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Birth Certificates: The Elephant In The Room In Gender And Adoption Debates

Penny Mackieson VANISH Chairperson

Publish in New Matilda on 20/10/2016

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Adoption

Adoption in the English-speaking Western world has always been a complex socio-legal practice with a tendency to engender strong opinions and emotions. In recent years, adoption has also, and once again, become highly politicised in Australia – everyone seems to have an opinion about adoption, and mainstream media has a strong tendency to present the pro-adoption perspective to the exclusion of others. At the same time as work towards the National Apology for Forced Adoptions delivered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in March 2013 was being undertaken, pro-adoption proponents with an agenda to increase and expedite adoptions in Australia were gathering force – including Deborra-lee Furness and her lobbyist organisation, Adopt Change; senior Liberal Party figures in New South Wales and federally; and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Independent Studies and Women’s Forum Australia. Portraying itself as ‘independent’, Women’s Forum Australia commissioned a piece of research to review research evidence regarding adoption, the result of which was published in 2014. That document, Adoption Rethink, is a glossy and seductive paper; it also features a clear ideological bias in favour of adoption, and an absence of academic rigour in its endeavours to provide a coherent or convincing scholarly argument. I felt a strong responsibility to critique Adoption Rethink, as I do any information on adoption promoted in the public domain that is obviously flawed, particularly given not everyone is as informed about adoption issues in Australia as we are here at VANISH. The product of this critique is Review of Adoption Rethink: Adoption Propaganda? (2015). If you read Adoption Rethink (2014), I would strongly recommend that you also read

Review of Adoption Rethink: Adoption Propaganda? (2015).

Penny Mackieson VANISH Chairperson


Penny Mackieson Financial Review 6th November 2015

IVF: Honesty the first condition for egg donor

Letter in response to article by Ian Smith

Carla Pincombe,  (The Age 4/4/15),  I fully agree with your condition for donating eggs to prospective parents wishing to conceive via donor assisted IVF  - honesty is paramount.   Knowing that these prospective children will know of their origins, and be able to meet and know you if they wish to, is a fundamental human right – for both you and the children born from your altruistic actions.   

As a sperm donor in the mid 1980’s such mindsets and provisions did not prevail.  Anonymity was a given.  We had to agree to that in order to donate sperm, and so did the recipients.   I regret now that I was used as source of genetic “spare parts” with little possibility of the people born of my sperm donations ever knowing me – or me them.   I know that I have seven “donor offspring” but I know nothing of their lives.   They are genetically as close to me as are the children of my marriage but most probably do not even know that I exist – let alone know that I think of them often, and would welcome meeting them if that is what they choose. 

Donor IVF has come a long way in recognising the importance of genetic connection between donor offspring and their egg or sperm donors.  Carla Pincombe typifies that shift in mindset.  There is though much still to be done to repair the damage done by earlier anonymised donor IVF practices.

Ian Smith


Adoption a last resort

Kids have a right to know

Children not a ‘right’

Made in Australia: The Adoption Apologies

is a compilation of 2012-2014 writings by Gary Coles about the state and federal Apologies. It is available via Amazon (Kindle) at


 'My mother chose not to hold or see me after I was born'

Three adoptees tell Michaela Fox of their long-awaited reunion with their birth mothers - and the roller coaster ride of emotions that came with it. Read more


Monash University History of Adoption Project

Personal stories of people who have experiences with adoption, captured through the History of Adoption Project are available at

The collection includes (but is not limited to) stories from adopted persons, separated parents, adopting parents, and professionals assisting with adoption.


Adoption a life-long journey

Silverstein & Kaplan (1986) argue that adoption triggers seven lifelong or core issues for all members of the adoption triad, regardless of the circumstances of the adoption or the characteristics of the participants. This brief version outlines the Seven Core Issues as experienced by an adoptee, a birth parent and an adoptive parent. An extended version by the same authors outlines in more detail the Lifelong Issues in Adoption


Late Discovery

Some people have never known or suspected they were adopted and so discovering late in life can be a tremendous and devastating shock. Discovering you are adopted – For those who have just found out by the Benevolent Society outlines common reactions experienced by those who find out about their adoption late in life and also provides some helpful suggestions about coping with the feelings and emotions aroused as a result of this new information.  Download at:


Search and Contact

In the following article, Evelyn Robinson asks if it is really a rejection of the person when contact is rejected. If you are considering or are in the process of making contact with a family member you have been separated from through adoption read Rejecting the opportunity for reunion to gain further insight.


 Donor Conception

“Donor conception and surrogacy place the desires of adults over the needs of children, a growing number of donor-conceived people argue.”

Four people conceived through donor conception or born through surrogacy share how this has impacted their lives. They call for the sharing of more balanced information about the repercussions of these practices and explain why they support bans on gamete donation, as well as surrogacy.


Forgotten Australians

Forgotten Australians: Supporting survivors of childhood institutional care in Australia (2008), is a booklet produced by the Alliance for Forgotten Australians to inform and assist doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, dentists, social workers, counsellors and welfare workers.

The National Library of Australia (NAA) has collected over 200 oral histories of Forgotten Australians and Child Migrants which illustrate the pain and heartbreak experienced by so many during their fractured childhoods.

Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions is a travelling exhibition developed and presented by the National Museum of Australia and supported by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FACHSIA)   It provides a chance for all Australians to understand something of a history that has affected so many of us and was hidden for so long.

We are the stories we tell about ourselves.  History and construction of identity amongst Australians, who as children, experienced ‘out-of-home’ care.    Professor Shurlee Swain, ACU.'We%20are%20the%20stories%20we%20tell%20about%20ourselves'.pdf


Intercountry Adoption

Jessica Walton, Supporting the Interests of Intercountry Adoptees beyond Childhood: Access to Adoption Information and Identity

This article considers assumptions about ‘the best interests of the child’. The central argument is that the life-long impact of adoption needs to be recognised so that the long-term interests of adoptees are met, and not only when they are children. Based on doctoral research into the experiences of adult Korean adoptees in the United States and Australia, this article argues that currently post-adoption services are geared to adoptive parents and the adoptee-as child and do not adequately address the needs of adoptees beyond childhood. Accurate and accessible information is important for adoptees as they try to understand their past and make sense of their identities (Link to full article)


Danielle E. Godon a d , Whitney F. Green b & Patricia G. Ramsey, Transracial Adoptees: The Search for Birth Family and the Search for Self

This study explores how transracial adoptees with different experiences in search and reunion with their birth families varied in ethnic identity and other aspects of their lives. Participants, 109 transracial adoptees (aged 18 to 37), completed an online survey that asked about demographic background, contact history and search interest, ethnic identity, and psychological adjustment. Results showed that ethnic identity varied across different search and contact groups, but psychological adjustment did not. Eleven respondents also participated in semi-structured interviews. They described the complexities of searching and contact and the challenges of connecting with both their adoptive and birth communities (Link to full article)