The DCSG in a self help group which relies totally on volunteers to run the group and receives no outside funding.
The group first came into existence in January 1993 with the meeting of a group of adults, some parents of donor-conceived children, some hoping to become parents. This first meeting took place in a suburban lounge room in Sydney, Australia. From the founding membership of 20 adults and 11 children we have grown to have members spreading across all states of Australia and in many overseas countries.
Our membership is made up of not just recipient parents but adults born from donor conception, male and female donors, medical professionals, counsellors social workers and others interested in donor conception issues.
Why did we set up the DCSG?
The only support groups available in 1993 for infertile people focused on the grief of infertility, fertility programs and attempts to achieve pregnancy. The people who set up the DCSG felt that in creating a family using sperm, eggs or embryos from a third party there would inevitably be long term issues. The setting up of a specific support group to meet the needs of these families would enable parents to share their experiences of using donor gametes with other parents and people considering using donor conception to create their families. It would also allow our children to grow up knowing others who were conceived the same way.
Within approximately a year of the creation of the DCSG members realised that they wanted to become more active in advocacy for all those involved in donor conception. The main focus of our advocacy has been to encourage governments around Australia to legislate to protect donor conception records and to allow donor offspring the right to know who they are related to biologically. Since this time the Victorian government has put in place the Infertility treatment Act, world leading legislation which gives donor offspring conceived after January 1998 the right to know who their donors are. While this legislation was already in motion when the DCSG was in its infancy it was helped along its way my members of the group. The DCSG was also instrumental in the decision of the WA government to enact legislation.
The move towards the Assisted Reproductive Technology Act in NSW was initiated by the DCSG.
The DCSG has written a great many submissions to government enquiries in Australia. Some major ones are:
National Health & Medical Council Guidelines on Assisted Reproductive Technology (1996)
New South Wales Human Tissue Act – Assisted Reproductive Technologies (1997)
NHMRC Report on National Data Collection on Assisted Reproductive Technology (1997)
Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry into the Status of the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child in Australia (1997)
Western Australia Select Committee on the Human Reproductive technology Act (1999)
NHMRC Ethical Guidelines on Assisted Reproductive Technology (2001)
South Australian Working Party Conception by Donation - Access to Information (2001)
NHMRC Exposure Draft Human Cloning & Research Involving Embryos (2002)
NHMRC Draft Ethical Guidelines on the use of Assisted Reproductive Technology in clinical practices and research (2003)
The Australian Capital Territory Oversight of Assisted Reproductive Technology Practice discussion paper (2005)
Victorian Law Reform Commission Assisted Reproductive Technology position paper (2005)
ACT ART Discussion paper (2005)
Queensland Surrogacy Inquiry (2008)
Federal Human Rights Consultation (2009)
In 2010 the DCSG petitioned the Federal Senate and with the aid of Northern Territory Senator Trish Crossin achieved a Federal Inquiry into The Practices of Donor Conception both Past & Present. In 2011 the recommendations of this Inquiry were released and can be read here. We are still waiting for the response from the Federal Government to the Recommendations.
The group has provided consumer representatives for a number of important government committees including.
NSW Reference Group looking at reproductive technology
WA Reproductive Technology Council
Victorian Infertility Treatment Authority
The DCSG does not limit its advocacy on behalf of those involved in donor conception to just Australia. We have made submissions to government enquiries in a number of countries including New Zealand, UK, Canada and Hong Kong.
Achievements of the DCSG
Apart from our achievements in the area of consumer advocacy as listed above the DCSG has much to be proud of.
In November 1996 we held the world’s first consumer run forum looking at donor conception issues. At the Donor Issues Forum we brought together everyone involved in donor conception: recipient parents, donor-conceived adults, egg/sperm/embryo donors, medical professionals, counsellors, and psychologists. The meeting of these parties in one room was also a world first. From this forum which was funded by the NSW Law Foundation we published the book “Let the Offspring Speak” (DCSG ISBN 0 646 32494 2) which sold 1000 copies worldwide within a year.
Over the years members of the DCSG have been invited to speak at many conferences and seminars. One highlight was in 2002 when one of our members Geraldine Hewitt (an adult born from donor insemination) was invited to present the findings of her research into the feelings and attitudes of donor conceived people at an international conference in Canada. Geraldine’s research “Missing Links” is the biggest research project of its type completed anywhere in the world and was done while she was in her final year at high school.
In 2004 the DCSG hosted the largest meeting of donor offspring in the world at the time. Nineteen adults & older teenagers met in Sydney to discuss and share the issues that face them. They all felt a degree of kinship through shared experiences that have continued long after the meeting.
In 2003 Caroline Lorbach the National Consumer Advocate for the DCSG published her book “Experiences of Donor Conception – parents, offspring and donors through the years” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers ISBN 1 84310 122 X). In this book she looks at the long term issues surrounding donor conception including such topics as: telling children about their conception, how donors feel, getting information about a child’s donor. The book also includes two chapters about adults born from donor conception.