About the Forensic Medicine Centre

The ACT Forensic Medicine Centre in Phillip was opened on 7 September 2011 by the ACT Attorney General, Mr Simon Corbell.

The Centre cost $5.570 million and replaced the 40 year old morgue in Kingston.

The Centre was designed in accordance with the National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council guidelines and provides improved facilities for medical practitioners and the families of the deceased.

What does the Forensic Medicine Centre do?

The ACT Forensic Medicine Centre is managed by the ACT Courts and Tribunal Administration and provides modern facilities for pathologists and technicians who undertake forensic medical services (including post-mortem examinations) on behalf of the ACT Coroner.

The Centre also provides forensic medical services for areas of Southern NSW surrounding the ACT on behalf of the NSW Coroner.

What is a post mortem examination?

A post mortem examination is a thorough medical examination performed by a Pathologist to establish the medical cause of death. This examination is performed at the direction of a Coroner who may also order further tests to assist in determining the cause of death. Sometimes the time required to complete these tests (e.g. analysis of blood or body tissues) causes a delay in deciding the cause of death. These delays will vary according to the nature of the tests to be performed. The Pathologist is required to provide a written report to the Coroner and this can often cause further delay. Depending on the extent of testing to be conducted in a particular case, reports are normally received by the Court within 4-12 weeks.

How long do deceased persons stay at the Forensic Medicine Centre?

At present, a deceased person will normally be in the care of the Centre for five days.  The body of a deceased person cannot be released until any post mortem examination is completed and the person has been identified.  Although arrangements for a funeral may be made, burial or cremation cannot be performed until the Coroner permits.

Ordinarily identification of a deceased person is done by a family member who views the deceased person and signing a written statement attesting to the person’s identity.  Sometimes that viewing will take place at the Centre. If identification needs to be confirmed by dental or DNA analysis, that will delay the release of the person from the Centre.

After a post-mortem examination – be it an autopsy or an external examination – has been conducted, the Coroner will normally certify that the deceased person can be released within 1-2 days.  Once the Coroner has certified release, the deceased person can be collected from the Centre.  The funeral director will usually make inquiries with the Coroner’s office on behalf of the family regarding the release of a body. The FMC has certain release windows for the collection of bodies throughout the week, but appointments can also be made outside of those windows where operational considerations permit.

Can I visit the Forensic Medicine Centre?

The Centre is not generally open to the public. Students undertaking work experience with the Court are not permitted to attend the Centre. Internship students may visit the Centre but may not observe autopsies.

In accordance with a Coronial Practice Direction, the Chief Coroner has approved certain types of educational visits to the Centre. However, any requests to observe a deceased person and/or autopsy will only occur with the permission of the family of the deceased person and the Court.

Families or friends of deceased persons may be asked to attend the Centre to formally identity a deceased person.

The Centre is not designed for the conduct of funeral services or viewing of deceased persons; these events will normally occur with and at the funeral director.  The Centre may also, by appointment, permit families, friends and religious practitioners to visit the Centre to spend time with a deceased person and/or perform religious rituals.  In such cases appointments will be approved only when operationally convenient and are normally limited to one hour duration.

The Centre is a working facility and children cannot and will not be admitted to the facility except in exceptional circumstances.

How do I contact the Forensic Medicine Centre?

Although the Centre undertakes work on behalf of the ACT Coroner, families and friends of the deceased person will normally have very limited contact with the staff of the Centre.  The primary contact for family and friends is ACT Policing and the ACT Coroner’s Office.

The Centre’s usual business hours are 9am to 12am, and 1pm to 4pm, Monday to Friday.  The Centre may be contacted on (02) 6205 5545 or fmc@courts.act.gov.au .

The Centre is located at 42 Botany Street, Phillip.  Members of the public attending at the Centre unexpectedly, or without an appointment, will be refused entry.