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Australian Story -

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Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland is the only place in the world with a population of pure
dingos, but some authorities say they're in trouble with their numbers declining.

Experts disagree about the best way to manage the island which is mostly National Park and the
issue has become highly political.

This program is about wildlife photographer Jennifer Parkhurst, whose passion for dingos set her at
odds with park rangers - and brought her to the brink of disaster...

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. Fraser Island, off the coast of south-east
Queensland, is the only place in the world with a population of pure dingos, but some authorities
say they animals may be in trouble. Experts disagree about the best way to manage the island, which
is mostly national park, and the issue has become highly political. Tonight's Australian Story is
about a wildlife photographer whose passion for the dingos set her at odds with park rangers and
brought her to the brink of disaster. This is the story of Jennifer Parkhurst.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: It absolutely breaks my heart to be so close to Fraser Island and be separated
by this 1 kilometre of water. So near and yet so far. It's very difficult for me to come down the
beach these days and look across to the island. I grew up in Victoria and came to Fraser Island
quite by accident. Just jumped on a barge one day and went for a trip across and saw that there
were dingos there. And that was it (laughs). That's kind of how I came to be at Fraser Island. I
though okay that's it, I'm staying.

RAY REVILL, SUPPORTER: The dingos become part of her. If she had her way I think Jen would live
with them forever. That's her passion.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: The Fraser Island dingo isn't just any dingo. The researchers found that the
dingo is the purest dog in the world and the dingos on Fraser Island are the purest dingos in
Australia. They're an extremely important species that we have to preserve. Australia and indeed
the word is becoming very concerned that it won't be long before these precious dingos become

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer has often described it that this is probably one of the greatest
privileges in her life. And Jennifer says, haven't I been blessed? What an experience. And to see
what it's turned into today.

(Excerpt from Win News)

REPORTER: Wildlife warrior Jennifer Parkhurst was charged with 40 offences for her interaction with
dingos on Fraser Island.

(End of excerpt)

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: She's been persecuted and prosecuted, and I mean what, for what?

(Excerpt continues)

REPORTER, WIN NEWS: According to friends, Parkhurst has gone to ground. She is now facing a maximum
two years in jail.

(End of excerpt)

RAY REVILL, SUPPORTER: They set out to get her. It was like a hunting pack. They wanted her.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I have no formal scientific training perse. I guess my connection with wildlife
comes from just a deep understanding and empathy for animals. The dingo is a very misunderstood
animal and very misrepresented, and I guess I feel the same in some ways.

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer suffered a lot of bullying at school and she used to cop heaps
from both boys and the girls. She's very shy.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I had a really terrific friendship with my mother and we spent time travelling
around the outback together. When mum became sick, and then eventually died, because of the trauma
from my past and everything, I couldn't cope. And so I shut down emotionally. Mum was only 52 years

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: And Jennifer really just could not cry. And then it was that time
straight after she said, I can't live here.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: And what I discovered was that once I was on Fraser Island and I was closely
interacting with the dingos it did start to heal me. Photography's always been a passion and the
dingo is an extremely attractive animal, a very noble kind of animal. And I just found that as a
photographic subject they were intriguing and challenging. I'd bring the photographs home and spend
some time painting and then sell that lot and then head off and start again.

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The department's first interactions with Jennifer
Parkhurst started in 2006, and I think at that stage you could say they were very amicable. We
provided early support for her work.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: The more intimate I became with the dingos, the more acquainted with them, the
easier it was to get some really fantastic footage, and so in the end I started thinking, yeah I
really have to do something with this. I've got to share it with scientists and that was what I
started to do.

the things that's special about Jennifer is that she's been able to examine the behaviour of
animals in their native setting for a long period of time at close range. It's very difficult to
acquire that sort of information elsewhere, and there's very little in the literature about those
sorts of details.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I'd been observing parents with pups and so forth and as the pups started to
grow up I noticed that they were becoming extremely skinny.

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: She saw one of the family young die of starvation and the next family
came along and they were on the same path.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I was really alarmed at the high mortality rate amongst pups. It was really
looking like a 90 per cent mortality rate. At that that time there was just absolutely nothing I
could do about it. I mean my job, as I began to see my role on the island, was just to record what
was happening and not interfere.

(Excerpt from home documentary footage)

JENNIFER PARKHURST: As you know, I'm strictly prohibited from interfering with the dingos in any
way. This is the first time in this national park that I've ever patted a live dingo. The only
reason I'm doing it is that I know Pepper is dying.

(End of excerpt)

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer had to summon up every ounce of strength to have witnessed five
puppies dying of starvation and it's an agonising cruel death.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: What I started to notice was that when the puppy's ears were tagged, the
mortality rate just suddenly increased. The ear became very droopy, thus they were unable to hunt
effectively because they couldn't locate the source of the sound. And that's when I noticed that
they started to starve. Initially I had a fairly good relationship with the rangers but that
changed when I wrote an article about what happened after an ear tagging event one year. The
rangers involved said that I'd overly criticised them and they took it very personally and I guess
that's where the war kind of started.

(Excerpt from ABC News, 2001)

REPORTER: The elder son was set upon by two dingos. Clinton was exploring when attacked. His
brother was also mauled as he ran for help.

(End of excerpt)

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: Dingoes have been a management challenge on Fraser
Island for decades but in 2001 when Clinton Gage, a 9-year-old boy, was killed by dingoes,
everything changed for us.

(Excerpt of continues)

REPORTER, ABC NEWS: The nine year old was dead by the time his father arrived at the scene.

PETER BEATTIE, FMR QLD PREMIER: We won't hesitate to destroy dogs that harass or are a threat to

REPORTER: Late today the government confirmed that both dogs had been trapped and killed.

(End of excerpt)

JENNIFER PARKHURST: The government understandably had to do something about that. A lot of dingos
were slaughtered in order to make tourists and visitors fell safe again.

(Excerpt of ABC News, 2001)

REPORTER: There's now a push for all of the Island's 160 dingos to be killed.

(End of excerpt)

'DINGO' SIMON, SUPPORTER: Prior to Clinton being attacked, the island management strategy, they had
started reducing the food sources for the dingoes. So we now started having a dingo that was
starting to get hungry

(Excerpt continues)

REPORTER, ABC NEWS: A quarter of a million people visit Fraser Island each year. The World Heritage
area has had its reputation badly damaged.

(End of excerpt)

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Queensland government had three broad options
available to it: a future where there was no dingoes, a future where there was no people, or a
future where there are people and dingoes living together under a scientifically based management
plan. That was the option that government chose.

(Excerpt of ABC News, 2001.)

REPORTER: The Queensland government is now considering tougher penalties for tourists caught
feeding dingos. Rangers will cull more dingos tomorrow, possibly another 20.

(Excerpt of home documentary footage.)

JENNIFER PARKHURST: People in the boat are throwing fish for the pups.

(End of excerpt)

is really a victim of history, as well as location. Since the opening up of that island for
uncontrolled tourist industry, the dingoes are really now taking second place. So we've got to look
at a balance that is really not occurring at the moment.

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Fraser Island dingo management strategy has three
broad approaches that we rely on - engineering, education and enforcement - to physically separate
dingoes from people and the food that can come from people. And it has been successful in terms of
achieving safety for visitors and also keeping dingoes alive across the island. We have zero
tolerance for any breach of those rules in relation to feeding dingoes and making food available.

he'll become desperate, he'll become slightly aggressive and he'll move into areas of population,
housing, tourists, people on the beach, just to get any food resource.

TRAVIS PAGE, BUTCHULLA PEOPLE: Well that argument about attacking people all comes down to a
parent's supervision. Because they're pretty much wild animals, and they're scarce of food, and
that little child can also be a meal to that fella's eyes. You've just got to be around them all
the time.

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: It is really critical that everybody who comes to
Fraser Island follows those really important but simple messages - don't feed dingoes, stay close
to your children, and if you are attacked, defend yourself and be assertive with dingoes.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: The media certainly seems to love a dingo story and once they get a hold of
one, they definitely over-dramatize it.

DEBBRA RICHARDS, BUTCHULLA PEOPLE: Eight years ago you wouldn't see a dingo showing its ribs but
now they've taken the food source away. They're just skin and bone and they're out there looking
for food all the time

current management practice seems to be that it should be treated as a wild animal and not
interfered with at all. But the past practice on the island has always been that the dingo has been
associated with people. It's been associated with the Aboriginal communities on there before white
people arrived.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I'd seen dingoes on the island that were starving. So I made Freedom of
Information application for the autopsy reports. I think this was where most of the animosity
probably started because once I'd had a look at these reports and analysed them, I was very
alarmed. For example, here's a three month old pup that's been shot. And it's reported as being in
poor condition. When you're talking about animals that have predominantly sand, grass, tin foil -
all that sort of stuff in their stomach, you're talking about animals that are in really bad

COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: It's inappropriate to pick out one or two little bits and
pieces out of those 80 odd reports and hold that up as an indication that the population as a whole
is starving. Those autopsy reports have also revealed to us that the average weight range of
animals on Fraser Island is up around an 18 kilo mark. Now that's well above, two and three kilos
above, sighted weight ranges for Northern Territory and other areas across Australia.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I've come to an autopsy report here and it says, "Cause of death: Rifle-itis".

mortem reports and this confirms that a significant number of dingoes on Fraser Island are
starving. Jennifer Parkhurst has managed to collect a valuable source of reference material. I'm
just staggered at these photographs. They're virtually skin and bone, there's virtually nothing
left to them at all, and it's critical. If I had an animal in that condition, I'd be prosecuted If
things go on the way they're going, the whole dingo population on that Fraser Island will become

COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: Our issues with Jennifer really led up from 2007/2008.
She seemed to be having a lot closer contact with dingoes and we started to have reports of those
dingoes interacting with people, and aggressively interacting with people and that. Now we raised
the issue of her interaction with dingoes on numerous occasions and we were always given the story
back that, no, no, no, I never interact with them inappropriately, I've never fed them, I'm doing
all the right things.

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer met a guy called Adam Randall, and they started going out

JENNIFER PARKHURST: Adam became very interested in my work on the island and observed the dingos
with me. They were just starting to get a little bit skinny. And Adam sort of said, look, you know,
you should feed them. I take full responsibility for my actions with regards to feeding the dingos
because it was definitely something that I didn't agree with and I ended up doing it. So- and I
can't say that because somebody else did it that it was okay that I went along with it.

RAY REVILL, SUPPORTER: What Jennifer was doing was compassion and it's no different to what any
normal human being that has a heart would do for any animal that was starving

COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: We were seeing her walking out of the bush with a pack of
five and six dingoes at her heel and that sort of thing. You know, that's not normal. You know, our
rangers were on the beach down there. Jennifer actually drove past in her boyfriend's ute, as soon
as that dingo saw that ute, it obviously recognised that car, it obviously had a reason to chase
that car, and the reason was once again a food condition response. It's, oh, there's Jennifer's car
and I know I'm going to get some food there. You know, it all ended up in 2009 where we're getting
some really serious attacks on people down there. We had to destroy five animals. That was the same
pack, the same animals that she was interacting with and feeding on a daily basis.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: And I think that the outcome of all of them being destroyed had more to do with
the fact that DERM didn't like me than with the fact that the dingos had ever done anything wrong.

COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: That is the absolute last thing we want to do. People
don't join a parks agency to be out there destroying native wildlife.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: Even though I did feed the dingos and so forth, I never fed them before Adam
came along, and the spilt second I finally got him out of my life I stopped feeding them. End of

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jen didn't want him. That ended on a rather bad note and two weeks later
the house was raided.

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The evidence provided by Adam Randall clearly
demonstrated that Miss Parkhurst had consistently and repeatedly offended in terms of feeding
dingoes across the island.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: Yeah, I was woken up at 7 o'clock that morning by a knock on the front door and
they just came straight into my house and gloved up and began searching. They took hard drives, a
computer and it wasn't only my life's work, it was all my personal stuff.

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Well, from the time of the raid onwards, it probably was the longest 13
months in Jennifer's life.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: During that time, I was just in a state of grief. The pups that I was observing
had been destroyed. I was devastated. Absolutely devastated.

(News excerpts from November 2010)

NEWSREADER, CHANNEL 7: Wildlife warrior, Jennifer Parkhurst is facing 40 offences for her
interactions with dingos.

REPORTER, CHANNEL 7: Jennifer Parkhurst arrived at the Maryborough Magistrate's Court today with
family and friends by her side. The tight group of loyal supporters anxiously awaiting her fate.

NEWSREADER, CHANNEL 7: In court prosecutor Ralph Devlin played 15 videos taken by Ms Parkhurst
which showed her feeding several dingos.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: When I heard some of my own narration, in retrospect I can laugh. You know, we
all say silly things I guess at the time, but at court I did not find it funny at all and I was
quite humiliated and quite embarrassed. Some of the footage that was used just didn't actually tell
the entire story. For example, there was the Christmas dinner feast with the roast chicken. But I
wasn't actually alone there. What they didn't show in court was that if you keep rolling the video,
that Adam was actually standing next to me and he's the one that was handing out the roast chicken.
So DERM has kind of given a very biased presentation of that piece of footage.

(Excerpt of home video)

JENNIFER PARKHURTST: Guess they'll try that. This is a jailable offence.

(End of excerpt)

KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: Obviously the words "it's a jailable offence", was quite shocking and it
was quite damning in some respects.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: Saying, "this is a jailable offence", well, you know, I'm talking to Adam, I'm
not just saying it out of the blue and it's almost a question, isn't it? Is this the right thing to
be doing and indeed straight after that I actually said (Home documentary footage) "Hopefully it's
not the wrong thing to do."

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: Any suggestion that there were mitigating
circumstances, it would have been most appropriate for her legal team, her defence, to actually
raise those matters before the courts.

KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: The footage showing a child who was having her hair pulled by a dingo on
Fraser Island and then subsequently being nipped obviously stirred up some controversy in the

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: I understand that the response in the court and in the
public afterwards was one of shock, especially given that the circumstances were so very close to
those that involved the tragic death of Clinton Gage in 2001.

(Excerpt of Win News, November 2010)

NEWSREADER: Ms Parkhurst pleaded guilty to all the charges before the court today.

(End of excerpt)

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I just started feeling dizzy obviously and just totally panicked. My life was
flashing before my eyes.

(Excerpt of 7 News, November 2010)

NEWSREADER: In sentencing, magistrate John Smith said Ms Parkhurst was clearly aware what she was
doing was unlawful

SIMON WARD, REPORTER: Jennifer Parkhurst emerged from the Maryborough Courthouse a guilty woman.

(End of excerpt)

JENNIFER PARKHURST: The sentence was nine months in jail, wholly suspended for three years, but
with a $40,000 fine.

KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: Certainly in court both the prosecutor and I had only submitted that the
fine should be no more than $5,000.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: It's above what DERM even required.

KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: For a sentence to go almost 10 times above the fine that was asked for is
very unusual in my experience, and certainly was a cause of shock in the courtroom.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: The magistrate was the coroner on the Clinton Gage case. When they come before
a case, they have to come before the case with a fresh mind. It doesn't seem to me like that's what
he did.

HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: In my opinion they needed to achieve two things: I believe that their aim
was to destroy Jennifer and achieve the power to initiate this landmark case, and that's what
they've got.

(Excerpt of Win News, November 2010)

REPORTER: Ms Parkhurst claims she only fed dingos under the influence of former partner Adam
Randall, who received a $2,500 fine and no conviction recorded.

(End of excerpt)

KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: Adam Randall's sentence was obviously much less than Jennifer's, and for
the same behaviour and the same offending, it's quite remarkable.

JENNIFER PARKHURST: Because of the publicity generated, we basically formed a group called Save
Fraser Island Dingoes. We've been able to approach the Government and have several meetings with
the Government and discuss our concerns.

'DINGO' SIMON: It looks like the Government now have sort of stepped up to the bar a bit, started
to make some improvements which we're all happy with.

TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: There are examples where we have changed our approach
based on feedback from the community.

COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: You know, the issue of the way we're tagging animals, and
ears flopping, and animals being too young when they were tagged and that - we reviewed our
procedures and I believe we fixed the problem.

DEBBRA RICHARDS, BUTCHULLA PEOPLE: What we'd like to see is the management of the dingoes handed
back to the Aboriginal community of that island, otherwise they're just going to cull the whole lot
and there's not going to be one pure bred dingo left there, and that's going to be a sad day for

JENNIFER PARKHURST: I would dearly love to go back to Fraser Island and continue my work there. I
really don't know if that's a possibility for the future or not. For three years, if I do anything
wrong, anything indictable, I will go straight into jail, which has basically meant that I dare not
go to Fraser Island, because I've been told that if a dingo comes anywhere near me, that that would
be enough for me to go to jail. We'll just have to see what happens one day at a time.


The Dept of Environment and Resource Management says research is continuing into Fraser Island
dingo numbers, but there is 'a healthy generation of pups' from the 2010 season.

Dingo advocates disagree and say there is no doubt numbers are in serious decline.