As Australia’s leading disaster victim identification (DVI) expert, Simon Walsh has brought comfort to countless grieving families, allowing them to begin the process of laying their loved ones to rest.
In his capacity as National DVI Commander with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), his leadership and expertise have been crucial to the success of numerous high-profile DVI operations, amongst them the Victorian bushfires in 2009, the Christmas Island refugee boat tragedies in 2010 and 2012, and the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand in 2011.
"This is not a simple task and it’s not a speedy task, but it’s a task we absolutely have to get right."
The horror of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 tragedy in July triggered his next deployment. Leading a team of Australian specialists to Europe, Walsh began the grizzly process of working with international colleagues to identify the victims’ remains under Operation Bring Them Home.
It’s harrowing work, the world looking anxiously on. “This is not a simple task and it’s not a speedy task,” Walsh explains, speaking from the operation’s base in a military facility near Hilversum in the Netherlands, “but it’s a task we absolutely have to get right.”
As Chief Scientist, Forensics for the AFP, Walsh is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost forensic authorities and has led reforms and initiatives that significantly expand our capabilities in the field. He’s also been a pivotal part of capacity building programs elsewhere in the region.
A passionate contributor to forensic science research and education, Walsh’s extraordinary research output runs to two specialised international textbooks, over 20 book chapters, and some 200 articles and conference papers. He also developed Australia’s first bachelor degree in forensic biology at UTS, while working towards his own Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Science (2009).
Forensic science is often portrayed as being about tools and methods, but Walsh knows there’s much more to it than that. A big thinker with a strong sense of social justice, his unique, holistic approach has brought lasting benefit to the criminal justice system and the communities it serves. It’s just one part of his considerable contribution.