Monday, November 4, 2019

Bytes and Pieces: Australia

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Mainland Australia is the world’s largest island and also the world’s smallest continent. 


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The Dingo Fence of south-east Australia is the longest fence in the world, at 5,614 km (3,488 mi); it is also one of the longest structures of any kind. 

Dingo Fence, Sturt National Park, CameronsCorner 

Finished in 1885, the fence was originally built by State governments, initially to stop the spread of the rabbit plague across State borders. This proved to be a wasted effort and the fences fell into disrepair until the early 1900s when they were repaired in order to keep the dingoes out and protect the sheep flocks. The fence has been partly successfully over the years, though dingoes can still be found in parts of the southern states. Although the fence has helped reduce the loss of sheep to predators and save millions of dollars each year, it’s impact on the environment is hotly debated. Basically, the fence has created two ecological universes – one with dingoes and one without, contributing to the demise of some native animals and the endangerment of many more. Exclusion of dingoes has allowed for increased population of rabbits, kangaroos and emus, while native rodents, marsupials and grasses were all diminished. 

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There is debate on the actual native classification of the Australian Native Dog, the Dingo. Many believe that the Dingo is not a native to Australia but was introduced some 4000 years ago from South East Asia. Therefore it is an introduced pest like the rabbit, camel, buffalo and feral pig. In fact, land managers in most States and Territories are compelled through legislation to destroy wild dogs, including dingoes, on their land. 


According to Dr. Mike Letnic, of the University of Sydney, the dingo, as Australia's top predator, has an important role in maintaining the balance of nature and that reintroduced or existing dingo populations could increase biodiversity across more than 2 million square kilometers of Australia. 
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Talking of dingoes, on 17 August 1980 two month old baby girl Azaria Chamberlain went missing whilst on a family camping trip to Uluru (then known as Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory. Her body was never found. Her parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, reported that she had been taken from their tent by a dingo. Lindy Chamberlain was, however, tried for murder in 1982 and convicted. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. Michael Chamberlain was convicted as an accessory after the fact and given a suspended sentence. 


The media focus for the trial was unusually intense and aroused accusations of sensationalism, while the trial itself was criticised for being unprofessional and biased.  Lindy Chamberlain in particuar was singled out for hostile treatment for not behaving in the manner expected of a grieving mother.  Michael Chamberlan was a paster in the Seeventh Day Adventist Church, their unwillingness to cry in public being a reflection of their reliance on their faith.



The Chamberlains made several unsuccessful appeals, including the final High Court appeal. This was one of the biggest and most misunderstood cases in Australian history. 

After all legal options had been exhausted, the chance discovery in 1986 of a piece of Azaria's clothing in an area with numerous dingo lairs led to Lindy Chamberlain's release from prison. 


On 15 September 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously overturned all convictions against Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. A third inquest was conducted in 1995, which resulted in an "open" finding. At a fourth inquest held on 12 June 2012, Coroner Elizabeth Morris delivered her findings that Azaria Chamberlain had been taken and killed by a dingo. After being released, Lindy Chamberlain was paid $1.3 million for false imprisonment and an amended death certificate was issued. 

Since the Chamberlain case, there have been a large number of proven cases of attacks on humans by dingoes, in particular dingo attacks on Fraser Island (off the Queensland coast), the last refuge in Australia for isolated pure-bred wild dingoes. Most were against children, but at least two were on adults. In April 1998, a 13-month-old girl was attacked by a dingo and dragged for about one metre (3 ft) from a picnic blanket at the Waddy Point camping area. The child was dropped when her father intervened. Experts testified in the Azaria Chamberlain case that dingoes did not attack humans and that it would have been impossible for a dingo to travel with a baby in its mouth. 

The Chamberlains divorced in 1991. On 20 December 1992, Lindy Chamberlain married American publisher and fellow member of Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 2007, Chamberlain-Creighton spoke out in support of the parents of Madeleine McCann, and said she would be willing to talk to the McCanns. 

Michael Chamberlain stood as a Liberal candidate for the seat of Lake Macquarie in the 2003 New South Wales parliamentary election, achieving a 5.2% swing against the sitting member not enough to claim the seat. Chamberlain went on to accept a three-year teaching post at an Aboriginal high school in Brewarrina, New South Wales. He returned to Cooranbong in 2006 and taught at Gosford High School until 2008, when he retired. He died on 9 January 2017, aged 72, due to complications of acute leukemia.

The case has become part of Oz history as well as international pop culture, being part of the humour in Seinfeld, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons.  Here is Gary Larson's contribution:


In April 2014, on a Royal Visit to Oz, William and Kate vsisited Uluru as Charles and Di had once done:


William and Kate left Prince George at home for their visit, prompting the following:




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