Michael Chamberlain, whose nine-week-old daughter Azaria was snatched by a dingo in Uluru in 1980, has been remembered as a passionate and steadfast man who was committed to clearing his family name.
More than 650 people attended a memorial service for Dr Chamberlain in the New South Wales Lake Macquarie region on Monday.
It was held at a church on the grounds of Cooranbong’s Avondale College of Higher Education, where he was a conjoint fellow.
The former husband of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton died in Gosford Hospital last Monday after complications associated with leukaemia.
Family lawyer Stuart Tipple gave a sketch of Dr Chamberlain’s life, telling the service it had been divided into two parts.
“Michael was 36 when he drove into Uluru, the halfway point of his 72 years – 36 years pre the rock, and 36 years post,” he said.
Fight still continues
Azaria was taken from a tent while the family was camping at Uluru in August, 1980.
Her mother was charged with murder, while her father was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Both were exonerated in 1988.
Dr Chamberlain’s brother Peter told the service: “He got his point across to many, and that won’t be forgotten.”
Mr Tipple said Dr Chamberlain “won’t be able to rest in peace, unless we continue his legacy and fight on his behalf”.
Former Fairfax journalist Malcolm Brown said Dr Chamberlain was an example for all.
“He was a steadfast, true, honest man who never gave up his faith or his integrity,” Mr Brown told the service.
A passionate man who worked for community
After separating from his first wife, Dr Chamberlain married Ingrid Bergner in 1994, and they had a daughter, Zahra.
Ms Bergner described her husband as a passionate man who worked tirelessly for his community.
“He was not a perfect man, but he was perfect for me,” she said.
“I keep looking at the door, expecting him to come home.
“He was my carer for four and a half years (after a stroke). He was a wonderful husband, a very gorgeous man, a very sexy man.”
Dr Chamberlain’s son Aidan said his dad had been strong and determined.
“He was a great man in so many ways, yet so broken and crushed in many ways,” he said.
“I take strength that Dad is now at peace, and I cherish all the memories we have.”
An audio visual presentation of Dr Chamberlain and his family concluded with a video of him riding away on his motorbike.
‘He wants an apology from the NT’
Before the service, Mr Tipple said there were two things Dr Chamberlain wanted closure on.
“He did want an apology from the Northern Territory, and it still hasn’t been received,” Mr Tipple said.
“The other thing he really had his heart set on was being able to place a plaque at the rock, and he’s run into some bureaucracy in getting that approval.”
But Mr Tipple said it is a mistake to dwell on the negatives of Dr Chamberlain’s life.
“I am amazed at how he was able to maintain his dignity, and how he continued to see the good in the world and the good in people,” he said.
“He really wasn’t a vindictive person.
“One of the big steps in Michael finding peace was the coroner’s verdict at the fourth inquest.
“He even said it was only then that he could start looking at photographs of Azaria. It was just too painful up until that point in time.”
Riding motorcycles gave sense of freedom
One of Dr Chamberlain’s beloved yellow V8 Toranas was parked outside the church, while his motorbike was on display inside.
“Michael had a saying: four wheels moves the body, two wheels moves the soul,” Mr Tipple said.
“I think, really, in the later years, being on a bike with no one hassling him was his only real chance of freedom.”
Dr Chamberlain had a PhD in education, wrote three books, and ran as a Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Lake Macquarie in the New South Wales state election in 2003.
Mr Tipple said a private family funeral was held last week.
Dr Chamberlain is survived by his wife Ingrid, and children Aidan, Reagan, Kahlia and Zahra, as well several stepchildren and grandchildren.