When my partner and I engaged in surrogacy ten years ago, we knew little.
Like other gay men, we put our trust in far-distant agencies simply because others we met had done the same thing. Like many, our journey to parenthood cost us far more emotionally and financially than we had expected.
So, when the opportunity arose to create a consumer-focused forum which put the interests of intended parents, surrogates and children first, the interest was overwhelming.
The first Surrogacy Australia conference in 2012 sold out and we were turning hopeful parents away at the door.
Much overseas surrogacy remains unregulated, so Australians relying on Google searches or word-of-mouth referral continue to be taken advantage of.
With an absence of public education in the area, consumer education is vitally important.
In recent years, Canada, with more relaxed altruistic laws than Australia, looked to be an affordable and safe alternative to US surrogacy.
Unfortunately demand (not just from Australians but globally) for Canadian surrogacy has far outstripped supply. This, together with the closure of South-East Asia to surrogacy, means there is growing interest in Australian and US surrogacy.
Australian surrogacy births have more than tripled in eight years, with over 50 singles and couples welcoming children in 2018, many of them gay men.
Australian policy-makers too are catching up with the reality.
Recent reviews in Victoria, South Australia and WA are all recommending changes to allow much more be done to support domestic surrogacy and surrogates in particular.
In SA (and soon WA) gay men can now legally engage in domestic surrogacy.
In January 2019 Surrogacy Australia launched the nation’s first support service for domestic surrogacy, finally providing the quality of screening, support and education that once made Canada so popular.
While compensated surrogacy overseas continues to play a key role in assisting Australians, this year’s annual conference (1-2 June in Melbourne) will for the first time devote an entire day to domestic surrogacy.
Fifty speakers and panellists will share their experience across the popular two-day event.
While there are some talks from doctors, lawyers and psychologists, it is the real stories and social events which make the weekend special.
Twenty parents will share their journeys (nine of them gay dads) as well as Australian and US surrogates, Australian egg donors, and most importantly six young adults born via surrogacy and egg donation.
More information and conference tickets are available at: www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com