I am donor-conceived
Thousands of people have been created with the assistance of donor sperm, eggs, or embryos in Victoria.
In the past, many donor-conceived people have reported distress because of a lack of information about their genetic relatives. Today, the provision of information about donors to donor-conceived people is considered a fundamental part of donor conception. In Victoria, donor-conceived people have a legal right to information about their donors and processes are in place to ensure donors are not anonymous.
You may have grown up knowing you were donor-conceived or you may have recently found out. Regardless of how you discovered it, VARTA is here to support you. VARTA’s experienced staff understand the issues for donor-conceived people. They are neutral, respectful of people’s choices and opinions, and maintain privacy at all times.
Finding out you are donor-conceived
Some people are told they are donor-conceived when they are young children, others find out later in life. You may not remember being told and have always known you were donor-conceived. As time goes on, you may have more questions. You may be quite open about being donor-conceived or you may prefer to share this with only those who are very close to you.
Some people are told by their parents in a loving, supportive way, others learn at a time of family conflict, or from someone other than their parents. There are also an increasing number of people finding out through DNA testing or social networks.
The news that you are donor-conceived can come as a shock and can leave you questioning what you knew about yourself, your identity, and your family. It takes time to come to terms with this new information and what it means for you. It is normal to experience a mix of emotions including:
- anger, hurt, betrayal, disbelief, shock or sadness about not being told earlier
- confusion about what this means for you now and in future
- curiosity about your donor or donor siblings and who else you may be related to, their background and motivations
- a desire to know if there are any genetic or medical issues you need to be aware of, or if you share any physical or personality traits
- mixed reactions from your family, siblings, and friends
- uncertainty about whether other family members know
- uncertainty about who to talk to and where to find support.
Many parents have not told their children about their beginnings, particularly those parents who had donor treatment a long time ago. Reasons for parents keeping this a secret include:
- a sense of shame or embarrassment
- worry that it may negatively impact on their relationship with their child
- a fear that they may be rejected because they are not the biological parent
- wanting to protect their child from feeling different or from distress if information cannot be found about the donor
- having been previously advised not to disclose
- not knowing what to say
- putting it off because the right moment has not come.
Fortunately, these days there is greater understanding of the value of being open about these issues.
It is important that you have someone to talk to about this. You can find additional support services here.
Rights and responsibilities
In Victoria, donor-conceived people have the right to receive information about their donor. This includes both identifying information (name, date of birth, donor code, contact details) and non-identifying information (medical history, physical features, family background, hobbies etc). VARTA donor conception register services can guide you through your options and what’s involved or to apply for access to information. The release of information is dependent on the records being available.
From 1998, donors were required to consent at the time of their donation to the release of identifying information to their donor offspring after they turn 18 years old.
If your donor donated prior to 1998, they may lodge a contact preference to specify if or how they would like contact. If a contact preference is lodged, you will need to make an undertaking to comply with the expressed preferences. If after four months VARTA is unable to locate a pre-1998 donor, you will be given the donor’s name and date of birth. If you can locate your pre-1998 donor, you are required by law to give the information to VARTA. With this new information, VARTA will contact your donor and notify them of your application, offer them counselling, and the opportunity to complete a contact preference if they wish.
What information can I find out about my donor or donor-siblings?
What information can I find out?
If you were conceived in Victoria, you can make an application to the Central Register for identifying information (name and date of birth) about your donor. You can also apply for non-identifying information about your donor. This can include information about the donor’s background, interests, physical characteristics and any family medical history known at the time of donation.
You can also make an application to the Central Register for non-identifying information about your donor siblings. You will receive the total number of donor siblings born to each person treated, and each sibling’s gender at birth and month/year of birth.
You can apply to the Central register if you are at least 18 years old or with your parent or guardians' consent if you are younger than 18 years. If you are younger than 18 years and do not have parent or guardians' consent, you can still apply if you are assessed by VARTA as sufficiently mature.
If you would like to obtain identifying information about your donor siblings or other people you are related to through donor treatment (ie. other parents, descendants), VARTA recommends that you apply to the Voluntary Register. If you match with another person(s) on the Voluntary Register who share the same donor code, any details you agree to sharing will be exchanged with them.
What information can others find out about me?
Donors are also entitled to apply to the Central Register for identifying information about you (name and date of birth). This is only released with your consent. If you are younger than 18 years of age, your parent/guardian must consent before your information can be released.
Donors can also apply for non-identifying information (ie. gender at birth, year of birth) about you. This can be released without your consent.
You, or your parents/guardian if you are under 18 years of age, can also lodge a contact preference specifying how you would like to be contacted by your donor or if you don’t want any contact. Donors must sign a legally binding Undertaking that they will comply with your contact preference.
Conceived interstate or overseas?
If you were conceived as a result of a donor treatment procedure interstate or internationally, the following list contains links to appropriate bodies that may be able to help you find out more information.
Your parents' treating fertility clinic may also be prepared to assist you. They may agree to contact your donor on your behalf. They may also be able to forward a letter or request information to your donor for you, including any questions you may like to ask them.
|Australian Capital Territory (ACT)||Contact the treatment clinic.|
|New South Wales (NSW)||
If you were conceived before 2010 you can apply to the NSW Voluntary Register.
If you were conceived in or after 2010 you can apply to the NSW Central Register after you turn 18 years.
People involved in donor treatment at the Royal Hospital for Women at Randwick (formerly at Paddington) from 1978, can contact sesiahs.health.nsw.gov.au.
Alternatively, contact the treatment clinic.
|Northern Territory (NT)||Contact the treatment clinic.|
|Queensland (QLD)||Contact the treatment clinic.|
|South Australia (SA)||
|Tasmania (TAS)||Contact the treatment clinic.|
|Western Australia (WA)||Jigsaw DNA Connect, funded by the WA Health Department, has established a voluntary contact register for people involved in donor conception in Western Australia. You can find out more about accessing information from the Reproductive Technology Council. Central Records have been collected since 08/04/2003. People involved in donor treatment before this date can also apply to the Jigsaw DNA Connect Voluntary Register.|
|United Kingdom (UK)||HFEA|
|Worldwide||Donor Sibling Registry|
Helpful resources & support
Find additional support, including counselling and support groups here.
Information for donor conceived people conceived from donations before 1998
Making an application to the Voluntary Register
Voluntary Register Application Form
How I told my parents I knew I was donor-conceived
Contact between the parties; what the research is beginning to tell us
“I found out at age 12 that I was donor conceived. My parents sat my brother and I down one evening and told us that my father was unable to conceive naturally, so they decided to use donor sperm. Finding out was pretty confronting...it shook my sense of identity to learn that my life wasn’t as storybook perfect as I thought it was - that there was something a bit different about us.” Hayley
"'Where do I come from?' is such a fundamental question and I think that…the right to know that should at least be equal to the desire to have children." Ross, donor-conceived person
"I’ve always been curious to find out more about the whole process and who my donor was. I used to wonder... what he looked like. I had always thought about seeing an older man on a railway station...did he look like me?" Riley
Learning you were donor conceived as an adult
How I told my parents I knew I was donor-conceived
Rose Overberg - DNA testing and the end of donor anonymity
Searching for C11 - Part 2
Graham and Kelly’s story of donor linking and advice to others
Searching for C11 - Part 1
Sperm donor linking
Finding out as a teenager I was donor-conceived
Meeting your donor / donor-conceived person
My experience finding out I was donor conceived
Experiences of donor conception - Riley's story
Experiences of donor conception - Ross' story
Experiences of donor conception - Chantele's story
Experiences of donor conception - Louise's story
Frequently Asked Questions
I want to speak to other donor- conceived people. Where can I find support?
There are a number of peer support and online groups.
There are a number of Facebook groups that exist to support donor-conceived people and parents/recipients considering donor treatment or that have created their families with the help of donated eggs, sperm, or embryos. Some are listed below:
Australian Donor-Conceived People Network
This closed Facebook group is for donor-conceived people across Australia and New Zealand. It is a safe space to discuss what it means to be donor-conceived. You will be asked some questions before you are admitted to the group to establish that you are donor-conceived.
Australian Donor Conception Network
This Facebook group enables members to stay in-touch in-between social events - it is also especially important for members who live in regional areas and can't make it to many social events in the cities.
The group is administered by individual members. Details of the Facebook group is provided on acceptance of membership.
Embryo Donation Mums Australia
Join this new Facebook group to meet other Aussie mums with children born from embryo donation.
Australia Solo Mothers by Choice - SMC - Mum
This is a closed Facebook group for women who have decided to have a child on their own with the help of a donor or adoption. It is for women who are either contemplating, going through or are already a solo parent to a donor conceived or adopted child.
Donor conceived people, parents, siblings and all donors discussion group
This closed Facebook group is for people involved in donor conception, regardless of position in the spectrum.
This closed Facebook group was created to provide support for Australian donor-conceived children's parents, Australian egg/sperm/embryo donors looking to connect with families resulting from donations and those new to the world of donor conception. This group could also be a network to connect with other donor family or other donor conceived families.
Does my donor have any legal responsibilities for me?
Regardless of when the donor donated, the donor has no legal rights or obligations to a child born as a result of a donation. Donors are not the legal parent and do not appear on a donor-conceived person’s birth certificate. Donors are not responsible for maintenance or any financial responsibility towards donor- conceived offspring.
Donor-conceived people do not have a legal claim on their donor’s estate.
I am donor-conceived. How can I make sure my partner is not related to me?
Some donor-conceived people may be concerned that they are dating or in a relationship with a potential half-sibling. Non- identifying information can help to rule out potential donor siblings. However, if the dates correspond with your partner, you can ask them to apply to see if their details are found on the Central Register.
Genetic testing is also an option.
I want to connect to my donor siblings. Which donor register should I apply for?
The Voluntary Register allows people who have been involved in donor conception in Victoria to record information about themselves and their wishes regarding exchanging information with other people on the register, including donor siblings.
If two or more applicants are matched on the Voluntary Register, they are each contacted and can exchange information, if they both wish.
If there is no corresponding link on the Voluntary Register, then you will need to wait until someone you are linked with applies. Many donor-conceived people are unaware of their origins so will not have applied.
The donor records don’t exist, have been destroyed, lost or damaged. What can I do now?
It is particularly frustrating if your records are unavailable.
If you have found your donor via DNA testing or social networks, you can contact VARTA for support and to discuss options available to you.