IN PICTURES | Law ending sperm donor secrecy helps Australian woman find her biological father

Published: 03rd August 2018 07:52 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2018 01:45 PM  

Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
South Australia in 2017 passed a law where the identities of anonymous sperm donors could give people the right to information about their genetic parentage, regardless of whether a sperm donor wanted his identity kept secret. A 36-year-old woman has been reunited with her sperm-donor father nearly 40 years after he gifted his semen to a Melbourne clinic. And her new dad, 68, has revealed he 'loves' his new-found daughter, after forming an instant connection with her. Click here to read their heart-warming story: (AP Photo |Peter Peacock, 68, right, and Gypsy Diamond, 36, share a laugh over a glass of Shiraz each, their favorite type of wine, in Melbourne, Australia.)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
LIFE-CHANGING LETTER: For Peter Peacock, fate arrived in the form of a registered letter. 'Dear Mr Peacock,' the letter began. 'The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) has received an enquiry of a personal nature which may or may not relate to you. The matter concerns a record held in relation to a project you may have assisted with at Prince Henry's Institute.' Prince Henry's? The Melbourne clinic where he'd donated sperm nearly 40 years ago? (AP Photo | Peter Peacock poses for a portrait as he sits on a couch in his home in Melbourne, Australia.)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
PETER GETS A JOLT: Peter Peacock's mind raced. How on earth was he going to tell everyone? How would he break it to his two grown daughters? And how could this person even know who he was? He had been promised that his donation would be anonymous. And for decades it was, until a new law in one Australian state retroactively erased the anonymity of sperm and egg donors. Their offspring now have the legal right to know who they are. (AP Photo | A sperm sample is seen through a microscope in a laboratory at Melbourne IVF in Melbourne, Australia)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
PETER IS MOVED: Peter Peacock found himself staring at a photograph of a woman named Gypsy Diamond, whose face looked so much like his own that he felt an instant and overwhelming connection. He gazed in wonder at her dark, almond-shaped eyes. His eyes. 'God almighty, I looked at it and I thought — 'Bloody hell. I can't deny that girl,'' he says. 'She was my child from the start.' (AP Photo | Peter Peacock looks at a photograph of his own father, Leonard, and mother, Joyce, carrying his firstborn, a girl named Melanie in 1978, in Melbourne, Australia.)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
PETER'S LIFE CHANGES: Peter Peacock had no idea if saying yes would alter his peaceful existence. Long divorced, the 68-year-old lives alone in a quiet suburb of Melbourne, surrounded by a thick forest of gum trees. He hand-feeds the wild kookaburras that fly to his porch, lovingly calling them 'baby children.' Eight years ago, while playing solitaire, he suffered a stroke that gave him a fresh perspective on life. (AP Photo | Peter Peacock feeds a wild kookaburra on the balcony of his home in Melbourne, Australia)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
'MAY YOU FIND YOUR TRUTH': The walls of The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) offices in downtown Melbourne are covered in jigsaw puzzle-shaped notes bearing the hopes of donor-conceived children and the people who helped bring them into the world: 'No more secrets.' ''May you find your truth.' VARTA is at the epicenter of Victoria state's donor identity law, a piece of legislation dissected and debated for years before finally taking effect in 2017. The agency maintains a register of donors, offspring and their parents, and counsels them through the intricate dynamics involved. (AP Photo | Embryologist Brad Wilson is seen in a glass reflection while placing a sperm sample onto a counting chamber as he prepares the sample for insemination in a lab at Melbourne IVF in Melbourne, Australia.)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
HOW DID THE LAW COME INTO FORCE: It all began to change with the lobbying of a donor-conceived woman named Narelle Grech. At 28, Grech was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer, likely hereditary. Grech found out from available records that another eight children had been created from her donor. She was determined to know the man who gave her life before her death, and to warn him and any offspring about the gene they may be carrying. Her fight took her to the state government's law reform committee in 2011, where her wrenching testimony moved lawmakers to tears. (AP Photo | Prepared sperm is stored in an incubator ready for insemination in a lab at Melbourne IVF in Melbourne, Australia)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
THE LAW HAS BEEN MADE: All five committee members initially opposed the law. Every member ultimately changed their mind. Grech would probably die long before the law passed parliament. So the state premier intervened, and the name of Grech's donor was released: Ray Tonna. When Tonna met Grech, he felt an immediate rush of love. 'It was a little switch in my heart — it went on and it was just pure, unconditional, parental love,' he says. 'It just flowed out of me toward her. I would have done anything for her on the spot, from the moment I met her.' She called him Papa Ray. Six weeks later, she died. (AP Photo | Scientist Fabrice De Bond picks up a vial containing frozen donor sperm samples in a lab at Melbourne IVF in Melbourne, Australia)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
PETER-GYPSY TRACK EACH OTHER OUT: Diamond found Peacock's Facebook profile and there he was, a photo of her biological father enjoying a glass of red wine, her own drink of choice. She had never seen anyone who looked so much like her. Her mother, short and blonde, was her physical antithesis. But this man had her eyes, her coloring, a hint of her nose. She typed out a brief email of gratitude to him, and attached two photos of herself. Gypsy's transported Peter back to his hippie days in the '70s, when he'd decided to donate sperm after some friends had trouble getting pregnant. A new father himself, he became a donor in a bid to help some couple, somewhere, have the child they'd always wanted. He donated around eight times, received $10 a sample, and used the money to buy a new set of power tools. (AP Photo | Gypsy Diamond)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
WHEN PETER MET GYPSY: Their similarities went beyond looks. Both love Shiraz and antipasto, cheer for the same football team, and have laid-back attitudes and a cheeky sense of humor. He told her about his admiration for her parents, how brave they were to accept another man's sperm. He noted with laughter that she appeared to have inherited his 'knobbly knees.' They both constantly checked their inboxes for new messages from each other. Diamond often caught herself walking around with a smile. 'This has been a total whirlwind for both of us I know,' she wrote. 'But even if this never goes any further I really feel like a piece of the puzzle that had been missing in my life has been filled and I can't thank you enough for that.' (AP Photo | Peter Peacock, 68, left, and Gypsy Diamond, 36, read their early email exchanged to each other during an interview with The Associated Press, in Melbourne, Australia)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
PETER PEACOCK FINDS OUT ABOUT THE REST OF HIS BROOD: One question still nagged at Diamond: Was Peacock also the biological father of her brother? Her mother wasn't certain that she had used the same donor for both pregnancies. So Diamond asked Peacock if he could lodge a request asking VARTA whether any other children had been created with his donations. In August last year, his phone rang. 'Are you sitting down?' Bourne asked. He wasn't. She continued: 'There are 16.' Peacock sat down. The records confirmed his 16 offspring included Diamond and her brother. That meant there were another 14 unknown adults born between 1980 and 1982 wandering around with his DNA. (AP Photo | This photo provided by Peter Peacock shows him with his elder daughter, Melanie, in 1979, as they lay on the floor, in Melbourne, Australia.)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
RESPONSE TO THE LAW: Despite the surprises unleashed by the law, most of the responses from donors and their offspring have been positive, says Louise Johnson, VARTA's CEO. Around 80 people have applied for the identities of their donors since the law went into effect, and the majority of donors have agreed to exchange information. No one has broken a contact veto. Some of those children were stunned to find out the truth about their origins, but later agreed to exchange information with their donors. Others have been less accommodating. (AP Photo | Scientist Fabrice De Bond picks up a vial containing frozen donor sperm samples in a lab at Melbourne IVF in Melbourne, Australia)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
WILL HE SEEK TO FIND OUT THE REST OF HIS 'CHILDREN'? Legally, Peacock had the right to request the identities of his offspring. But did he really want to invite another 14 children into his family? Peacock decided that if any of his offspring come looking for him, he will welcome them into his life. But he won't seek them out. Their family secrets are not his to tell. (AP Photo | Peter Peacock, foreground, and Gypsy Diamond, 36, hug each other before parting ways after their second meeting, in Melbourne, Australia.)
Australia-sperm donor-secrecy
HAPPILY EVER AFTER? 'I know that he's just going to be a big part of my life,' Gypsy says. 'Where it goes from there, I don't know. I don't really have a name for it.' Peacock has such love for this woman he was never supposed to know. Yet he is wary of overstepping boundaries. 'Her father is the one who brought her up, loved her, changed her nappy,' he says. 'I'm not her father, I'm not her uncle, but I'm still part of her. ... She is a part of me.' Sitting with her at a cafe, he looks at her and wonders: Who am I to you? Who are you to me? He raises a toast: 'Cheers ... Girl? Daughter? It?' 'Whatever it is,' Diamond says with a laugh. And they drink. (AP Photo | Gypsy Diamond, left, meets her biological father Peter Peacock for the first time in Geelong, Australia.)
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