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.
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.
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?
Some donor-conceived people want to know as much as they can about their donor siblings, donor or others they are linked to. Some are also interested in exchanging information or meeting those they are connected to via donor conception treatment. This process is known as donor linking. VARTA’s Donor Conception Registers Service provides donor linking information and advice, intermediary services, and support to applicants to the donor conception registers. The same services are also provided to people affected by applications, including donor-conceived people, donors, descendants of donor-conceived people, recipients of donor treatment, relatives, and partners.
The information you can find out depends on:
- where you were conceived (Victoria, interstate or overseas) and the corresponding legislation
- if donor records are accessible or exist
- if those you are connected to through donor conception treatment can be located
- any contact preferences lodged.
If you were conceived in Victoria, you have the right to request information about your donor and donor siblings. You can apply for information if you are at least 18 years old. If you are younger than 18 years, you can apply if a VARTA counsellor considers you sufficiently mature. Your parent(s) or legal guardian can also apply on your behalf and identifying information can be released if the donor consents.
Depending on what you are looking for, there are two options for you to access information:
- Make an application to VARTA’s Central Register.
- Add your information to VARTA’s Voluntary Register.
Your donor may have lodged a contact preference. A contact preference states how a donor would like to have contact. While the contact preference does not prevent identifying information about the donor being released to you, it is an offence for you to ignore the donor’s wishes about how or whether they are contacted.
- Pre 1998 donors can choose if or how they wish to have contact.
- Donors need to consent before identifying information is released to parents of donor-conceived children (under 18 years).
- If the donor has children younger than 18 years, they can also express wishes in relation to contact with their children.
A copy of any contact preference will be provided to you as the applicant and will last for a period of five years. This contact preference may be amended or withdrawn at any time during that five year period (unless there has already been contact between the parties). VARTA has responsibility to communicate with the subject of an application who has lodged a contact preference before the five years expires. They will be given the option to extend it.
The contact preference may include:
- being contacted in a specified way by the applicant such as email, phone or letter
- using the services of VARTA as a third party to exchange information
- not being contacted by the applicant. If ‘no contact’ is specified, contact details will not be provided.
|Voluntary Register||Central Register|
Free matching service for those connected through donor conception treatment.
Apply to add your information to the Voluntary Register. If your donor, your donor siblings, or other family members created from the same donor have also added their information, VARTA will contact all linked parties.
On application, VARTA will conduct a search and outreach to the subject of your application. Application fees apply. VARTA is not always able to make contact with the person you are trying to connect with.
|What information can I find out?||
Information already lodged by a previous applicant. This could include:
Identifying information about your donor (consent required for pre 1998 donors):
Non-identifying information about your donor or donor siblings:
|Is consent required?||
All parties must consent prior to information being released.
Pre 1998 donors can lodge a contact preference, choosing if or how they wish to have contact.
Donors need to consent before identifying information is released to parents of donor-conceived children (under 18 years).
If the donor has children younger than 18 years, they can express wishes in relation to contact with their children.
After you have made an application to VARTA, you may be contacted about receiving the information. Notification and/or consent will be required prior to release of information.
There is no need to rush decisions when you are thinking about finding out more, or making contact with your donor or donor siblings. Contact between donor-conceived people, donor siblings, donors and parents varies enormously. Allow yourself time to think through the information first. It is important you have support and understand the impact this information can have on all parties. Once you have decided that you would like to connect with your donor or your donor siblings, VARTA can assist you and support you through the process.
What information can others find out about me?
Donors are also entitled to apply to the Central Register for identifying information about you (name, date of birth, and contact details). This is only released if you are 18 years or older and give your consent. If you are younger than 18 years, the information will only be released with your parents’ consent. You, or your parents if you are under 18 years of age, can also lodge a contact preference specifying how you would like to be contacted or if you don’t want direct contact.
If you have been contacted as a result of an application to VARTA’s donor registers, you and your close family can speak privately and confidentially with a VARTA counsellor. This free service allows you to discuss how the application may affect you and your family, your options, and next steps.
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|
You can find out more about DNA testing here.
Helpful resources & support
“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
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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:
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.
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.
Join this new Facebook group to meet other Aussie mums with children born from embryo donation.
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.
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.