Assisted Reproductive Technology

This is an overview of the history of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Western Australia (WA), with references to State-level Ministerial and departmental reviews and parliamentary inquiries undertaken in WA since the early 1980s.

Ministerial and departmental inquiries

Meadows Committee (1984)

In June 1983 the Minister for Health established the In Vitro Fertilisation Ethics Committee to advise the WA government on the regulation of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), to report on the social, ethical and legal issues and consider developments in other Australian jurisdictions and overseas concerned with IVF.

It was chaired by Robert Meadows, then Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Law Society of WA.  

The Committee’s Interim report was released in August 1984 and resulted in the –

  • formation of the Committee into the Social, Legal and Ethical Issues Relating to In Vitro Fertilisation and its Supervision;
  • appointment of a research officer to conduct an evaluation of IVF, in co-operation with medical practitioners and scientists working in the field; 
  • funding for a three year programme to monitor and evaluate IVF; and
  • creation of the IVF Ethics Committee to develop a framework to supervise and oversee role the practice of IVF in WA.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [2.4MB] of this report. 

Note: This report was also published in Appendix 1 of the report of the Michael Committee.

Michael Committee (1986)

The Committee into the Social, Legal and Ethical Issues Relating to In Vitro Fertilisation and Its Supervision, under the Chairmanship of Dr Con Michael, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, succeeded the Meadows Committee.

The Committee’s report was released in September 1986 and included recommendations for a Licensing and Supervisory Authority and Bioethics Committee  and to establish a statutory framework for overseeing ethical conduct and supervision of  reproductive technology services in WA. 

Click here to view or download a PDF version [10.7MB] of this report.

Daube Working Party (1988)

The Minister for Health established the Reproductive Technology Working Party, chaired by Mike Daube, then Executive Director of Health Promotion and Education Services at the Health Department of WA, to undertake an independent scientific evaluation of IVF. 

The Working Party’s report was released in July 1988, leading to the development of a legislative framework based upon principles considered in the earlier inquiries in August 1984, September 1986 and July 1988. 

The resultant legislation, the Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 also created the Reproductive Technology Council (RTC) as a specialist agency based in the Health Department of WA, to regulate and oversee ART in WA.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [1.8MB] of this report. 

Note: This report was also published in Appendix 1 of the report of the Watson Select Committee. 

Allan Review (2019)

The Minister for Health commissioned an independent comprehensive review of the operation and provisions of the Reproductive Technology Act 1991 and the  Surrogacy Act 2008. This was undertaken by Dr Sonia Allan and was released in January 2019.

As noted in the Allan review, there is a not a uniform national system of legislative provisions concerned with ART in Australia, which means each jurisdiction has adopted its own framework. In addition to legislative arrangements, there are also other regulatory mechanisms that also impact on ART, including ethical guidelines issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), as well as 

Another issue examined in the Allen review was how in WA, as most other jurisdictions, the legislative provisions may not be consistent with subsequent developments post enactment of legislative arrangements, such as equal opportunity laws, nor fully reflect contemporary community practices and attitudes towards parentage and family formation.

Generally legislation was introduced in the states and territories to establish that the legal parents of a child born as a result of ART to be the woman who gave birth to the child and, if she was married or in a de facto relationship, her husband/partner, provided he consented to the procedure.

The Allan review considered how, in three states – Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia had introduced regulatory systems to oversee clinical practice and provide for certain requirements that must be met for a woman (and her partner, if any) to access ART. 

The first IVF birth in Australia was of Candice Reed, in June 1980, which triggered concerns by policy makers in a number of jurisdictions about ART. Subsequent inquiries resulted in Victoria enacting the first legislative framework in 1984, followed by South Australia in 1988 and Western Australia in 1991. 

New South Wales introduced legislation in 2010 to criminalise the commercialisation of human reproduction and to determine the interests of people born as a result of ART treatment, providing gamete(s) for use in ART treatment or for research, and women undergoing ART treatment.

The Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, and Tasmania remain without a specific statutory regime governing clinical practice related to assisted reproduction. 

However, there are National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ethical Guidelines on the Use of Assisted Reproductive Technology in Clinical Practice and Research, which clinicians in all states and territories are required to adhere to.

Sources:  

Allan, S. (2019) The review of the Western Australian Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 and the Surrogacy Act 2008.

Cohen , J, et al. The early days of IVF outside the UK. (2005) Human Reproduction Update, 11(5), 439 – 459.

Janec ,K & Stavec, ZZ. Early history of IVF in Australia. (2014) Zdrav Vestn, 83, 484 -489.

Yovich, J &  Matson, PL. Legislation on the practice of assisted reproduction in Western Australia. (1996) Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 13(3), 197 –  200.

Click here to view or download a PDF version of the Allan report – Part 1.

Click here to view or download a PDF version of the Allan report – Part 2.

Click here to view or download a PDF version of the Government of WA’s response to the Allan report (July 2021).

Parliamentary inquiries

Watson Select Committee (1988)

The Select Committee into the Reproductive Technology Working Party’s Report was chaired by Judyth Watson MLA.

Its report was tabled in December 1988 in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australian Parliament.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [5.4MB] of this report.

Minson Select Committee (1991)

The Select Committee on the Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 was chaired by Kevin Minson MLA. The scope of this review was expanded in September 1997 to include surrogacy.

Its report was tabled in April 1999 in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australian Parliament.

Click here to view or download a PDF version of this report.