Not currently available in 2020

Unit description

Introduces students to DNA profiling, its scientific basis and historical development. Students will learn how DNA profiling is performed and explore the philosophical background to the science. Focusing on the Australian context, the unit will examine the use of DNA in court proceedings and study key cases where DNA has been utilised. The unit will also look at how developments may affect future civil and criminal court proceedings and evidence law generally.

Unit content

Topic 1: What is DNA profiling?

  • What is DNA?
  • Scientific basis of DNA profiling
  • Historical development
  • Scientific development
  • Legal recognition

Topic 2: How is DNA profiling performed?

  • Collection/extraction
  • PCR
  • Profile generation
  • Applications – identification (Disaster Victim Identification, unknown deceased), paternity, crime scene samples
  • LCN
  • Y chromosome profiling
  • Mitochondrial analysis

Topic 3: Mathematical basis of DNA profiling

  • Probability
  • Statistical analysis
  • Population genetics

Topic 4: Philosophical background to science

  • Deduction, induction & empiricism
  • Limitations of current scientific approaches
  • Ethical issues with genetic information eg ownership rights in biological material, privacy
  • Relevance to DNA evidence eg consent to sampling
  • New technology and its introduction into forensic setting
  • Universal databases

Topic 5: The Law

  • Forensic Procedures legislation:
    • NSW & Cth
    • Overseas comparison (UK, USA + others)
  • Collecting samples
  • Testing samples
  • Maintaining forensic DNA databases

Topic 6: DNA in court proceedings

  • Civil proceedings
  • Criminal trials
  • Evidence law generally – eg relevance, unfairly prejudicial
  • Expert evidence
  • Standards for DNA (and all scientific) evidence
  • DNA evidence, including role of statistics and probability
  • Key cases
  • How could it be improved?
    • Court-appointed experts
    • Assistance to fact finder
    • Minimising misrepresentation
    • 'Hot-tubbing'

Topic 7: Wrongful convictions/acquittals

  • Double jeopardy principles
  • Wrongful convictions (vs 'miscarriage of justice')
    • Australian law and examples
    • Innocence projects – USA, Australia, Innocence/DNA Review Panels
  • Wrongful acquittals
    • Australian law and examples

Topic 8: Future developments

  • Privatisation of forensic DNA analysis
  • Universal databases
  • 'On the spot' DNA analysis
  • Phenotyping
  • Familial/kinship searching

Learning outcomes

Unit Learning Outcomes express learning achievement in terms of what a student should know, understand and be able to do on completion of a unit. These outcomes are aligned with the graduate attributes. The unit learning outcomes and graduate attributes are also the basis of evaluating prior learning.

Learning outcomes and graduate attributes

Teaching and assessment


Intensive offerings may or may not be scheduled in every session. Please refer to the timetable for further details.

Southern Cross University employs different teaching methods within units to provide students with the flexibility to choose the mode of learning that best suits them. SCU academics strive to use the latest approaches and, as a result, the learning modes and materials may change. The most current information regarding a unit will be provided to enrolled students at the beginning of the study session.

Fee information


Commonwealth Supported courses
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Commencing 2020 Commonwealth Supported only. Student contribution band: 1

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