World first donor conception exhibition flags ground-breaking legislative change

A world-first exhibition exploring donor conception through art, photography and archival material will be open to the public from Friday, June 5 at Melbourne’s City Library Gallery.

The 'Donor conception: towards openness' exhibition, dedicated to the memory of Narelle Grech who campaigned for the right to have information about her biological heritage, is an initiative of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA).

“For donor-conceived people, having an understanding of their biological origins is crucial to having a complete picture of who they are – just as it is for all of us,” said VARTA CEO Louise Johnson.

In creating the exhibition, VARTA has collaborated with a committee of donors and donor-conceived people.

The photographic and art elements of the exhibition have been curated by artist, Kim Buck, a donor-conceived woman who is unable to find information about her donor as her donor records no longer exist.

The photographs being displayed are of people, families and groups, each of whom has their own unique donor-related story, summarised in accompanying text. The artworks are all thematically linked to the experience of donor conception, including children’s art and family storybooks.

The archival material components of the exhibition have been curated by Roger Clarke, a sperm donor from the 1980’s who has connected with two of his offspring. Archival pieces include donor records, original clinic recruitment material, and early media coverage.

Displays will also illustrate the many compelling human stories of donor conception through correspondence, mementos and other personal material.

Donations made before 1988 occurred on the basis of anonymity. Legislative changes made last year to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic) will mean that, from June 29, donor-conceived people born before 1988 will have the right to apply for information about their donor. If a donor can be located, identifying information can be provided with the donor’s consent.

There are more than 6,000 donor-conceived people currently on the Victorian Central Register, all of whom were born since 1988. There are thousands more people who were born before 1988 who could be affected by the legislation.

“These changes are a step forward in helping donor-conceived people born before 1988 to put the pieces of their life puzzle together,” Ms Johnson said.

"It is important to keep in mind that this legislation does not guarantee that donor-conceived people will be able to find out more about their biological origins. Many records from that time no longer exist and in some cases donors will not want contact with their donor offspring," she said.

“But then there are a large proportion of donors who will welcome the connection. It is a myth that most donors don’t want to have contact with their donor offspring. There are currently more donors than donor-conceived people on the Voluntary Register in Victoria.”

From June 29, VARTA will provide support and information to people applying to the donor registers and to those contacted as a result of an application, including donor-conceived people, parents who have used a donor, donors, and relatives or descendants.

“We encourage all donors in Victoria to update their information with the Victorian Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages to simplify the process for people seeking information about their genetic heritage,” Ms Johnson said.

“This will be a supported process which respects the rights and privacy of all parties,” Ms Johnson said. “There are options for information exchange and contact.”

The Victorian Government has committed to further changes to legislation which will give all donor-conceived people, no matter when they were born, the right to know their genetic heritage.

"Legislative changes reflect the Act's guiding principle that the welfare and interests of people born as a result of treatment are paramount," Ms Johnson said.

The exhibition runs until June 29.

- ENDS –

A short summary of the legislative changes is attached. Additional information will be provided at the media briefing, to be held at 10.30am Thursday, June 4 at City Library Gallery, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD. VARTA staff and exhibition contributors will be available for interview. Please register your interest in attending here.

Further details of the event are available at:

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For questions please contact:

Marjorie Solomon, Public Relations Officer - Ph: 03 8601 5250 / Mob: 0452 515 302 / Email

Louise Johnson, CEO - Ph: 03 8601 5250 / Mob: 0419 557 639 / Email

Relevant information:

Victorian legislative changes in donor conception – pre-1988 to 2015

Before 1988