Key messages

  • Victorian legislation now gives all donor-conceived Victorians access to available identifying information about their donors.
  • The Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Act 2016, which amends the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, addresses the inequality that existed for donor-conceived Victorians to access information about their genetic heritage. Until now, access to important information has been based on arbitrary timeframes about when their donor donated.
  • The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) now provides a ‘one door in’ service for donors, donor-conceived people and their families in applying for information.
  • The legislation commenced on 1 March 2017.
Right to know video

Changes to legislation for donor conceived people 

Legislative change

The Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Act 2016 commenced on 1 March 2017 and gives all donor-conceived people in Victoria access to available identifying information about their donors without the necessity for donor consent.

Previously, people conceived as a result of gametes donated prior to 1 July 1988 could not access information about their donors from the main donor conception register, the Central Register. Changes to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 that came into effect on 29 June 2015 meant that these donor-conceived people could access available identifying information about their donors, but only with donor consent. This put them in the same position as people conceived from donations made between 1 July 1988 and 31 December 1997. Those conceived from donations from 1 January 1998 were already entitled to obtain identifying information about their donor without the donor’s consent.

There may be significant practical obstacles in locating and accessing some pre-1998 donor treatment records, particularly pre-1988 records, due to the absence or incomplete state of some of these records. The legislation gives VARTA a range of additional powers to assist identifying the potential donor in response to an application for identifying information. This includes the ability to make inquiries of potential donors or other people who may have relevant information relating to a donor treatment procedure or to ask the potential donor (or their relative in limited circumstances) whether they will undergo a genetic test.

Right to know

For decades now, there has been an inequality among donor-conceived people based on arbitrary timeframes. The changes make it fair for all donor-conceived people to have the same access to available information about their donors. The amendments reflect changing attitudes that knowledge about parentage and heritage contribute significantly to a person’s sense of identity and can be vital to inform medical treatment and family planning. The changes ensure that the rights of all donor-conceived people to obtain information about their donor is no longer determined by the date of donation – all donor-conceived people have the right to know.

Role of VARTA

The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) is a statutory authority funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. VARTA now provides a ‘one door in’ service for donors, donor conceived people and their families to ensure streamlined and coordinated services and greater support and counselling. The donor conception registers (the Central Register and the Voluntary Register), have transferred from Births Deaths Marriages to VARTA. All applications for information from the donor conception registers are managed by VARTA, including the release of information, and VARTA also provides information, support and counselling to those affected. The Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help (VANISH) supports VARTA to locate individuals in linking donors and donor conceived people who have applied for identifying information about each other. VANISH is an incorporated association that provides, among other things, specialist search services with respect to people affected by donor conception and adoption. 

Guidelines

Guidelines have been issued under section 100A of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 by the Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services that relate to the performance of functions and the exercise of powers of VARTA. The guidelines primarily relate to new responsibilities of VARTA in managing the donor conception registers (Central Register and Voluntary Register), and in undertaking inquires to assist linking parties (including requesting information and records and conducting searches). 

Support for donors

The Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Act 2016 provides a range of measures to support ‘pre-1998 donors’, including the ability to lodge a contact preference for themselves or their children under 18 years of age where an application is made for identifying information about them, and the requirement of VARTA to offer counselling to a pre-1998 donor on receipt of an application for identifying information about a donor.

A contact preference allows a donor who donated before 1998 to specify whether or not they wish to be contacted by an applicant, or the way they wish it to occur. It does not prevent identifying information from being released. Breach of a contact preference may incur a penalty of up to 50 penalty units (currently $7,773).

Support for donor-conceived people

Contact preferences are also available to donor conceived people when an application has been made for their identifying information. While identifying information about a donor-conceived person is only released with their consent, the availability of a contact preference that allows them to specify the way (if any) they wish contact to occur, may give donor-conceived people more comfort in agreeing to the release of their identifying information.

Application process

Under section 56 of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, an application for information may be made to VARTA by:
  • a person born as a result of a donor treatment procedure;
  • a parent of a person born as a result of a donor treatment procedure;
  • a person who is descended from a person born as a result of a donor treatment procedure; or
  • a donor.
All applications are coordinated and managed by VARTA which provides holistic support to applicants and individuals to whom the application relates. VARTA counsellors are experienced in providing support and assisting people to connect in a way that is mutually agreed upon.

Contact Details

If you wish to make an application for information about a donor or donor-conceived person, or wish to discuss the process, please contact the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority on 61 3 8061 5255  or visit VARTA for more information.

If you wish to provide feedback on the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 or guidelines made under section 100A of the Act, please contact Gabrielle Davis, Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority Policy Manager on 61 3 9096 68266.

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