Kim Buck, Curator
Donor conception means conceiving with the assistance of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. There are an estimated 60,000 donor-conceived people in Australia, and the number of donors is likely to exceed several thousand.
Contributors to this exhibition were invited to share their very personal experiences of donor conception through art, and they have done so with bravery and sensitivity. Many have also provided a glimpse into the historical context of the practice through the contribution of records and documents dating back to the 1970s.
The early history of donor conception in Australia was driven by compelling scientific advances. People who had been unable to conceive were given the chance to start a family, which for many, was the greatest gift imaginable. However, social attitudes and the implementation of ethical guidelines moved at a much slower rate. Donors were protected through anonymity and secrecy was promoted within families.
In the intervening decades, attitudes surrounding donor conception have gradually shifted to prioritise the rights of the donor-conceived child. Recent legislative change reflects this progress. In an Australian first, donor-conceived Victorians born before 1988 have been granted the right to access identifying information about their donor, with the donor’s consent. The work in this exhibition highlights the significance of these developments.
Donor conception: towards openness is dedicated to the memory of Narelle Grech, a donor-conceived woman, who fought courageously for the right to learn the truth of her genetic heritage. Narelle met her donor, Ray, less than two months before passing away on 26 March, 2013.