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Project Human Genome Diversity Project (1991 - 1997)

Alternative Names


The Human Genome Diversity Project was first proposed in 1991 by Sir Walter Bodmer and Luca Cavalli-Sforza. An international consortium of scientists, universities, governments and other interests in North America and Europe came together to facilitate studies of the genetic geography and history of our species. Their aim was to collect blood and tissue samples from 50 persons from each of 722 identified populations so as to build up a representative database of human genetic diversity. However, the project stalled and became enmeshed in controversy upon their referral to Indigenous populations as 'isolates of historical interest', their urgency to collect samples from Indigenous peoples because they were in 'danger of physical extinction', and their lack of consultation which left Indigenous peoples feeling as though they were objects of scientific study. There were also serious disagreements over issues of practical ethics such as what constitutes prior informed consent and who is authorized to give consent to the collection of blood and tissue samples. The Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, Professor Simon Easteal, played a prominent role in ensuring that no samples from Australian Aboriginals were ever used by the Human Genome Diversity Project.
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Archival resources

National Centre for Indigenous Genomics

  • Correspondence, 1989 - 1999, XB5-12; National Centre for Indigenous Genomics. Details
  • Correspondence, 1991 - 1993, X28; National Centre for Indigenous Genomics. Details
  • Correspondence and Draft Manuscript, 1993 - 1995, X1A-05; National Centre for Indigenous Genomics. Details