I FIRST met Michael Chamberlain in the 1990s when he fronted up at my former newspaper, The Sun Weekly, on the Central Coast, to work as a photographer.
He drove us to a job in the yellow Torona famously driven by actor Sam Neill who portrayed Mr Chamberlain in the movie Evil Angels. The Fred Schepsi movie told the story for which Mr Chamberlain and his then-wife Lindy will always be remembered – the disappearance of daughter Azaria at Uluru in 1980.
Mr Chamberlain chatted about the movie, and how he came to acquire the Torana. It was clear he knew cars.
We arrived outside the former Wyong Shire Council building, in Hely Street, and that’s when I noticed it: almost every person we walked past did a double take.
Once inside the building, the gawking was a little more discreet. But it was clear people could not believe that Michael Chamberlain was in their midst – and carrying a camera, to boot.
As we left the building, Mr Chamberlain smiled and said: “Do people always look at you that way, David?”
It was the first glimpse I had into Mr Chamberlain’s unexpected sense of humour. It was a trait that I’d rediscover years later when I shifted to the Lakes Mail and renewed my acquaintance with him in his role as president of Cooranbong Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Chamberlain would phone or visit me in the Lakes Mail office at Morisset to discuss issues such as the need for a pedestrian crossing on Freemans Drive, and his opposition to a petrol station on the M1 Pacific Motorway.
He was passionate about those issues, but never heated, and always prepared to consider an alternative view.
In fact, every conversation I ever had with Mr Chamberlain was memorable for the same reason – his gentle, respectful, dignified manner.