'Suddenly she's there': daughter and donor dad united
by Farrah Tomazin
A few months before his shock resignation as premier, Mr Baillieu quietly asked the public records office to release information that could assist Ms Grech find the sperm donor who helped create her.
It was a journey that began 15 years ago, when Ms Grech's parents told her she had been conceived through a donation at the now defunct Prince Henry's Hospital. Since then, the 30-year-old social worker has exhausted every avenue trying to find the man known only by his donor code: T5.
''I'd come to a place of acceptance that I'd never meet him,'' she said last week.
''I was sitting there reading this letter, crying and laughing at the same time. I just couldn't believe this man actually existed; that he's not just some fictional character that I've imagined,'' she said.
It's not every day a premier secretly steps in to help a donor-conceived child find out where they came from. Access to such information is somewhat restricted under Victorian law. But then again, this was no ordinary case. Ms Grech was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer two years ago. She's been in and out of hospital ever since, but the situation is terminal.
Mr Baillieu learnt of her story through a parliamentary review, chaired by one of his colleagues, Clem Newton-Brown, which questioned whether Victorians should have access to identifying information about their sperm donors.
Upon learning her donor had been found, Ms Grech sought permission to send him a letter. But Mr Tonna went even further, telling authorities they should pass on his email and phone number. Their first phone call lasted three hours.
''It was amazing,'' she says. ''There was an instant connection - how could there not be?''
Now, one month later, Ms Grech and Mr Tonna are sitting on a couch at a house in Brunswick West, as though they have known each other their whole lives. He holds her hand gently as she rests her sore back against a cushion - she only recently returned from another stint in hospital - and he chokes back tears as he speaks of their first meeting.
''It's like this psychic switch went off in my heart, my mind, my soul. I hadn't seen her for 30 years; I wasn't even aware of her, and suddenly she's there. I just love her so much,'' Mr Tonna says.
Theirs was a happy family reunion. She has met his wife and son, who now refers to her as his ''big sister''. He has met her parents, too, who have thanked him for the part he played in creating their daughter.
Both are creative - they write, sing, play guitar and enjoy poetry - and there are also some physical similarities. ''Our calves,'' says Ms Grech, laughing. ''We've both got really chunky calves.''
Ms Grech knows she is one of the lucky ones, because many donor-conceived children are still kept in the dark when it comes to their parental heritage.
Victoria has a three-tiered system where access to information depends on the date of your conception.
Children conceived after 1998 can get information about their biological parent because their donors were required to consent to it being released. Those conceived between 1988 and 1997 also have the right to identifying information, provided the donor agrees. But those conceived before 1988, as Ms Grech was, don't have the same rights because the donations were made on the condition of anonymity. Their only option is to put themselves on a voluntary register and hope their donor does the same.
State Parliament's law reform committee last year recommended changing the law, urging the government to give all people the right to identifying information about their donor.
The government is yet to respond to the committee's report, but has sought more information - particularly from sperm donors - through another inquiry by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority. It is understood Labor is also considering legislation in the form of a private member's bill.
The committee's recommendations are controversial: critics argue it could jeopardise patient confidentiality, breach privacy, or even deter people from donating. But Ms Grech and Mr Tonna say their story is evidence that such fears are unnecessary.
Asked if the law should change, Mr Tonna is adamant: "Absolutely. This is a basic human right. For any politician to stand there and deny it is abhorrent.'' Ms Grech agrees. She is grateful for the help she received in finding Mr Tonna, and all the more grateful that it worked out so well. She only wishes she had found him sooner. ''The thing that strikes me the most is that Ray expressed to me that, had he been given the opportunity to meet me 15 years ago, he would have been just as eager then as he is now.
''Of course, I'm appreciative that I can know him now, but to think we could have had another 15 years of getting to know each other is so bitter sweet.''
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/suddenly-shes-there-daughter-and-donor-dad-united-20130316-2g7mv.html#ixzz2NkIeWP3C