Regulating Relations – parenthood through assisted reproduction in Australia and abroad

13 December 2016

Whilst travelling in Sydney, I met Isabel Karpin and Michaela Stockey-Bridge of the University of Technology Sydney who, through Regulating Relations, are conducting the largest Australian research project of its kind: "Forming Families Inside and Outside of the Law".

The project will examine pathways into parenthood through assisted reproduction in Australia and abroad. I was asked about my involvement with families who have had children through surrogacy and assisting parents with their parental order applications in England and Wales.

I learned that Australians are among the largest users of interstate and overseas assisted reproductive technologies but that there is no country wide or Federal law governing this complicated area. In New South Wales (NSW), parents who have had children using a surrogate in NSW or another Australian state and comply with other statutory requirements need to apply for a NSW parentage order in order to be recognised as the parents of the child. 

However, if the surrogacy is commercial, which would usually be the case for overseas surrogacy, then the intended parents must apply to the Federal Family Court for parental responsibility and to regularise the basis upon which their child lives with them. There is no order transferring parentage for children born following commercial surrogacy.

Commercial surrogacy, both domestic and if undertaken abroad, is illegal in NSW and one of the aims of the research project is to speak to parents, donors, surrogates and assisted reproductive technology professionals to gather information about how people are forming families, both inside and outside of the law.

Isabel, Michaela, Jenni Millbank and Anita Stuhmcke intend to make recommendations for legal and policy changes based on the information they gather and I was pleased to provide my thoughts and experience as a surrogacy practitioner in London.

For details of the project please visit

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