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Advanced DNA Forensics

Our Advanced DNA Forensic research is a leading international facility for cutting-edge forensic service delivery, and provides an ongoing specialised service to Police agencies and state Coroners, Defence and humanitarian organisations.

New 'next generation DNA technologies' combined with our existing ancient DNA experitse delivers reliable and comprehensive forensic identification and intelligence information from highly degraded reminas, trace evidence and 'cold-cases'. The Facility has ongoing contracts with the Australian Defence Force's Unrecovered War Casualties (Army unit), identifying the remains of Australian II World War dead, and has provided critical identifications for a number of state Police agencies in missing persons cases.

Recovery and identification of war dead is complex and requires sophisticated DNA analysis.

More than 100,000 Australians have been killed in combat since WWI. Tens of thousands of these are still listed as missing in action (MIA) and their remains have not yet been recovered. Ongoing work by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to locate and recover remains in Europe (e.g. Fromelles, ~ 400 British and Australian WWI war dead recovered), Korea (where 42 Australians are still MIA) and the Pacific (e.g. Papua New Guinea, thousands of Australian WWI MIAs) highlights the scale and time-span over which identification of Australia's war dead is required. When human remains are recovered they are usually quite degraded making identification complex and difficult. Traditional forms of identification (dental records, personal effects, identification tags) may not be sufficient.

The advanced laboratory facilities and technical expertise required to identify these degraded human remains is currently missing from accredited forensics laboratories in Australia. Consequently, the Australian Defence Force has relied on an ad hoc approach to DNA analysis, often involving international agencies, that is both time consuming and expensive. In the USA and Europe, large, well-resourced, multi-discipinary centres have been established to identify military and civilain remains from past conflicts. For example, in the USA the Joint POW/MIA Account Command (JPAC) employs nearly 500 staff and conducts global searches, recovery and laboratory operations to identify American MIA's.

In contrast, Australia's efforts at recovery of its own war dead have relied upon volunteers and small teams within the ADF drawing scientific and medical expertise from disperesed forensics science/medical and academic institutions. Over the past six years, A/Professor Jeremy Austin has established advanced DNA forensic research expertise, infrastructure and capabilites at ACAD. This infrastructure and research capability represents a major resource for the Australian forensic community. Since 2007, Jeremy has assisted the ADF (Navy and Army) with DNA-based identification of human remains recovered from WWII and later conflicts. However, with renewed interest in recovering the 42 Australian MIAs from the Korean War, the ongoing Fromelles Project, and a growing number of human remains recovered in Papua New Guinea, there is a pessing need to develop a world-class centre of excellence and expand capacity in DNA-based human identification within Australia.

With the support of the Australian Research Council and business partner funding we are exapanding our cutting edge DNA research, and advancing a range of novel and innovative DNA techniques. We are continually looking for business partners to assist with our research and development phase to work with compromised and fragmentary human remains, and to provide a compreshensive new toolkit for forensic DNA identification. If you would like to be a sponsor, and for general enquiries, please contact Associate Professor Jeremy Austin

Identifying the remains of Australia's missing war dead is a national issue with ongoing social, legal and cultural impacts. Jeremy Austin, Deputy Director.
Australian Centre for Ancient DNA
School of Biological Sciences
Darling Building
North Terrace Campus

The University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005


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