Thursday, 10 September 2015

What an amazing month for a surrogacy lawyer

I have sat back and reflected about the next month, which is an extraordinary period for presentations by me. As always, I am honoured to be asked to present. Hopefully I am able to add value to each event.

Number 1: Western Australia

Tonight I fly to Perth. Tomorrow I drive to Dunsborough, a couple of hours south of Perth, where on Saturday morning I take part in a panel discussion about surrogacy for the Family Law Practitioners Association of Western Australia annual conference.

Dunsborough is about as far away as anyone could get in Australia from Brisbane. A 5 1/4  hour flight tonight, followed by a three hour drive tomorrow. I will be going from the northeast of Australia to the far south west.

To put this into context, New Caledonia is closer (2 hours), as is Vanuatu (the same), Fiji (3 hours) and New Zealand (3 1/2 hours). The time to get to Dunsborough is less time than to Singapore (7 hours) and similar to Hong Kong (9 hours). The flight time from Los Angeles to New York, by comparison, is 4 3/4 hours.

I am in esteemed company in my panel. The other panellists are Chief Justice Diana Bryant of the Family Court of Australia and Justice Jane Crisford of the Family Court of Western Australia. The panel is moderated by WA barrister and fellow surrogacy lawyer Rachel Oakeley.

Yesterday came the bittersweet news from conference organisors- stop asking for availability, because the conference is full. Hopefully there will be a good turn up. 
 
The irony about the trip to me is obvious. Gay men in Western Australia cannot access surrogacy there. They have to go interstate, or more likely overseas, to become dads.
 
That's the Surrogacy Act 2008 (WA) specifically discriminates about who can and cannot be a parent. Heterosexual and lesbian couples make the grade, apparently, as do single women, but single men and gay couples do not. This discriminatory and anachronisitc provision should go, as called for by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, so that the law does not discriminate about who can or cannot be a parent.


I fly back from that conference on Sunday, arriving late on Sunday night. In the process I will miss 60 Minutes on Sunday, when clients of mine are featuring.

Number 2: Canberra

On Monday night I fly to Canberra, where on Tuesday I will address a session of the annual conference of the Fertility Society of Australia. I will be speaking about post-Baby Gammy regulation of surrogacy.

I fly back to Brisbane on Tuesday night. The conference goes for three days, but unfortunately I can only be there for the day.

I have been honoured to speak at the conference, or side conference in 2011 (Melbourne) , 2013 (Sydney), 2014 (Brisbane)  and now 2015. 

Number 3: Back in Brisbane

On Wednesday night after work I am again volunteering at the LGBTI Legal Service in Brisbane. OK, it's not a presentation, but I thought it worthwhile to mention.

I volunteer my time once a month to give legal advice to others. Recently I was presented with the Rainbow Keys award by the LGBTI Legal Service for volunteering there for 5 years. I have volunteered there since opening night in 2010. Where did that time go?

The service is an unfunded legal  service filling a vital niche. I figured it needs all the help it can get. The least I can do is to lend it some of my time, and help others.

Number 4: Queensland webinar

On Thursday, today week, I present a webinar to the Queensland Family Law Pathways Network about ART and family law. I explore surrogacy law and who is a parent at law. I understand, being a webinar, that there are still places available.

I was a bit embarrassed when the Queensland Family Law Pathways Network in its promotional blurb called me "internationally renowned". While that is true, it is not something I would have written about myself.

I was asked yesterday to present at a Queer Careers night that night at the University of Queensland. Much as I would have liked to attend and speak, it just simply would have been too much, in light of everything else.

Number 5: San Francisco

On 2 October I am presenting  at a legal seminar about surrogacy for  the San Francisco Bar Association. I will be co-presenting with local surrogacy guru Deb Wald. Deb will be speaking about local surrogacy laws. I will be talking about the international context of surrogacy. There will be two others presenters- a local IVF doctor and a local fertility counsellor. Hopefully it will be a good rollup.

Number 6: Chicago

On 4 to 6 October I will be attending the ART conference of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Treatment Attorneys in Chicago. I am the first international Fellow of AAARTA, having joined last year. I will be presenting on 6 October, about surrogacy regulation in Australia.

I last addressed an ART conference of AAARTA back in 2013, in Charleston. It was an amazing and impressive event, with surrogacy lawyers from all over the US and across the globe, including from Europe and South America. Hopefully Chicago will be as impressive.

While in Chicago, I expect to be meeting local IVF doctors and fertility specialists.

Number 7: Las Vegas

After Chicago, on the homeward leg, I will be stopping off at Las Vegas and a flying visit to see Drs Bruce Shapiro and Said Daneshmand at the Fertility Center of Las Vegas, a renowned IVF clinic. Yes, it's not a presentation, but I could not resist the opportunity to pop in.

Number 8: Sydney

After a week in Brisbane, finally back at work, it's off to Sydney for a day trip for Television Education Network. This is to produce a webinar from a TV studio (that's a new one for me) to Australian lawyers about who is a parent under Australian law. What might be seen as an obvious answer has become, courtesy of ART and IVF, and the slow catch up of the law, quite complex at times.

And then, finally, the pace will hopefully slow down!

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