Forensic doctor Kirsty Wright – who is also a Royal Australian Air Force reservist – has been named The Australian newspaper’s Australian of the Year for her remarkable work helping to expose systemic flaws and wrongdoings in the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services DNA laboratory over 10 years.
FILE PHOTO (2018): RAAF Specialist Reserve forensic doctor Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Wright examines a sample for DNA testing. Story by John Noble. Photo by Corporal Colin Dadd.
Kirsty Wright joined with journalist and crime podcaster Hedley Thomas in her civilian capacity to look into disparities with DNA evidence in the 2013 unsolved murder of a young Queensland woman Shandee Blackburn.
What Kirsty Wright and Hedley Thomas uncovered led to a Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Queensland Government’s Forensics Laboratory that analyses DNA evidence gathered from serious and violent crimes across Queensland.
The Commission of Inquiry concluded that, largely due to Kirsty Wright’s efforts, victims of crime and the police were betrayed by ‘grave maladministration involving dishonesty’ at the state’s lab.
Crime-scene samples rich in DNA had been written off as having no evidentiary value – prompting the head of the Commission to recommend a review of thousands of major crime cases stretching back more than a decade.
“I see this as recognition of the importance of speaking out and doing the right thing,” Dr Wright said.
“I was just a normal person who found myself in a situation, with the skills I have, that I had an opportunity to really make some change and really help people.”
Director General History and Heritage – Air Force, Air Commodore Rob Lawson voiced RAAF’s pride in Squadron Leader Wright’s remarkable civilian work.
“I consider that the actions for which Kirsty is being recognised epitomise RAAF/Defence values and we are proud to have her on our team,” Air Commodore Lawson said.
People can learn more about Kirsty Wright’s investigative work in Hedley Thomas’ Walkley Award winning podcast Shandee’s Story.
EDITOR’s NOTE: I too commend Kirsty Wright for shedding light on this miserable piece of recent Queensland history – and commend her bravery for doing so. Whistleblowing is a very risky business in Australia – with few if any protections for the whistleblower, and numerous examples of good-peoples’ lives being destroyed in the pursuit of justice and truth. I doubly commend her bravery for being a whistleblower to the media while also being a reservist in the Royal Australian Air Force – an employer that specifically forbids its members talking to the media – but obviously doesn’t mind basking in reflected glory when it all works out for the best.
By the way, in all references to Kirsty Wright in the above story, she was referred to as squadron leader by the original author (corrected by CONTACT), even though she was acting purely in her civilian capacity at all times in relation to the subject matter – nothing at all to do with the RAAF.