ordeal of being tried, incarcerated, then exonerated of killing her baby Azaria.
The words, delivered matter-of-factly towards the end of the play, serve as an historical epitaph to an intimate and epic docu-drama spanning more than 20 years, from Azaria’s death near Uluru in 1980 to the 2012 coronial ruling that finally ended the legal saga.
The starting point of Valentine’s passionate inquiry came in the form of 199 boxes of
correspondence at the National Library of Australia; a staggering archive from which the playwright has constructed an intricate, truthful, and deeply human account of a case which captured the public’s imagination from the moment Lindy Chamberlain uttered the words, ‘A dingo’s got my baby’. For here was an apparent murder mystery combining potent myths of the Australian outback, Aboriginal folklore, baffling cult-like ‘characters’ and elements of Greek tragedy. It was a time when the worst excesses of tabloid sensationalism fuelled an unthinking, sometimes brutal, spectator sport.
Australia hadn’t seen anything like it.