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Kate Bourne

Kate Bourne says one of the most interesting aspects of her career is supporting and connecting “donor conceived people with their donors.” The experienced counsellor also helps connect donor siblings “donor conceived people with people born from the same donor.” Kate explains the connections she helps facilitate is known as donor linking. People may even wish to connect with other families who have used the same donor. “It’s a fantastic job,” Kate says. “It’s a bit like adoption reunion except with someone who’s been conceived usually by a sperm donor, but it could be an egg donor, or an embryo donor.” Kate says helping people link/connect is “extraordinary and fascinating.”

After graduating from St Peters in Year 12 Kate began a law degree but disliked it intensely. “I learnt that very quickly,” she laughs. After meeting her husband at university she jokingly admits, “all wasn’t lost outside the law library.” Her career requires working within legislation “so even a short grounding in law” helped with navigating and understanding the intricacies of law.

Her study path quickly detoured into the meaningful area of social work and Kate loved it immediately. “At St Peters I was always an enthusiastic member of the Community Services Club. I used to visit elderly people at the local aged care home every Tuesday after school. I also used to volunteer at a home for kids with disabilities on weekends. I believe that opportunity to do voluntary work was absolutely fantastic.”

As well as being actively involved in St Peters Community Services Kate was Head [day] Girl. “Looking back—the leadership opportunity helped me too. Now I’m in leadership roles it encourages me to speak up. There’s no point leaving a meeting thinking, ‘I should have said that’. You’ve got to speak your mind—politely,” she laughs.

Upon moving to Melbourne to complete her final year at Melbourne University in 1984 Kate took her first job at the Royal Children’s Hospital working as a cardiac social worker. She also worked in intensive care as well as paediatric oncology as a counsellor. “My dad is a radiation oncologist so I think that’s where the interest came from,” she says.

Working in an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinic seemed the next logical step for personal reasons. Kate’s parents faced their own challenges in fertility taking “seven years to have me,” further inspiring Kate’s career journey. Kate’s first job in an IVF clinic was as a fertility counsellor. Now she chairs the Australian and New Zealand Fertility Counsellors Association.

As part of Kate’s responsibilities, she researches extensively, frequently lectures, runs seminars, and writes for VARTA’s website as well as various publications. Kate manages a “wonderful team” of colleagues and also enjoys group work and supervising social work students. “My last social work student was actually donor-conceived herself and that was fantastic.” Working closely with stakeholders Kate says she’s “learnt a lot from donor-conceived people.”

Looking back over her time at St Peters Kate reflects that she’s not surprised how her career path eventuated. “Growing up knowing how precious a gift it is to have children, knowing it took my parents seven years to have me—it makes sense,” says Kate.

Offering advice to students Kate says sometimes if you “get the marks it’s easy to think you should go into certain careers.” It might earn lots of bucks but “your career needs to make you happy. It’s important to follow what you love. You’re working for a very long time so you’ve got to really enjoy it. Do something worthwhile. Life is too short."

On her book ‘Sometimes it Takes Three to Make a Baby’…

“At the time there were no children’s books in the world helping parents explain egg donation to their kids. I kept waiting for someone to write a book and no one did. I thought maybe I should write the book. My workplace was incredibly supportive and so they published it. In the back there’s a little book kids can complete themselves about how they came to be. I run ‘Time to Tell’ seminars at VARTA and one of the speakers is a young donor conceived woman who is 19. She showed me the book I’d written and how she’d filled out that section and pasted in all these photos. She’d put a lot of effort into doing it. I wept when I saw it. It was really beautiful to see. The book has made a difference to parents and their children. Now it’s free to download on our website.”

Ironbark reflection

Kate reflects on her time at St Peters outdoor education centre, Ironbark. “Ironbark was incredibly significant,” says Kate. “I grew up there and matured a lot. It made me much more independent. Ironbark allows you to step back and think. You have to get on with other people. You have to do a lot of teamwork. When you’re lost with a map and you’re hungry and hot, one of your group is in tears, sitting down and doesn’t want to go any further, it’s really character building. It was like Survivor."