Donor conception register services
VARTA provides information, counselling and support services for people and families involved in donor conception treatment in Victoria. We offer support to donors, donor-conceived people, parents, descendants and relatives of donor-conceived people. VARTA staff can provide:
- assistance with general enquiries
- information about how the donor conception registers work
- support for people applying to the donor conception registers
- support for people contacted following an application, including close family members
- counselling for donors and people affected by donor conception
- assistance with ‘donor linking’ - the process of recipient parents or donor-conceived people connecting with their donor, or vice versa
- intermediary services
- assistance with navigating the early stages of contact and beyond
- help with updating records.
VARTA staff are experienced in connecting people linked by donor conception treatment and are neutral, maintain confidentiality, and are respectful of people’s choices and opinions.
The donor conception registers (Voluntary Register and Central Register), are used to facilitate donor linking.
Donor linking is the exchange of information between, or meeting of, people connected via donor conception treatment. Contact between parents, donor-conceived people and donors varies enormously and is based on personal preferences. It ranges from disclosure of limited information to occasional email communication, to ongoing contact. Sometimes people only update medical information so their genetic relatives can be notified about it.
The donor conception registers have different functions and contain varying information, depending on the quality and availability of records.
The Voluntary Register is a free matching service for people linked through donor conception treatment looking to connect. At least two linked people need to apply for a match to be found. The information available will depend on what the previous applicants have lodged on the Voluntary Register. This may include medical history, family tree and cultural background, interests, hobbies, physical features, photos, letters, videos and more. You can find out more about or apply to the Voluntary Register here. Anyone linked through donor conception is eligible to apply.
The Central Register contains existing Victorian donor conception records. Records are provided by the treating fertility clinics. These records include the parent’s full name(s); the child’s full name; date and place of birth; and the donor’s name, address and date of birth. There may be limited or no information available if the record no longer exists or cannot be found. The Central Register has both identifying information (name, date of birth, donor code, contact details) and non-identifying information (medical history, interests, hobbies, personality, physical features, month and year of birth, gender, education, occupation). An application fee applies. You can find out more about or apply to the Central Register here. Only donors, donor-conceived people, parents of donor-conceived people, and descendants of donor-conceived people are eligible to apply to the Central Register.
Things to consider
When donor conception was first practised in Victoria, sperm and egg donations were made anonymously. However, experience has shown that donors, donor-conceived people, their parents and close family often want to learn more about one another and are willing to share information about themselves. Curiosity is natural and healthy. People may be interested to know about medical history, genetic background, cultural background, personality, appearance, hobbies and interests.
When deciding which register to apply for, consider the information that is most important to you. Only apply to one register at a time, you can always apply to the other register after you have been notified of your application outcome. You should also know that:
- Records may not be available. Some older records may have been destroyed or are incomplete. No information will be released if VARTA cannot satisfy itself that the applicant is related through the use of available records.
- VARTA may not be able to progress an application if the records have been destroyed or lost; the donor code is unavailable; the subject of an application does not consent to the release of identifying information where consent is required; or if the subject of an application cannot be located.
- For Voluntary Register applications, the people linked to you through donor conception treatment need to have made an application for a match to be found. The more people that apply the more information that is available.
- For Central Register applications, it is not always possible to find the person you are looking for. VARTA can refer to a specialist search agency to assist, although there is no guarantee of success.
- The emotional and practical considerations. People have reported a mix of emotions, including feeling excited or daunted.
Good outcomes are generally a result of:
- all parties being willing to exchange information or have contact
- each person having realistic expectations
- people approaching the process with an open mind
- no one feeling pressured
- people communicating honestly
- all parties considering each other’s point of view and their family situation
- the process not being rushed and people focussing on getting to know each other gradually.
Before you apply:
- Be realistic about what you want to achieve. Basic information only, detailed information, to meet or to have an ongoing relationship? Your expectations may be different to the person you are looking to connect with.
- Choose a time in your life free of other stressors with a good support system in place.
- Consider the implications for you, the person you are trying to connect to, and close family. Contact may be unexpected and at a difficult time for them.
In line with the Act, VARTA will use your personal information for:
- processing your application to the Voluntary Register or Central Register and donor linking services
- updating the Voluntary Register or Central Register
- statistical, educational, or reporting purposes.
Your information will only be disclosed to:
- an individual with whom you are linked through an application with your consent; or
- to a third party search body authorised under the Act that is involved in the linking process.
No other parties will have access to your information.
- choose not to provide information, however, it may be difficult for VARTA to process your application
- request that VARTA correct or amend information
- request access to your information at any time by contacting VARTA. If VARTA refuses this request, you may make an application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic).
More information on VARTA’s privacy and information disclosure policies can be found here.
You may request that VARTA correct or amend information on the Voluntary Register at any time. You may access your information at any time through a request to VARTA.
Privacy and information disclosure: VARTA is responsible for the management of the donor conception register under the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act). VARTA can only release information from the Central Register in accordance with the Act, or in other exceptional circumstances when required to do so by law. VARTA also has obligations under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) and Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).
Helpful resources & support
“I wasn’t looking for a father or anything. I was purely interested in knowing…me! I’m a sticky nose. I didn’t like the fact that there was stuff about me that I may not know. I now feel a bit more at ease knowing the answers to those questions….Sometimes the answers weren’t there straight away…I am so grateful that Graham (her donor) and Mathilde (his wife) let me have contact with them.” Kelly
"I started searching for my donor, after my second shoulder re-construction. The doctors said: 'We don’t know why your shoulders are like this, you were obviously born with it, it’s genetic.' Mum is an only child and shoulder problems don’t run on her side of the family. I really wanted to look for this person and get some medical history and I wanted to know more about my donor." Chloe, Donor-conceived person
"I have registered with the Voluntary Register here in Victoria. I've indicated that I am prepared to be contacted if and when my offspring seek to do so. I have also written a letter to my unknown offspring and have lodged that." Ian
“As a one parent family I have embraced the opportunity to link with others, to grow beyond my family and our family, but to welcome - my son’s family. My son’s family was made with love and hope. The love came from the parents and the hope came from our donor. As a group of parents we consciously chose to seek connection in the belief that it is in the best interest of our children. Our children all shared a common bond - our donor. My son's family has grown beyond he and I and this has enriched his and my life.” Anna
Frequently Asked Questions
I would like to connect with parents who have used the same donor. Which register do I use?
The Voluntary Register. If there is a match, VARTA will notify you and the other parties involved. These connections are not possible using the Central Register.
How can I get non- identifying information?
Parents, donor-conceived people and donors can request and receive non-identifying information about each other from their fertility clinic, or from VARTA, at any time, without the need for consent. This includes:
- physical characteristics – height, eye colour, blood group
- social information – ethnic background, medical history.
- treating fertility clinic
- Voluntary register
- Central register.
People linked through donor conception can lodge information via the Voluntary Register. If a match is found all parties will be notified.
I am writing my statement of reasons. What should I include?
A statement of reasons is a short document explaining your motivations and what you would like to happen (both short and long term) as a result of the application. Your completed statement of reasons is forwarded to the contacted party and can help them understand why you are seeking information and/or contact.
- Write in a way which conveys your voice and what you think and feel, so that the other person forms a greater understanding of you as a person. VARTA staff have expertise connecting people linked by donation so they are able to provide helpful feedback.
- Keep it simple and clear. Consider what the other person may like to know about you. As this is likely to be the first information the other person will receive about you (and may be their first introduction to somebody with whom they are connected by donation) it is difficult to know how they will respond to your application. Let the other person know a little bit about yourself. Ensure that the information you share with the other person is what you are comfortable revealing. If there are specific questions you have, this is the time to ask them.
- Respect the other person’s wishes. It takes time to get to know another person and at this very early stage it is sensible to approach things in a respectful and carefully paced manner. For example, instead of stating ‘I want to meet you’, you could say ‘one day, if you’d like to, it would be my hope that we could meet’. It is likely that one or both of you may be feeling some trepidation about the situation so it is advisable to tread lightly in the beginning.
- Be clear about your short-term and long-term goals. It is helpful for the other person to understand how you would like to begin to communicate with each other initially, and if this goes well, in the future. Some people want only medical information or information about cultural background and do not want ongoing contact. Others would like a friendship if they find they enjoy each other's company. People often like to begin to exchange information with each other via email. While some people might use their general email address, others prefer to begin correspondence using a non-identifying email account to protect their privacy. People may also choose to share photographs.
- Social media and internet footprint. The more information you share, the easier it is for the other person to find you on the internet. This is the time to update your social media settings if you want to protect your privacy or if you are a parent and wish to protect your child's privacy.
You can read more about writing your statement of reasons here.
I am writing my first letter. What should I include?
Your introductory letter or email is often the first form of contact between someone with whom you are connected by donation. It is best to write a short message that gives some information about you and how you would like the contact to progress.
You may find it is one of the most challenging letters you ever have to write. It may be hard to know what to say. It is important that you:
- write in your own voice
- are honest about what you think and feel
- keep it simple and real
- let your personality shine through
- let the other person know your ideas of what you would like to happen in the future.
Start by introducing yourself. This may be the first information the other person has received about you. It may also be their first introduction to a person with whom they are connected by donation. As you may not know what kind of involvement they wish to have with you, it is better to keep your introduction simple. Consider sharing why you are interested in knowing more about them. You may have already received some non-identifying information about them. This may be a good opportunity to write a few short sentences about what you know or to identify something that the two of you have in common.
What will you call each other? The terminology surrounding donor-conception has not yet evolved enough to describe these kinds of relationships. It is difficult to know what to call each other. The language you use should develop over time if you establish a relationship. Knowing the other person’s first name can help ease this awkwardness. If you do not know their name, you could perhaps address the letter to: ‘Dear donor’, or ‘Dear donor-child’.
Respect the other person’s wishes and feelings. It is good to be open with them as to what you would like, but do not force your ideas upon them. Instead of ‘when can we meet?’ you could say ‘one day, if you’d like to, it would be my hope that we could meet.’ It is likely that one or both of you may be feeling some trepidation about the situation so it’s better to tread lightly in the beginning. You may each prefer to correspond by letter or email for a while before meeting. It is important to reassure each other that you respect each other's feelings and wishes about future contact.
Maintain your boundaries. Remember that you do not know this person yet. While you may be genetically linked, this does not mean that you will get along. It is likely they are very honest and genuine people, but it is sensible to take the usual social etiquette precautions you would normally follow. Until you get to know one another it is best to maintain some boundaries. Only share to the level that you feel comfortable. It is your choice whether you share a photo of yourself or provide your surname.
Social media. Be aware that the more information you provide, the more able the other person is to access information about you via the internet. You may wish to change your privacy setting on your social media accounts.
Keep it simple. Keep the first letter light in tone and short. You do not have to say everything straight away. While you are likely to be extremely curious, it is best not to ask too many questions. Decide on the things that you really want to know. It is also okay to ask for an updated medical history.
I am writing my first letter. Are there any examples of letters?
Sample letter from a donor-conceived person:
My name is Laura and I believe that I was born as a result of your donation. Over the years I have thought a lot about what to say to you. There is so much I would like to tell you. I would like to firstly thank you for donating and giving me the gift of life. Without your help my Mum and Dad would not be parents and I would not be here.
I also want you to know that I am not asking or expecting anything of you. I hope my letter does not cause you any distress. I do not wish to cause any disruption in your life or to intrude on your family. If you do not wish to have contact with me I will understand.
One day I would love to meet you if you would like, but that is entirely your decision. Perhaps we could correspond for a while and get to know each other a little first. I would be very interested to know about your medical history, what you are like and whether we share any similarities in personality, interests or appearance.
I imagine you might have some questions about me too. I grew up believing I was the biological child of my Dad. When I was around 15 years old, my parents explained that they needed the help of a donor to have me. I am now 34 years old. I married a wonderful man, named Dave, 7 years ago. We have 2 beautiful children, Sarah who is five and Ben who is two. I work as a nurse part time and I enjoy swimming and reading.
Ever since I knew about you, I have thought about you and wish you very well,
Sample letter from a parent:
I don’t know how to begin to thank you for the unique and precious gift you have given me. I am a 37 year old single woman and thanks to you I am now a mother to my cherished daughter, Olivia, who is four years old.
There are no words that can express the gratitude for your kindness and compassion. It takes a very special person to help someone that you don’t know and have never met.
Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough. I look at my beautiful daughter and think about how my life has changed since I have had her. I now can’t imagine my life without her. I can assure you that she will be loved and well looked after. If you would like, I am happy to send you a photo of her.
If you would be interested in having updates as to how my daughter is going, I would be only too happy to send you an annual letter on her progress. If you would possibly feel comfortable to meet one day in the future so we can thank you personally we would be keen to do this. No pressure! I will respect whatever you and your family feel comfortable with.
I sincerely hope your life is as full of happiness as the happiness you have given me,
Best wishes and thank you again,
Olivia’s Mum, Linda
Sample letter from a donor:
Dear Donor Daughter/Son,
I wanted to let you know that over the years I have wondered about the people who may have been born as a result of my donation. Are they happy, healthy and well looked after? Do they know they were created with some extra help from me? Do they want more information about me – my medical history, my personality and interests and my appearance?
Perhaps it would help you to know why I donated. I was a young person at the time. The clinic was looking for donors. I had some understanding of infertility because I had close friends who were having trouble becoming pregnant. I wanted to help people who wished to have children but could not do so. Since then I have married and had children of my own but I never forgot my donation.
I just want to let you know that I am happy to give you this information and to possibly meet if you would like this…or not. I am comfortable to do whatever you would like. I am very conscious of your feelings and also, of your parents’ wishes and certainly don’t want to intrude. I am very clear that I am not your parent and I want to reassure them and you that I don’t want to take on a parenting role as you have these already.
I wish you all the very best in your life,