In Azure Hermes' home country up north, Yarrabah, elders still tell stories of a doctor catching children on their way home from school to take their blood.
It was 1968 and the doctor in question was trying to prove that the outlook for Indigenous health in Queensland was not as rosy as the government of the day was trumpeting.
"He was trying to help the kids and he did, his research ended up being a big reason funding was stepped up," Ms Hermes said. "But there's that weird feeling - it was ethically questionable."
Those blood samples are among 7000 that have been housed at the Australian National University in Canberra for the past 50 years, collected from 35 Indigenous communities for different reasons between the 1960s and 90s and then gathered by the university as part of an ambitious international genetics project.
The ANU says they have helped unlock vital medical breakthroughs but, after concerns were raised about their use, they were shelved and their fate put back into the hands of Indigenous people through the creation of the Aboriginal-controlled National Centre for Indigenous Genomics.
Ms Hermes has spent the past few years tracking down all 7000 of those people and their families to ask them for something else they may not have given at the time - their consent.
"Aboriginal communities are used to people just coming in and taking their samples and not telling them what's happening," she said.
So, with help from local groups like the Yalu Indigenous Researchers' Initiative, who often translated her more technical jargon into traditional language, she asked what they wanted to happen now. Should the blood be destroyed, returned home or used in Indigenous health research?
The first community she visited was her own ("half of those children sampled in 68 had passed away but I got a lot of guidance from my community"), before spending more than 11 months with the Galiwin'ku people on Elcho Island in East Arnhem Land.
They make up the largest set of samples in the collection - 1200 gathered during a typhoid outbreak on the island - and at first they wanted them all back.
"For them knowing there was still blood in Canberra, especially of those who had passed away, they were anxious," she said.
"Did it mean they hadn't moved onto the next world, their spirit was still roaming? Maybe this was why they had such bad luck in their community and so many people were sick."
But over backyard barbeques and dining table discussions, Ms Hermes said their understanding of the power of the science hit home.
They agreed for researchers to extract the DNA but dispose of their blood.
For the 200 who had since died, DNA was also taken but one last journey was still in store.
On Monday, their samples left the university for reburial on the island in hand-crafted boxes, one for each family.
People are sick and tired of going to funerals for preventable illnesses.Azure Hermes
Ms Hermes, who still has 31 Aboriginal communities to consult on the collection, said so far about 90 per cent of people had given their consent for the samples to remain in use for research.
"One woman wanted her son's sample back but gave her own instead," she said.
In communities where there is often little money to leave grandchildren and life expectancy remains shockingly shorter than the rest of the country, Ms Hermes said many people saw the data as their legacy.
"People are sick and tired of going to funerals for preventable illnesses," she said.
"They see their blood as something they can leave their kids in the hope that maybe there might be a better explanation for why people get sick.
"As Aboriginal people we sometimes feel like the most researched people on the planet but we're actually the most underrepresented in terms of genetic research."
Ms Hermes said there were still hopes the blood could one day reunite members of the Stolen Generation with long-lost family.
"We're working our way through," she said. "We're a very small team, but with consent the sky is the limit. We're already working on two great research projects and we're looking for more scientists to use this data."
ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said the team had forged a completely new approach to the "ethically and culturally challenging" area of Indigenous genetic research.
"Culture and tradition calls for the return of the samples to country," he said.
"This is versus the importance - indeed the urgency - to harness the potential of genomic research to help lift the heavy burden of disease that is part of life for many Indigenous Australians.
"Together, we discovered that either-or is not necessary."
Ms Hermes said Indigenous communities were beginning to wise up to researchers and demand more acknowledgement and transparency in projects.
"People are saying enough is enough, we're not going to allow you to come in and take our stories and our samples and our intellectual property and then see you become the expert on us, they want to be part of it."
Due to fly out to Arhem Land herself in the coming days to witness the Galiwin'ku reburial ceremony, Ms Hermes struggled to describe how she was feeling.
"Even today watching the samples leave the university I was trying hard not to cry. Once I start, I won't stop. I've been brought into people's homes.
"In 40 years' time, I want them to remember sitting down at a family barbeque and making the decision what to do with their blood, not a doctor jumping out and catching them."