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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/92408
- The failure of DNA forensic testing: a case study of the 2009 Australian bushfire disaster
- Turney, Lyn
- Within science and technology studies there is a vast literature on the manner in which public inquiries and official investigations manage the political fallout and the failures of socio-technical systems in the wake of a disaster. This paper uses a case study example of public and media inquiry into the 2009 bushfires in Victoria, Australia to demonstrate how the sole reliance on biological, physical and genetic factors in victim identification unnecessarily delayed the reconciliation process and exacerbated the personal and social distress to families. In particular it analyses how, despite the lack of success in identifying bushfire victims using “gold standard” forensic technologies, including DNA testing, there was relatively little critique of the forensic process. Where dissatisfaction threatened to overflow as a result of brief media coverage of the unnecessary delays in returning the dead to their families, it was quickly contained. Many victims were ultimately identified through geo-location and e-witness accounts, but these were not sought nor considered valid until scientific methods failed. Earlier recognition of the value of these accounts and knowledge of the limitations of forensic technologies in a catastrophic fire disaster would have expedited the reconciliation process, allowing the bodies of victims to be returned to their families in a timely manner.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
- New Genetics and Society, Vol. 29, no. 3 (Sep 2010), pp. 225-240
- Publication year
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2010 Taylor & Francis. The full text of this article will be available 18 months after publication (March 2012). For more information, please refer to the journal's website or contact the author.