The Academy

History of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences

The Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences is a multidisciplinary and scholarly body whose foundation meeting took place on 20 April 1967. Its first meeting as an Academy followed on 3 August 1967 when a Draft Constitution, modelled on that of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences, was adopted. They comprised leading figures in a number of professions who believed that an Australian body was needed to address, in a regular and disciplined way, the issues presented to their several disciplines by the forensic sciences, broadly construed.

From the start, the Academy has included leading members from the professions of law and medicine as well as leading scientists, sociologists, police officers and government officials. The Academy’s life commenced at those meetings in Sydney in 1967. But since then it has expanded its activities to other Australian States and Territories beyond New South Wales.

The inaugural President of the Academy in 1967 was the Honourable Justice Russell Le Gay Brereton, a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He was a sensitive, highly intelligent, and creative man who strongly believed that the forensic sciences constituted a discipline worthy of scholarly attention and scientific treatment. It was his inspiration, together with the indefatigable activities of the Foundation Secretary-General, Dr Schmalzbach, which assured the Academy’s success from the start. A mark of the high calibre of the Academy in its earliest days is found (as reflected in the papers published in the Journal) by the inclusion of people who were, or were to become, leaders of their respective professions. They included Sir Harry Gibbs (a Chief Justice and Justice of the High Court of Australia), President in 1981; Sir Bernard Sugerman (President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal); Sir Douglas Miller and Sir Kenneth Noad (leading medical practitioners) and numerous leading scientists, such as Professor Malcolm Chaikin.

(This is an extract from a paper delivered at the 20th Anniversary of the Academy by the Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, Justice of the High Court of Australia and Past-President of the Academy. The full version of Hon Justice Kirby’s comments is found in an article entitled “Forensic Science – What Have We Learnt” (Journal of the Academy of Forensic Science vol pp183.)

Past Presidents of the Academy have included the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the President of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales, Professors of Medicine and Science, leading psychiatrists, eminent scientists and Queens Counsel.

Past Presidents

  • 1968 Hon Mr Justice Russell Le Gay BRERTON
  • 1969-70 Hon Mr Justice Bernard SUGERMAN
  • 1971 Sir Douglas MILLER
  • 1972-73 Professor R J WALSH
  • 1974-76 Hon Mr Justice Gordon SAMUELS
  • 1976-78 Dr Oscar R SCHMALZBACH
  • 1978-79 Professor Malcolm CHAIKIN
  • 1981-82 Hon Sir Harry GIBBS
  • 1983-84 Dr Kevin F BLEASEL
  • 1985-87 Dr Oscar R SCHMALZBACH
  • 1988-89 Hon Justice Michael D KIRBY
  • 1990-91 Dr V H CUMBERLAND
  • 1992-93 Mr Howard PURNELL QC
  • 1994-95 Mr Chester PORTER QC
  • 1996-97 Dr William A BARCLAY
  • 1998-99 Hon Justice Rodney N PURVIS
  • 2000-01 Mr David BENNETT QC
  • 2002-03 Dr David BELL
  • 2004-05 Hon Justice Annabelle BENNETT
  • 2006-07 A/Prof John HILTON RFD
  • 2007-10 A/Prof Peter DWYER
  • 2010-15 Prof James ROBERTSON AM PSM
  • 2015-16 Peter HASTINGS Q.C.
  • 2017-18 Prof James ROBERTSON AM PSM
  • 2019- current Dr Yvonne SKINNER