A DNA program aimed at helping solve missing persons cases across the nation has been extended for another year, the Australian Federal Police said on Thursday.
The announcement came during National Missing Persons Week, a time police particularly ask communities to consider whether they can help with outstanding cases.
The DNA program began in mid-2020 and involves the collection of genetic samples from biological family members of missing people, which go into a database for police to use to match with evidence and unidentified human remains that are uncovered.
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A pop-up collection point was set up at Newcastle City Hall on Tuesday - family members of missing Tea Gardens man Allan Bentley were among those to submit samples.
The AFP said on Thursday the DNA program had provided matches for five long-term missing persons cases so far and contributed evidence for coronial inquiries.
National Missing Persons Coordination Centre Associate Professor Jodie Ward said the results showed how advancements in forensic science could give fresh hope to families with missing loved ones.
"Just being able to identify one person, to be able to give answers to one family, would make this all worth it - but we have now surpassed that goal,'' she said.
"However, there's more work to be done. The extension will allow the program team to generate investigative leads for many more cases in order to discover who these unknown Australians are and reunite them with families missing them."
More than 38,000 missing person reports are made to police each year.
There are about 2500 people on the long-term missing persons register nationwide.
Aside from DNA, families are being encouraged to hand over personal items, medical and dental records and photos of their missing loved one.
"As well as searching dental records and DNA profiles looking for matches, our forensic specialists can use new tools to estimate an unidentified individual's year of birth and death, predict ancestral origin, hair and eye colour and facial appearance, and find genetic relatives," Associate Professor Ward said.
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