UNIFEM Informs seminar

Working on the ground: making every women and child count

Marking UN World Health Day

Co-presented by UNIFEM Australia and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, UniSA

Thursday 7 April 2005

The second in the series of Adelaide seminars on social issues

Guest speakers

Dr Joy O'Hazy, General Practitioner and Co-coordinator of the National Zonta Birthing Kit Project
Professor Roger Byard, Chief Forensic Pathologist, Forensic Science SA

Presentation summaries

At the request of the speaker, we are not following the usual procedure of supplying the transcript. This is for reasons of privacy to the affected victims and the extremely tragic nature of the experience. However, the speaker has supplied a written synopsis of the tsunami scenario he witnessed.

Professor Roger Byard

Immediately following the Asian Tsunami teams of specialist police and forensic investigators were mobilised under the auspices of the Australian Federal Police for work on victim identification around Phuket Island in Thailand. The Australian teams consisted of crime scene police officers, fingerprint analysts, dentists and pathologists who were deployed for rotations lasting two weeks based primarily at Wat Yan Yao in Takua Pa, north of Phuket. Other international teams worked at Wat Bang Muang just south of Wat YaYao, at Krabbi opposite Phuket Island, and at Wat Ta Cha Chai on the north side of Phuket Island near the Sarasin Bridge. Standard Disaster Victim Identification protocols were followed, with close collaboration between the Australians and teams from a number of other countries including Germany and the United Kingdom. I was deployed there for the last two weeks of January.

The situation in Thailand provided an interesting contrast with the other recent major DVI exercise in the region, the Kuta Beach bombings of October 2002 in Bali, Indonesia. Security issues were of prime consideration in Bali as the disaster was the result of international terrorism and not the consequence of a natural event. In Bali, although the number of victims was relatively low at 202, progress was slow due to dismemberment and marked disruption of many of the bodies. Tissues and samples had to be carefully searched for any metal fragments that may have arisen from the explosive devices. In contrast, most bodies at Wat Yan Yao were intact with minimal or no injuries, as most deaths were due to drowning. However, major problems were encountered in both Thailand and Bali due to the rapid onset of decomposition and the loss of identifiable features.

The striking feature of the post-Tsunami work was the sheer scale of the disaster with thousands of unidentified bodies lying in racks inside variably-refrigerated containers, lined up around the grounds of temples, and constantly being unloaded from trucks. Towering stacks of coffins marked sites where bodies were being processed; the smell of decay was ubiquitous.

The response of the Thai people and government was extraordinary. Foreign teams were given immediate access to sites and Thai army volunteers did much of the body handling. There were also very moving aspects to the scene involving Buddhist monks to whose temples the bodies had been taken. The monks kept an eye on the proceedings during the day and we were informed that they walked amongst the bodies of the victims at night to bring peace to the spirits of the dead. A ceremony in late January was also held outside Takua Pa in which 2000 Buddhist monks and 20,000 local people and invited guests participated. The end of the ceremony was marked by the release of 2000 rice paper lanterns that were lifted into the night air by small fires suspended beneath. The lanterns rose slowly into the air and eventually filled the sky, looking for all the world as if a galaxy had descended over the onlookers’ heads. It seemed a very fitting way to commemorate and honour the dead amongst whom we had worked so hard.

(excerpted from Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology)

Biographies

Professor Roger Byard

Professor Roger Byard is currently working as the Chief Forensic Pathologist at Forensic Science SA in Adelaide, Australia, and also holds Clinical Professorships with the Department of Pathology and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Adelaide. He is a Consultant Pediatric Forensic Pathologist with the Child Protection Unit at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide and a Pediatric Pathologist.

Professor Byard qualified in medicine in Australia in 1978 (University of Tasmania MBBS, BMedSci) and became a licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada in 1982 (LMCC). He holds fellowships in Anatomical Pathology in Canada (FRCPC), the United Kingdom (FRCPath) and the United States (FCAP), and is a Certificant in Family Medicine with the Canadian College of Family Physicians (CCFP). He was a foundation member of the Australian College of Legal Medicine (MACLM) and is a member of both the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) and the Society for Pediatric Pathology (SPP) in the United States. He has two higher degrees from the University of Adelaide on aspects of paediatric forensic medicine and pathology (MMedSci-Paediatr, MD). In 2004 he was awarded a Public Service Medal for ‘outstanding public service to paediatric pathology’ and in that year he was also awarded a medal by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia for his expertise and efforts following the Bali bombing tragedy. He has a specific interest in sudden infant and childhood death and has published, or has in press, over 300 papers in peer-reviewed journals and 41 chapters in 14 textbooks many of which deal with infant and childhood death. He has also presented or coauthored over 300 papers that have been presented at national and international meetings. He has authored a text entitled 'Sudden Death in Infancy, Childhood and Adolescence' (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. 2004), which has been described as the ‘current international benchmark in the subject’, and has coedited a second text entitled 'Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - Problems, Progress and Possibilities' (Arnold, 2001). He is also currently coediting an Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine and serves on the editorial board of three international forensic and pathology journals. He has an interest in ‘Preventative Pathology’ and coordinates childhood accident prevention through ‘The Keeping Your Baby and Child Safe Program’ in South Australia. He has also coordinated workshops on paediatric forensic pathology and medicine in a number of countries in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.

Dr Joy O'Hazy

Dr Joy O’Hazy is a locum General Practitioner and Co-coordinator of the National Zonta Birthing Kit Project. Dr O’Hazy will speak about her recent six months spent working in Iran in medical centres and mobile clinics with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders). As Co-coordinator of the Birthing Kit project, Dr O’Hazy will also talk about the achievements and goals of the project.

Fuelled by a long term passion to improve the status and health of women and with more than 20 years medical experience – particularly in women’s health issues, Joy has been involved in practices (e.g her own for 8 years ,SHINE SA and Queen Victoria Hospital ) and Non government organizations (Zonta, UNIFEM and MSF) that further these goals .

Recently her energies went into working 6 months in Mashhad, Iran with MSF, looking after Afghan refugees and back home to co coordinating through Zonta the provision of 100,000 birthing kits (in 12 months) for women in villages in 20 different developing countries.

Joy believes in thinking globally, acting - wherever needed.

UNIFEM Australia

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is a non-profit organisation working to help improve the living standards of women and children in developing countries and to address their concerns. It is a global organisation with programs which promote women's leadership, with the goal to give women an equal voice in the decisions that shape their future and that of their children. The aim of the UNIFEM Informs seminars is to promote the role and work undertaken by UNIFEM to the general public.

UNIFEM Informs is a UNIFEM Australia initiative. Additional web sites which may be of interest: UNIFEM Australia / Respect for Women seminar

Areas of study and research

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