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Workers learn about identifying human remains

3 MARCH 2004

The challenges in identifying human remains in the archaeological and criminal landscape goes under the microscope in a conference and workshop being held this Friday at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Fifty people working in law enforcement, forensic institutions, archaeology and Aboriginal cultural heritage will hear expert speakers on subjects including crocodile attacks, DNA profiling, the Bali bombing investigations and working with mass graves.

"Every year in the field, kangaroo bones are mistaken for human remains and Aboriginal burial sites are often confused with missing people or even homicide cases," said conference organiser and National Museum archaeologist Michael Westaway.

"We hope to give people who come across human remains in their work - whether they're surveying a new landscape or investigating a potential crime - the basic skills to determine the best approach to each new discovery."

The conference includes practical workshops in sorting animal and human remains and establishing sex, age and ethnicity.

Media are invited to meet the speakers - and their bones - for morning tea in the National Museum's Hall at 10.30am this Friday, 5 March.

The conference line up includes:

  • Forensic archaeologist Richard Wright on his work leading investigations of mass graves in the Ukraine and Bosnia and Australia's possible links to Nazi war crimes;
  • Dr Denise Donlan on her work recovering Australian pilots shot down over Papua New Guinea in the Second World War and tracing the grave of a sailor believed to have survived the sinking of the HMAS Sydney;
  • Walter Wood on the identification of human remains from Australian crocodile attacks;
  • Hermann Metz on the Australian Federal Police's role investigating the Bali bombings.

Richard Wright will also give a free public lecture, Unearthing Evil, on his experience with war crimes, in the Museum's Studio from 7-8.30pm this Friday.

The conference has been organised by the National Museum and the Australian National University. Limited places for the conference are available, with bookings on 02 6281 6624.

For interviews or more information please contact Public Affairs Director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or m.portus@nma.gov.au