Familial DNA Sample Collection Pilot Program: Victoria
National Missing Persons Week - 2021
This year National Missing Persons Week is 31st July-6th August.
During this annual week of action that takes place in Australia to raise awareness surrounding missing persons cases and processes, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) together with the Coroners Court of Victoria and Victoria Police would like to invite members of the public who have a missing relative, and who unfortunately believe that there is a possibility that the person maybe deceased, to consider providing a family reference DNA sample for the purpose of assisting in the reconciliation of missing persons with unidentified human remains. While we are keen to promote National Missing Persons Week, we also encourage members of the public who have a missing relative to make contact with us at any time during the year.
This outreach initiative is being undertake in order to improve the capacity to match long-term missing persons to unidentified remains in Victoria and nationally.
Who should provide a DNA sample?
If you are the biological relative of a missing person, your DNA may assist in the identification.
Where should I go to give a DNA sample?
Following registering your interest on the VIFM website, you will need to attend at the foyer of VIFM (65 Kavanagh Street, Southbank) on the date and time sent to you.
What is involved in providing a DNA sample?
An experienced VIFM/VicPol staff member will meet with you and obtain some details about you and your missing family member.
You will also be required to sign a consent form. By signing this form, you consent to your DNA and the details you provide being used by VIFM and/or Victoria Police solely for the purposes of assisting in the identification of your missing relative (see below “what will happen to my DNA?”). You can ask for a copy of this consent form in advance.
How long will it take?
Obtaining a DNA sample only takes a few minutes, but 30 minutes has been allocated for each meeting to ensure that any questions you have can be answered.
Does providing a DNA Sample hurt?
No. Obtaining a DNA sample simply involves wiping the inside of your cheek with a cotton bud.
Is there a cost involved?
There will be no cost to you to provide a DNA sample for the purposes of comparison to unidentified human remains.
What will happen to my DNA?
Your DNA is being collected for identification purposes only. Having signed the consent form, the DNA sample you provide will be analysed by expert molecular biologists. Your DNA profile will be added at the state level to the Victorian Missing Persons DNA Database (VMPDD) and at the national level to the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database - Integrated Forensic Analysis (NCIDD-IFA) only for the purpose of comparison to unidentified human remains. In addition, the details regarding DNA samples collected (not the DNA profile) will be recorded as part of the record held for that missing person under the National Missing Persons and Victim System (NMPVS) which is a repository for all information regarding Missing Persons.
What are the Victorian Missing Persons DNA and the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database - Integrated Forensic Analysis Databases?
The Victorian Missing Persons DNA Database (VMPDD) and National Criminal Investigation DNA Database - Integrated Forensic Analysis (NCIDD-IFA) are secure repositories for DNA profile information that enable the matching of family reference samples to unidentified deceased persons. The databases can only be accessed by authorised professional users. The Victorian Missing Persons DNA Database is managed by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database - Integrated Forensic Analysis (NCIDD-IFA) is managed by The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
Will there be any follow up after I have provided my DNA samples?
Unless you ask for it to be removed, your DNA will remain on the Victorian and National Missing Persons DNA Databases until a match is made to a deceased person. Any matches will be further investigated to ensure all the forensic evidence (of which DNA is only one tool to be used) support the identification of the deceased as the missing person. This evidence will be presented to the relevant authorities (usually a Coroner in charge of the case) and you will be notified in due course.
What happens if I want to remove my DNA profile from the databases?
You can request that VIFM remove your DNA profile from the databases at any time.
Are support services available?
Yes. It is acknowledged that discussions about missing family members may be very confronting for families, and consequently counsellors will be on site for immediate assistance. If required, referral to a support and counselling service will also be available.
How likely is it that my missing family member will be identified?
Providing your DNA sample is an important part of the process towards identifying your missing family member. However, because identification is a complex process, dependent on many variables, no guarantee can be made that an identification will be finalised based on the DNA sample alone.