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Kirsty Wright Travels from Gold Coast, QLD

Kirsty Wright


  • Achievements
  • Authenticity
  • Female Speaker
  • Inspirational
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Personal Development
  • Resilience
  • Science
  • Society / Social Trends

What if you had to set up your business, without warning, within a day, in a foreign country you had never been to, without some of the most basic resources?

You have staff from 14 different countries you have never met before, you already have thousands of ‘customers’ urgently waiting for you, you have constant international media attention and scrutiny about your work, face complex challenges every day your business has never encountered before, and no matter what happens you absolutely cannot make a single mistake?

On Boxing Day 2004 a 9.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia triggering a tsunami that killed over 230,000 people from over forty countries. Kirsty's presentation gives a rare insight into what happened after the wave, when teams of forensic experts from around the world combined to work on the largest disaster victim identification operation in history.

She discusses the challenges she and her team faced in trying to identify the youngest victims of the disaster, where it seemed likely the children would be lost forever.    

Kirsty delivers an interesting story of humanity, incredible teamwork, resilience, thinking outside the box and leadership under extreme pressure.

Kirsty Wright is a Forensic Biologist specialising in missing persons and Disaster Victim Identification (DVI). She has led DNA teams in numerous successful DVI operations in Australia and overseas and was involved in the 2002 Bali Bombings operation. Following the Boxing Day Tsunami she was the DNA Team Leader for the International Thai Tsunami Victim Identification Centre in Phuket as part of the Australian Federal Police DVI Team.

In 2004 Kirsty was awarded the prestigious Churchill Fellowship to investigate missing persons and DVI methods at the FBI, at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner during the September 11 victim identifications and at Forensic Science Service in the United Kingdom.

Kirsty led the expansion of the National Criminal Identification DNA Database (NCIDD) for the federal agency CrimTrac in 2007. The database now matches crime scene DNA with prisoners and suspects DNA nationally.

The Northern Territory Police contracted Kirsty in 2009 to lead the DNA operation for the analysis of over 50 sets highly degraded human remains. Kirsty has worked as a Major Crime Scientist and expert witness for the courts.

Today she holds a guest lecturing position at Griffith University, and has provided missing persons workshops and presentations to numerous international groups. She was the Senior Scientist for the ‘Skeletal Remains Project’ in Queensland which led to several identifications from long term missing persons. In 2012 Kirsty made the Qld Top 50 Best and Brightest list for 2012, based mostly on the work she is doing for INTERPOL. Kirsty was also a finalist in the Global category for the 2013 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards.

Keynote Titles

  • After the Wave - DNA Identification of Missing Children from the Boxing Day Tsunami
  • Managing in a Disaster - The Boxing Day Tsunami


An astounding presentation that touched the hearts of all there. Because of her engaging presentation style despite the horrific picture she painted I can today recall many of the points she made on how to build and maintain a cohesive team in extremely trying circumstances which is equally applicable to building a team within our workplaces.

Renal Society Of Australia

Reinforced the importance of leadership in maintaining team cohesion, motivation and supportive care in a stressful work environment. A moving presentation which touched my heart and will leave a lasting impression.

Queensland Health

I attended the talk given by DNA Forensic Biologist Kirsty Wright regarding her involvement with the Boxing Day Tsunami and would like to give you some feedback. I really enjoyed Kirsty's presentation on a number of levels. The scientific detail really appealed to me and was informative but at a level that most lay people would be able to understand. Coupled with the presentation slides, the situation was put into perspective in a compassionate and respectful manner and showed us a side of the tragedy we didn't see after the TV cameras and reporters went home. Kirsty's style was relaxed and approachable and she welcomed questions and engaged with her audience warmly and openly. I felt comfortable asking a question and Kirsty's answer was personal and thought provoking. Kirsty spoke about the team work and how as the manager she supported the team and individuals, methods of handling difficult situations, the importance of recognising participation and the individual, celebrating milestones and focusing on common goals. While the subject matter may be (thankfully) alien to most of us, the concepts and ideas are certainly translatable to our everyday work and personal lives. Glad I attended. Certainly reminds me of perspective.

Logan City Council



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