Welcome back folks to Connolly’s Corner!
Whilst we all continue to do our bit to beat this outbreak and get vaccinated, I thought I’d share with you something deeply personal on a topic that’s close to my heart - the accessibility of IVF treatment and how we’re removing barriers to make treatment more accessible and affordable for everyone.
In a local community where so many babies are being born each week, I know for many families in Wyndham, the road to parenthood is not always an easy one. It certainly wasn’t an easy journey for my husband and I – all three of our children were conceived through IVF, with our eldest daughter Viviene stillborn at 37 weeks.
Just over 12 years ago we found ourselves on our very own IVF emotional rollercoaster. Back then, infertility wasn’t something widely spoken or known about in our community. Counselling services were available, but not something we readily took up. Looking back now, we should have. Sadly, this is still a common occurrence for so many families right across Victoria for whom the joys of parenthood are only possible through access to IVF treatments.
Victoria has a long proud history of supporting IVF research and practice. Going back to the 1970s and 80s, we lead the nation in the research and development of fertility treatment services and saw the first IVF baby in Australia – Candace Reed – born right here in Victoria in 1980. Today, Victoria accounts for 30% of treatments across Australia.
Over the last forty years, we’ve made huge strides in making IVF treatment increasingly accessible to Victorians. The Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984 provided for the regulation of IVF treatment procedures and the associated human embryo research, the first piece of legislation in the world to do so. Flash forward 24 years later, and the Bracks Government superseded this legislation with the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, which provided a modernised and updated regulatory framework for IVF treatment. More importantly, it began the process of improving outdated barriers that existed for modern would-be families.
You see, until 2008, eligibility to undergo IVF treatment in Victoria was only open to heterosexual married couples - an outdated notion that ignored the features of the Australian modern family. This especially ignored the hopes and dreams of LGBTQ couples for whom this process could realise their dreams of having a child of their own, a fact we changed in 2008.
In 2018, the Andrews Government decided to take another look at our IVF laws, and commissioned a landmark review into the Act. Headed by Michael Gorton AM, the comprehensive report made a staggering 80 recommendations with a goal to make IVF more accessible and affordable for more Victorian families.
Since being elected to Parliament in 2018, I’ve now had the pleasure of helping to pass three Bills implementing a number of these changes. In 2019, we removed barriers to treatment where women who were separated, but not divorced from their spouse, required their consent to undergo treatment. Last year, we removed an outdated and discriminatory requirement that women seeking to undergo IVF needed to get a police check. And last month, we passed a further set of amendments making it easier for LGBTQ couples to have genetically related children.
As someone who has gone through this process, I know exactly how much relief these changes will bring to those ready to add to their families. To folks about to embark on their IVF journey or are in the middle of a treatment, I wish you the best of luck – stay strong, stay focussed and be kind to yourself.