The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) is calling for relatives of missing people to donate their saliva in the hope it will help to solve more than 140 baffling cases.
Forensic anthropologist Dr Soren Blau wants your help to identify some of Australia’s 2,600 long-term missing persons.
The newly launched Familial DNA Sample Collection Pilot Program aims to identify long-term missing people by linking the DNA of family members to unidentified human remains.
VIFM forensic anthropologist Dr Soren Blau told ABC Radio Melbourne she hoped the project would help to identify 142 people whose remains have been found in Victoria over the past 60 years.
“Sadly, we have still unidentified individuals dating back to the 1960s … to assist with identification we need details about that person while they were still alive,” she said.
“We know that someone out there must know these people but need their relatives to come forward and give a DNA sample.”
The VIFM, the Coroners’ Court of Victoria and Victoria Police are working together to roll out the program as part of National Missing Persons Week in the first week of August.
Dr Blau says DNA swabs are quick and simple, but they could be vital to identifying a missing person’s remains.
Dr Blau said improved technology meant it was now possible to identify skeletonised remains through DNA that could not have been identified in the past.
According to Australian Federal Police (AFP), there are 38,000 people reported missing every year in Australia.
The AFP said most of those people were located within days.
However, 2,600 are listed as long-term missing persons, which means they have been missing for longer than three months.
People who are interested in providing a DNA sample can get in touch with the VIFM through their website.
Dr Blau said the process of taking DNA was “very simple”.
“It’s simply taking a swab from the individuals inside of their mouth,” she said.
She said once the DNA has been collected it will be compared to the Victorian Missing Persons DNA database.
“If there is no match then there is an opportunity to load the sample on the national database … that sample will remain there until such time that an identification is made,” she said.
An individual can ask to have their DNA profile removed at any time.
DNA samples that do not match unidentified remains in Victoria will be sent to the National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons database for cross-checking against missing people and unidentified bodies in other states.
The federal government launched the national database in August 2020 with the aim of uncovering the identities of 500 sets of untested, unidentified human remains.