Queensland families asked to provide DNA to help identify missing loved ones

Queensland families with missing loved ones will now be able to provide police and scientists with DNA samples as part of an Australian-first forensic program aiming to identify our unknown and missing Australians.

On Sunday 1 August 2021, the Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police Service will launch the first-ever Family of Missing Persons Day to coincide with National Missing Persons Week (NMPW).

This is the first of a series of Family of Missing Persons Days to be held across Australia over the next six months.

The Queensland event will be hosted at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane by the National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons.

The aim of the National DNA Program is to apply a suite of existing and new forensic techniques to hundreds of unidentified human remains, in an effort to assist State and Territory police in resolving cases of long-term missing persons.

Queensland families with a missing family member are being invited to register now for the free event to provide police investigators and forensic scientists with vital information, records and samples to assist with the identification process, including:

  • Reference DNA samples from multiple close biological relatives
  • Personal items (e.g. toothbrushes, razors)
  • Stored biological samples (e.g. baby teeth, lock of hair)
  • Dentist and doctor details
  • Dental and medical records (e.g. x-rays, CT scans)
  • Photographs
  • Physical information (e.g. sex, age, ancestry, eye and hair colour, height, tattoos)
  • Circumstantial information (e.g. date/location last seen, clothing/shoes/jewellery worn)

This information will be used by the National DNA Program to update national databases, which will allow the effective searching and matching of unidentified human remains and missing persons cases for the first time at a national level.

A recent audit of cases stored at police, mortuary and forensic facilities has confirmed there are more than 500 unidentified people across Australia. Many of these human remains were discovered decades ago, with some cases dating back more than 50 years.

The ultimate goal is to restore the names and faces of these unknown Australians, provide them with a dignified burial, reinvigorate cold criminal investigations so justice can be served, and provide answers to families and police who have spent years searching for missing loved ones.

The $3.6 million program is directed by one of Australia’s leading human identification experts, Associate Professor Jodie Ward, from the AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre and the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Forensic Science.

Associate Professor Ward received the prestigious Churchill Fellowship in 2015 to investigate world-leading DNA identification techniques for missing persons and disaster victims.

The Queensland event will also offer families the opportunity to engage directly with police, forensic scientists, the Missing Persons Advocacy Network and other families. It will also feature presentations from industry and academic experts and ambiguous loss-trained counsellors will be present to support families.

Families across the rest of Australia who have a missing relative can pre-register their interest now. Once an event has been scheduled in their State or Territory, they will be notified of the details.

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