Dr Shari Forbes, the UTS professor in charge of AFTER, is engaged in some outreach work with the press
and the public in order to increase awareness of the facility and all that they do. People I spoke to in
Sydney were not aware of the body farm there - this may be because it is relatively new, or perhaps
because Sydney is a much larger city than Knoxville, so it is harder to get the news out there. Dr Maiken
Ueland, who showed me around the facility, told me that people in the immediate area of AFTER were
consulted during its planning and building, and their concerns were taken on board. For example, as part
of the NSW Health licensing agreement for the facility, there should never be more than ten donors at
any one time in what is considered active decay. This should hopefully help stop bad smells in the area.
Security for the facility includes the fact that it is not well signposted - if you didn’t know it was there you
would have difficulty finding it. The facility has electronic card access and each person has their own code
to input to gain access and cancel the alarm. The fence is also topped with razor wire. So far they have
had no one trying to enter the facility illegally. They have had some problems with the local wildlife
however. There are hawks, wild dogs and goannas (rather large monitor lizards) in the area, all of which
have been known to scavenge pig remains, so should be considered as possible scavengers for human
remains as well. To this end, each donor is covered in a cage to stop the scavengers from getting in. The
cages however led to another issue - birds were able to get in but then were stuck in the cage. The cages
now have wire on the bottom as well, so that animals and birds can no longer get in.
One problem that they did identify was with venomous spiders in the area - care must be taken when
touching anything on site just in case. Once I was told this I spent a lot of time hiding behind Dr Ueland.
The facility is in a no fly zone, similar to the restricted airspace of the FAC. The AFTER facility is actually in
a Royal Australian Air Force area, so the area is monitored closely. It is also heavily wooded - if you look
the site up on Google Earth all you can see are trees, with no clue as to the research being conducted
I was very impressed with the AFTER facility. A lot of thought had obviously gone in to its planning, and
the university staff were constantly looking for ways to improve the site. They are currently looking for
ways to earn money. For example, they are hoping to be able to start running training courses at the site
that they will be able to charge money for.
In Sydney I met with Alison Seers, a research biologist who is also research coordinator for the Project
Management Committee of AFTER. Alison was able to tell me some of the issues that had come up among
the stakeholders of AFTER. For example, each of the partner agencies is coming from a slightly different
area of operation, so it took a while to design paperwork that was acceptable for everyone. It didn’t occur
to the academics that more paperwork was needed, and they were a little more lax with Standard
Operating Procedures and Quality Assurance than the criminal justice partners were used to. Alison did
say that the PMC gave a good cross section of relevant industries which must benefit the facility.
I was lucky to be able to meet with one of the local forensic pathologists, Dr Sairita Maistry, at the Depart-ment
of Forensic Medicine, Glebe. The Department conducts approximately 2000 post mortems per year
on behalf of the coroner. They have their own dentists, neuropathologists, paediatric pathologists, and
anthropologists on staff. Dr Maistry stated that she believed the AFTER facility could only be a good
resource for them. Her only issue would be the lack of diversity of the cadavers being donated - they need
to be able to study more than just older, white, thin males.
I also spent some time with the NSW Police Department on my visit. Insp. Kristina Skvorc showed me
around the Forensic Services Group (FSG) facilities. NSW Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs) are mainly
police officers rather than civilians as is more common in the UK. As part of their employment, SOCOs
have to complete a research project - this allows them to be considered Expert Witnesses in court. Insp.
Skvorc sees the AFTER facility as a great resource for her SOCOs to be able to do specific research projects
relating to death investigation. She is also hopeful that they will be able to run body recovery training at