security staff at the medical centre check on the exterior of the fence during their patrols. Also, because
there is a helipad at the medical centre, there is closed airspace over the site. To date these have been
the only security measures needed to keep people out. Only once have people tried to break in - a
couple of law students were caught at the site. Instead of problems with human interlopers, they have
more of a problem with raccoons - the bodies which are left in the open have nets placed over the hands
and feet in order to discourage scavenging.
My overall impression of the facility was that it was a centre for learning. There is research going on
constantly. Undergraduate anthropology students are encouraged to hone their field skills, while post
graduate and post-doctoral students are supported in designing and carrying out practical research
projects. And over the summer break, the facility offers courses to law enforcement personnel.
While in Tennessee I spent some time with the Knoxville Police Department Forensics Unit. The police
department has used the FAC in the past when dealing with active cases. In one instance where a body
had been found after a house fire, the FAC was able to give advice on whether or not it was a homicide.
They have also been consulted when skeletal remains have been found, to ensure that all the bones are
found and recovered. Lt Vince Ayub, the supervisor of the forensics unit, has attended training courses at
the FAC, and encourages his staff to do the same.
I also had the chance to speak to Dr Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, Knox County Medical Examiner. The ME’s
office used to be based at the UTK along with the FAC, so they developed a close working relationship.
The facilities are now on separate sites but still work together. Dr Mileusnic-Polchan currently has several
projects ongoing at the FAC along with Dr Steadman. The ME’s office now has an anthropologist on staff,
but they would still use the FAC in order to test hypotheses on current cases. Dr Mileusnic-Polchan also
stated that the FAC is the sort of facility you don’t know that you need, but once you have it you wonder
how you did without it.
6.2 Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research, University of Technology Sydney
The AFTER facility was opened in 2016 by the University of Technology, Sydney, under the direction of Dr
Shari Forbes, with funding from the Australian Research Council. The AFTER facility has had one major
advantage that the FAC didn’t have - it has had help from other human taphonomy research facilities at
the planning stage. The AFTER site covers about 12 acres of Australia Bushland near Sydney. At present
they have 41 donor bodies on site, after 2 years of operation.
Legislation covering the operation of the body farm in Australia appears to be close to existing legislation
in the UK. As in the UK, any facility which deals with human tissue measuring more than 1cm³ has to be
licensed by the government and is regularly inspected to ensure it complies with the legislation. This is
covered under the Human Tissue Act 2004 in the UK, and the Human Tissue Act 1983 and Human Tissue
Regulation 2015 in Australia.
Funding for the facility has come from several areas. During the planning process a Project Management
Committee (PMC) was set up. This committee includes members from the University, the New South
Wales Police Department, New South Wales Forensic Services Group, Victoria Police, academics, and the
Australian Federal Police. Each of these stakeholders provided initial cash contribution to get the project
off the ground. Most of the funding for the facility however comes from the UTS - they cover
approximately 80% of the costs. All members of the PMC have unlimited access to the facility.
The PMC are involved in approving any research projects that are run at the AFTER facility. Ethics
approval is required for each project. This was a major hurdle, as ethics standards had to be created for
the body farm specifically. They also had to create specific paperwork, standard operating procedures,
and quality assurance processes. Each partner organisation had slightly different standards and
compromises had to be made, especially where police casework is involved.
The donor process is slightly different to the process for the FAC. People sign up to donate their bodies to
the University of Technology for scientific research, and indicate whether or not they want that research
to include forensic research. Those that come to the AFTER facility usually arrive within 24-48hrs.