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Science, Media and the Law – Lessons from the Kathleen Folbigg case

  • - (AEST)
  • The Royal Society of Victoria
    8 La Trobe Street, MELBOURNE VIC 3000, Australia

Kathleen Megan Folbigg was arrested in 2001. Accused of murdering her four infant children. She was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 25 years.

Scientific and medical research suggesting the daughters might have died of natural causes was rejected by a judicial inquiry in 2019. Subsequent research published in 2020 led ninety eminent Australian scientists and medical professionals (led by the Australian Academy of Science) to petition the NSW Governor to pardon Folbigg. The petition succinctly demonstrated that all four deaths could be explained as the effects of very rare genetic factors. In June 2023, Folbigg was unconditionally pardoned by NSW Governor Margaret Beazley. She was released from prison, having served 20 of her minimum 25-year sentence. Her convictions were overturned in a subsequent decision by the NSW court of criminal appeal in December 2023. While ultimately successful, the voice of scientific expertise was difficult to establish in the emotionally-charged circumstances of this challenging case. Reopening the inquiry with fresh scientific perspectives relied on the discretion of the Attorney General of New South Wales. Public opinion is overwhelmingly shaped by the Australian media. Sustaining the attention of the political and legal system required a sustained campaign by a team of friends, philanthropists, scientists and legal professionals championing the cause.

Join key members of "Team Folbigg" to understand the barriers they experienced to considering complex genetic science as robust legal evidence in an Australian judicial system, and hear the case for change.

A joint presentation by the Royal Society of Victoria, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, and the Australian Academy of Science, broadcast with the support of the Inspiring Victoria program. 

Proceedings will also be livestreamed via YouTube at


Location Information

Please note the Royal Society of Victoria's heritage building does not have a lift, and physical attendance is not recommended for people who are unable to negotiate stairs unassisted. We apologetically recommend participation via Zoom webinar (a ticket is available in the booking link) for those who require mobility aids.