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Locating donors, birth parents or adopted child

Information about finding relatives when a person has been adopted or when conceived through a donor.

  • The law changed on 6 May 2024
  • This content will be updated as soon as is possible

In the interim please consult the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website or the Victoria Legal Aid Website.

Adoption information

The Department of Health and Human Services, and approved adoption agencies have an information service to provide details such as original birth certificates and other documents related to the circumstances surrounding adoptions.

This information may be disclosed to:

  • people who have been adopted
  • biological parents whose children were adopted
  • parents who have adopted a child
  • adult children of people who have been adopted, and
  • eligible relatives are entitled to apply for information about an adoption.

With the exception for birth parents (see below), any identifying or current information is only given with the written consent from the relevant parties.

Interview

A person who applies for this information has to attend an interview with an approved counsellor.

Adoption information is exempt from Freedom of Information (FOI)

Information about adoption is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Improved access to information for birth parents

Birth parents may access information for adult children who were adopted out without permission from their adult children.

If a person who was adopted wants to refuse or restrict access by one or both of their birth parents, they may register a current contact statement. This does not prevent their parents from accessing the information, but restricts contact or it may specify a particular kind of contact. These registered contact statements last for 5 years and may be extended or revoked. These contact statements are registered with Family Information Networks and Discovery (FIND) organisation.

Once a contact statement has been lodged, the birth parent must not attempt to make contact contrary to the wishes of the adopted person.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for ignoring the contact statement is 60 penalty units.

See ss. 90A, 90B, 96(2), 127A—Adoption Act 1984 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Donor conception

Access to information for people conceived with the help of a donor and their donors, depends on when the donation was made. The early focus on protecting the anonymity of the donor has shifted to recognising the right of the person conceived to know about their history and genetic make-up.

This law changed on 1 March 2017. From this date people conceived through a donor are can access information about donors.

See VARTA—New laws giving all donor-conceived Victorians the right to know their heritage(opens in a new window).

The date that is relevant is the date of donation, not the date of conception or birth.

Donations made before 1 July 1988

Donors could choose to remain anonymous. Their personal details were taken and recorded by the collecting doctor and kept on the doctor's or hospital records. The only way for people to find out about births that arose out of treatment procedures before this date was to ask the hospital or clinic for access to these records or to ask the hospital, clinic or doctor to contact the donor and seek their permission to disclose this information.

Voluntary register

A voluntary register was established in 2001 where (people born as a result of treatment, donors, parents and relatives) involved in donations made before 1 July 1988 could voluntarily register their details so that their contact information could be disclosed with permission from the person it relates to.

A person born as a result of a donation made before 1 July 1988 can apply to the Registry for identifying information about the donor. The donor must consent before the registry can disclose any information.

The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) manages this register.

Donations made between 1 July 1988 and before 1 January 1998

Information about births that arose from donor treatment procedures donated during this time were kept in a central registry. Parents and adults conceived through donors can access non-identifying information if the doner or person conceived consents to their information being accessed. Additional information can be lodged and exchanged according to the wishes of the person providing the information.

After January 1998

After 1 January 1998 donors could no longer choose to remain anonymous. Their personal details were recorded on the central register. This information (identifying and non-identifying) is available to donors, children and recipient parents.

If the person who wants to access the information is under 18, the application for information has to be made by the child's parents and the information is only released with the donor's consent. If the donor does not consent, then only non-identifying information has to be provided to the child's parents.

Counselling

After 1 January 1998, anyone who is undergoing a donor treatment procedure has to have counselling in relation to advising children about their donor origins and their rights to information.

Central register

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages is responsible for maintaining information about donors on the Central Register. Identifying information about children born through donation is not available to donors unless the parents (if child is under 18) or the adult child consent to this.

Donors can register their interest in making contact and/ or getting access to information about a child born as a result of their donation. They will be contacted if a parent, child or relative agrees to the request.

From 1 March 2017 this central register is controlled by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA).

More information

Legislation

Adoption Act 1984 (Vic)

  • s. 70—registration of orders
  • s. 72—registration of orders received from other states
  • s. 73A—allows for registration into the adopted children register of a child who was adopted from a convention country
  • s. 78—application for information about birth of an adopted person
  • s. 79A—adoption records
  • s. 90A—ability to make a current contact statement
  • s. 90B—how long contact statements last
  • s. 127A—penalty for contact contrary to current contact statement
  • Part VI—access to information
  • Part VI Div 2—persons entitled to birth certificates or information

See Adoption Act 1984 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic)

  • Part 6—access to information

See Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Freedom of information Act 1982 (Vic)

  • s. 33(7)—exempts the process for accessing information under (FOI) to information about adoption

See Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reference

The Law Handbook

Fitzroy Legal Service’s Law Handbook has a list of approved adoption services in Victoria.

See Adoption and the law(opens in a new window).

Births, Deaths and Marriages

See 'Donor conceived births' in Births Deaths Marriages Victoria(opens in a new window).

Victorian Law Reform Commission

An extensive review of adoption and assisted reproductive technology law and practice was carried out by the Commission between 2004 and 2007. Chapter 15 of their final report in 2007 is a useful resource for the history of rights to access for information for donors and children born with donor assistance.

See Victoria Law Reform Commission—Assisted Reproductive Technology and Adoption Final Report(opens in a new window).

Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA)

This statutory authority is responsible for community and professional education about assisted reproduction.

See Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA)(opens in a new window).

Updated