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National missing persons conference investigates challenges and opportunities

International experts share insights with 120 practitioners

Publication date: Friday, 17 November 2017

This week in Sydney, 120 people who work in the missing persons sector gathered for the inaugural National Missing Persons Conference, the largest missing persons conference ever held in Australia.

'Missing People: Challenges & Opportunities' was a joint initiative of the NSW Department of Justice's Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit (FFMPU) and the Australian Federal Police's National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC).

Leading policy makers, law enforcement officers, psychologists, social workers, researchers and other experts from Australia and overseas shared their insights in research, investigation and policing, and clinical approaches to dealing with missing persons and those they leave behind.

The two-day conference on 15-16 November featured six keynote speakers, internationally-renowned experts in grief and loss, evidence-based policing, and the future of missing persons investigation. Participants could also attend their choice of 24 specialist sessions.

Liz Davies, the Coordinator of FFMPU, presented a session about the importance of keeping young people 'in the loop' when a loved one goes missing.

"We're part of a relatively small field and the conference was a welcome opportunity to discover recent research and practice in missing persons services and investigation from around the country and across the world," Ms Davies said.

Dixie Peters, the technical leader of the Missing Persons Unit at the University of North Texas Health Science Center Center for Human Identification, and an expert in mitochondrial DNA testing, was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald during the conference.

Ms Davies said that feedback from conference participants has been unanimously positive. "Looking forward, the challenge and the opportunity of a future missing persons conference now loom large!"

The Missing Persons: Challenges & Opportunities conference program and abstracts are available on the NMPCC website.

There are more than 38,000 people reported missing to police every year in Australia – roughly one person every 14 minutes. In NSW FFMPU supports those who are left behind in our state, interstate and internationally. The unit offers information, support and counselling to individuals, families and service providers, face to face, in support group meetings, as well as via Skype, email and social media.

Please note: FFMPU does not search for people but works with search agencies to support those left behind. If you need help searching for someone, please contact one of these search agencies

Select the image to zoom

Above: Dr Darcy Harris (second from left) was a keynote speaker at the inaugural National Missing Persons Conference on 15-16 November 2017.

Pictured, left to right, are: Manny Kassiotis, Dr Darcy Harris, Keesha Quinn, Liz Davies and Stephanie Dartnall.

Select the image to zoom

Above: Dr Lois Tonkin (centre) was a keynote speaker at the inaugural National Missing Persons Conference on 15-16 November 2017.

Pictured, left to right, are: Keesha Quinn, Stephanie Dartnall, Dr Lois Tonkin, Liz Davies and Manny Kassiotis.