Identifying victims in the Black Saturday bushfires

During the 2009 Black Saturday fires—Australia’s worst bushfire disaster to date—Indonesian experts headed to Victoria to help identify the bodies of the 173 victims.

Their support came as part of a collaborative initiative between the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM), and the Department of Police Medicine of the Indonesia National Police (Dokpol) which saw 20 Indonesian experts in forensic pathology, forensic odontology (which involves examining dental evidence) and DNA analysis work alongside VIFM and Victorian Police for over two months.

As part of the initiative, which has also involved the Australian Federal Police, the two countries have worked together to identify victims in other disasters, including the Bali bombings, the Australian Embassy Bombing in Jakarta, and the Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 crash in Yogyakarta.

“The VIFM was extremely appreciative of the work and assistance received from the Indonesian disaster victim identification teams,” says Jodie Leditschke, Manager of Forensic Technical Services at VIFM.

“We’ve found that the bond between the departments and countries has grown considerably as a consequence of this initiative.”