VARTA provides independent accurate information about fertility, infertility and assisted reproductive treatment, such as IVF.
August 2014
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Welcome note from Louise Johnson, VARTA CEO

It's been a few months since our last newsletter, but not because things have quietened down. Since then, we ran the Fertility is ageist campaign with a circulation of over 65 million. We held the annual Time to tell seminar and our first Family storybook workshop. We were overwhelmed by the response to this new initiative - the workshop sold out within six days. Videos from the Time to tell are now available to view on the VARTA website. Two new brochures have been released, Finding a surrogate, launched at the Surrogacy Australia conference and What is Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis?. Last week, the Assisted Reproductive Treatment (Further Amendment) Bill 2013 passed through the Legislative Assembly. And on Monday night, our Senior Community Education Officer and counsellor, Kate Bourne, featured in an ABC documentary on donor-conception. Much more is currently being planned or underway, including Fertility Week, the Louis Waller Lecture and a whole new VARTA website. 

New legislation: Assisted Reproductive Treatment (Further Amendment) Bill 2013

The Assisted Reproductive Treatment (Further Amendment) Bill 2013 passed through the Legislative Assembly on the 7th August unchanged and is likely to be debated in the Legislative Council on or after 19 August 2014. VARTA sees this Bill as an important step forward in providing donor-conceived people born prior to the 1988 legislation with the right to apply for information about their donor.

This is the first time nationally or internationally, that donor-conceived people born prior to the introduction of legislation (in 1988 in Victoria) will be able to apply for information about their donor. Consent from the donor would be required for the release of identifying information. In effect, it extends the current law applying to the 1988-97 donor-conceived people to donor-conceived people born prior to 1988.

Under the Bill, VARTA’s functions would be expanded to include intermediary and counselling advice and support to both donor-conceived people and to donors and their families affected by the legislation.

VARTA knows from its consultation with donors, that many donors understand how important it is for donor-conceived people to have information about their donor and are happy to provide it. This Bill will assist donor-conceived people to piece together the vital jigsaw of information that helps give them a sense of identity.  We also know that some donors may have some concerns. VARTA can provide information and support to anyone who may have questions.

VARTA in the media
Monday night's episode of Australian Story's 'Searching for C11'  (Part 1) highlighted donor-conceived, Lauren Burns, and her search for her donor. It also featured the VARTA/VANISH Donor-Conceived adult support group which Lauren co-facilitates and VARTA Senior Community Education Officer and counsellor, Kate Bourne. If you missed it, you can view it on iView here. Look out for part 2 of the program on Monday 18th at 8pm.

The show has generated a number of VARTA enquiries. If any of the issues discussed in this documentary affect you, VARTA offers confidential free advice and support: (03) 8601 5250.

Click here for information about VARTA & VANISH's support group for donor-conceived adults. 

Louis Waller Lecture – save the date

The annual Louis Waller lecture will be on Thursday 30 October 2014 and will explore the issue of social egg freezing. The program will include:
  • Prof. Catherine Waldby will set the scene with research with both clinicians and women who have stored their eggs. She will discuss the social context, the relationship between sexuality, reproduction and issues of everyday life.
  • Prof. Martha Hickey will  speak in favour of social egg freezing.
  • Dr Devora Lieberman will then present the case against social egg freezing.
  • Audience questions/comments. 

National Fertility Week: 1-7 September

This year the focus is timing of intercourse. Most women and men have limited knowledge about the workings of the menstrual cycle and when a woman is most likely to conceive. Knowledge about the fertile window can reduce time-to-pregnancy and help avoid unnecessary IVF treatment. For more information, read our fact file.

We invite all Australian health professionals and fertility organisations to get involved and support Fertility Week. Help share the facts so that every Australian who wants children has the best chance to have a healthy baby.

If you are a health professional or work in general practice, you may also be interested to attend or help to promote the webinar on fertility issues and preconception planning, Optimising patient fertility’, Thursday 4 September, 7.30-8.00pm AEST.

Telling about donor conception and surrogacy section of the VARTA website revamped and updated

Have you seen the new information on the website to help parents talk to their children about how they became a family with the help of a donor or surrogate? The new section better integrates information on telling, personal stories, films and podcasts and includes tips and quotes from parents and donor-conceived people.
See the various chapters on: We hope you like this new format as we plan to completely overhaul the entire VARTA website. We appreciate your feedback, so please let us know what you think.

New films
The Time to tell seminar was again a huge success. For those unable to attend this year we recorded some of the talks presented and have eight new films on the website.
  • Surrogacy perspectives. These three videos show different perspectives about surrogacy including the intended mother, the surrogate and the child’s outlook.
  • Telling others about donor conception. Hear sound practical advice from an experienced mother of donor egg twins and clinical psychologist Kim Paleg.
  • The value of having information about your donor. Brin found that as her kids reached 10-11 years of age they began to ask many questions about their donor. Unfortunately as she had used an anonymous donor she can’t answer these.
  • Family storybook examples. Watch three different families describe making their family storybooks in three different formats - film, digital journal and scrapbook. Each story is unique, however what is common to all is their pride in their child and family and their gratitude to their donor for helping them become parents.
New brochures
  • Finding a surrogate.  The brochure aims to help guide people through the process of finding a surrogate within Australia. It includes material on: what makes an ideal surrogate, asking someone you know, finding a surrogate you don’t know, and possible questions to ask a potential surrogate. It can be used as a guide to ensure that all parties are informed and prepared and that there’s a positive outcome for all.
  •  What is Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis? The brochure provides a general introduction to preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): what it is, the reasons for having PGD, what it involves, common techniques and main challenges. It should not be seen as a substitute for advice from doctors or other health professionals. 
VARTA staff have also participated on conference planning committees and speaking at relevant conferences. Louise Johnson, CEO and Karin Hammarberg, Research Officer, assisted with the ASPIRE Australasian Conference and associated Merck Serono Symposium on Cross-Border Reproduction. Kate Bourne, Senior Community Education Officer assisted with the Surrogacy Australia conference.

Louise Johnson , Karin Hammarberg and Caroline Comoy, Education and Health Promotion Officer, have also been assisting with the organisation and will be presenting at the 2nd PHAA Sexual Health and Reproductive Conference to be held in November this year.

Upcoming events

1-7 September
National Fertility Week
Find out more

25 September 7:30pm-9:00pm
Support group for donor-conceived adults meeting
Find out more

30 October 6:00pm-7:30pm
Louis Waller Lecture
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