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Ian Smith Graduate Researcher, Law Melbourne

My research is exploring the socio-political factors which have influenced changes to policy and practice governing donor conception in Victoria.

(By way of explanation: donor conception is using donated sperm or eggs to create pregnancies for infertile or same-sex couples, or single mothers by choice.)

My particular focus is the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Act 2016. That Act retrospectively removed anonymity from sperm donors of the 1970’s and 1980’s – granting donor conceived people the right to know the identity of their biological fathers - the sperm donors.

A key element in the 2016 legislation was retrospectivity – removing promises of anonymity made more than 30 years ago.
Retrospective law change such as this is uncommon. It runs against a basic principle of law that one ought to know what the law is at any given time, so that one can act in accordance with and rely on that law. Retrospective legislation shifts the goal posts after the game has commenced.

I’m interested in finding out how the legislators in the Victorian Parliament were persuaded to make that retrospective change. How it was that they were persuaded by the right-to-know arguments from the donor-conceived people - born back in the 70’s and 80’s and many of whom now are very very insistent on their right to know about their genetic identity.


selected publications