While she has been able to track down the children raised by her biological father, that was only as a result of some internet sleuthing, not of any rights she was granted.
One day, when she put a post up on Facebook airing her frustrations, writing “if you look like me, maybe you should get a DNA test” she received comments that she was “ruining people’s lives” wanting to find her siblings.
“It’s not my fault they haven’t been told that they’re donor-conceived,” she said. “They should have been told from day dot.”
In Victoria, people who want to contact their genetic siblings can place their details on a voluntary register, but this won’t help them find people who have no idea they are donor-conceived.
The Victorian government is concerned any changes to the current laws could be intrusive and confronting to those in this position, but a spokesperson said: “We’ll continue to monitor developments in other jurisdictions.”
In a significant step, Professor Sonia Allan, who has led reviews into assisted reproductive treatment in Western Australia and South Australia, has proposed allowing recipient parents who have used the same donor, to consent to sharing identifying information about their children with each other.
This would allow donor-conceived people to have contact with siblings from birth if their parents wished for that to be the case.
“They could grow up together, or at least know who their siblings are from very early on, which would likely lead to better outcomes,” she said.
Allan also said that “access to information about biological siblings should include children born as a result of the donor’s personal relationships, where consent is given”.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee in Queensland recently recommended providing people information about the gender and age of their donor-conceived siblings, as is the case in Victoria, and facilitate contact if both parties consent (but it’s not clear if this would involve outreach to people unaware they are donor-conceived).
NSW allows the exchange of sibling information for donor-conceived people via a voluntary register.
Donor Conceived Australia believes the vast majority of adults who were donor-conceived from the 1970s onwards have still not been told by their parents. However, through the rise of home DNA testing kits, some are now finding out by accident.
The group’s national director, Aimee Shackleton, said the need to change the laws to allow people to request contact with their genetic siblings was becoming increasingly overdue, as donors reached an older age.
“Once they all die, then we will have no link to our siblings,” she said. Some donors are also not prepared to help make the connections between siblings.
For at least seven years, Shackleton’s biological brother and sister, also conceived via the same sperm donor, had wanted to get in touch with her, but they had to wait until the laws changed to allow their shared biological father to make contact.
At the age of 40, the teacher received a letter from a government organisation that would reveal the truth of her conception.
It opened the door to contact with her biological father, Sig, and her brother and sister, Luke and Elena, who she hadn’t known existed. The group share remarkable similarities, a history of high-performance swimming and musical skills, and an intense hatred for chocolate, among them.
“I was one of those people who spent a lot of time searching for something in my life, but I didn’t know what I was searching for,” she said. “And when I found out this information, I stopped searching, and I felt at peace.”
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