2023 the Year in Review
In this video, our director and award-winning fertility lawyer, Stephen Page, discusses the extraordinary year that Page Provan has had in 2023.
G’day, I’m Stephen Page from Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers, and you may wonder, how come I’m wearing this shirt as opposed to a suit?
Well, surprisingly, I know people who’ve only seen me in a suit. I do wear T-shirts, and I do wear shirts, and I don’t always wear a suit. I wear a suit for work. But how come I’m wearing this really loud T-shirt?
Well, it is and why am I saying it in this video? Well, it relates to what’s happened this year, 2023. This has been recorded in December 2023, and I’m looking back at the year. If you happen to see this video before Christmas, Merry Christmas.
If you happen to see this video in 2024, Happy New Year. So looking back on 2023, it has been an extraordinary year for me and our firm. I want to start with the last bit of news, which is extraordinary.
No one thinks little law firms like ours have star candidates, but we have one, and that just talks about the attributes of all our staff, all our team. Ella Leitch is a paralegal working for us. She will, in 2024, graduate and then become a solicitor.
She has been awarded the University Medal by Griffith University. That means that she is the top graduate in law. Extraordinary achievement, Well done, Ella, that is just amazing. So proud of the very little bit that we’ve helped you with, and what did Ella write her thesis about?
Oh, you’ll be surprised, surrogacy. Because she loves surrogacy, so interested in what is involved with surrogacy. So, so, so proud of Ella. But again, why am I wearing this T-shirt? I might finally get to the point and I wore this T-shirt.
My husband said, Oh, you shouldn’t put this T-shirt on because it’s got a bit of a kink in the collar or something like that and I said, no, no, it’s important to me to wear this, and aside from today, there have been two really significant events for me in wearing this T-shirt this year.
Let’s start at the beginning of the year. In February, Mardi Gras was held, and Mardi Gras was held in Sydney in association with Sydney World Pride. LGBTQIA+ people coming from around the globe, and there were tens of thousands of them, and many of them went to concerts and so on.
I can’t say that I did, I was too busy. But some of them walked across the Harbour Bridge. I couldn’t because we were about to fly to South Africa, where I spoke at a conference, and this year, I’ve done 26 presentations. Just think about it, every other week on average, I’ve been doing it, and of course, it never works like that.
You might have a period where there’s none for a month, and then there’s three in a week, but 26. That’s an average year for me, much, much more than any other colleague I know who is in private practise. But Mardi Gras, my husband and I, wore this shirt, our own versions of it, of course, as part of Rainbow Families, New South Wales March at Mardi Gras.
We were part of gay dads, our daughter Elizabeth was given a shirt as well, but she said she was the only one in that group who did not wear the yellow shirt, she wore the white shirt. I’m not going to wear that, Daddy, it’s too big. Not even the age of four at that point, determined, and why was it important to be in Mardi Gras? Well, of course, I’m a gay dad.
I think it’s wonderful celebrating who we are and our parentage. It’s just marvellous and I’m told there were 500,000 people cheering on, but for us, this was such a significant event because back in 2019, a journo from the Australian phoned me and said, Hi, Stephen, how are you? What’s new and interesting in the world of surrogacy?
And I said, Well, I’m really concerned about Australians going to China for surrogacy, and I remain concerned about Australians going to China for surrogacy, and I started to talk for a while, and all he could hear was crickets and I said, Well, look, I’m going to disclose to you, my husband and I have had a baby through surrogacy in Queensland, and we had to get a special ruling in our own case because there’s issues about who was a parent in Queensland, et cetera.
I just wanted to be open and honest with him about that, that he’s writing a story, he ought to know it. He said, That’s the story. I said, I don’t consider that as a story, I just consider that that’s just about me. What? Australia’s leading surrogacy lawyer has a private ruling in his own case, That’s the story.
I said, Look, you’re the journalist, if you think it’s important, well, of course, we’ll do that. He said, Yeah, I think that’s important. So the next thing you know, we have a photographer come around to our house.
We all get dolled up. I wore a suit, I can’t remember what suit I wore, and we held our daughter in this uncomfortable position to meet the photographer, and the Australian ran the story. Beautiful. Until later that day, I discovered that feature that Facebook no longer has, this might be you in a photograph.
I clicked on it and I saw that the convener of the Australian Christian lobby had posted, and I’d served on a committee with this woman, had posted on her Facebook feed with one magic wave of a gavel, this little girl has been forever denied her mother, and then it went downhill from there. All these people piled on making horrible, horrible comments.
Now, we could have sued. We didn’t, we didn’t think there was a point to it. We wanted to focus on parenting. A judge said to me, Don’t let the haters win. A colleague was much ruder. He said, I have two words of advice, **** them, and, which was all good and well, but this was something really personal, and it really, really hurt.
So Marching in Mardi Gras this year was cathartic. Here we had half a million people cheering us on over the two or three Ks that we had to carry our daughter. She didn’t want to walk, we had to carry her, just a beautiful experience. Other presentations I’ve done this year have been for the World Pride Human Rights Conference, amazing.
Other places, as I said shortly after that, I had to go to Cape Town and present international conferences, including in Las Vegas, and national conferences in Australia, including for IVF clinics and for fertility nurses, for example.
But the second significant occasion that I wore this shirt was in June in Copenhagen, and this was for the International Surrogacy Forum. International Surrogacy Forum was an idea of bringing together surrogacy professionals, academics, lawyers, those who were associated with the industry, psychologists and so on, who knew about surrogacy, knew about the research with surrogacy and the laws, and how surrogacy is regulated, and what the future holds.
So the first one was held in 2019 in Cambridge, and how the International Surrogacy Forum came about was it was an idea of a UK lawyer Anne-Marie Hutchinson and me, because we had been having a discussion about how we had to have an intellectual response to a report that had been written, and I was wholly dissatisfied that there had been no substantive response.
Anne-Marie said, How about we hold a conference? I said, Yeah, that’s a great idea, we should do that. Then from that little email discussion, bingo, what became the International Surrogacy Forum was first held in Cambridge.
It was about 250 invited guests and it was sponsored by the University of Cambridge and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, of which I’m a Fellow, and the American Bar Association, of which I serve on the committee.
I was one of, I think, eight organisers of that conference, but I couldn’t go because it was about a month before my daughter was born and it was made plain to me by my beloved husband that if I turned up and she would be born while I was away, I would never be forgiven. So the second one was held in Copenhagen in June and so we got past the pandemic.
We have experts from around the world there, and it was held over two days and on day one, I was in this heritage brick building with no air conditioning in June, and it must have been at least 28 degrees or 30 degrees, and I’m wearing a suit.
I’m the last speaker on day one, and I feel like I’m a chook in the oven. I was sweating and sweating and sweating, but there was no way I was going to take that suit off if I was doing a presentation in front of my peers.
But all day, I had heard, principally from European speakers, about how important it is that there is a genetic relationship between parent and child, and if there isn’t a genetic relationship, really, we don’t like surrogacy, and I thought to myself, Well, how does that make me and others feel?
If there’s no genetic relationship between parent and child, what happens with gay couples? What happens with lesbian couples? What in fact, happens with three quarters of my clients where they need an egg donor, whether they’re gay, lesbian, or straight? What happens with them? The other parent, not recognised. What about my single women clients?
For example, the theatre nurse who’d never been able to find a bloke. You know, you’d imagine she works these terrible hours and there aren’t suitable guys around. Discovers she has cancer, and next thing you know, she needs an egg donor, a sperm donor, and a surrogate.
What about her? How would that make her feel about parents? And more importantly, how would that make the child feel that, Oh, this isn’t really your parent. That made me fumingly angry. I was so angry about it and I got asked a question which was about parents rights, and I snapped at it. I said we should be focused on the rights of children, not parents.
That’s what it’s all about, it’s about children. It’s a great thing to be a parent to have the right to reproduce or an adult for the right to reproduce. But what we should really be focused on is protecting the rights of these children because they are the most vulnerable of the lot, and all day, on that first day, I was fuming.
The more and more I heard about this about genetic, and if you’re not a genetic parent, you’re not really a parent. That was the underlying flavour. So day two came around and I thought, It’s hot. I don’t want to stew in my suit like I did yesterday.
I want to wear something different and I took this shirt to Copenhagen because I thought, I can wear this shirt in Copenhagen, I rather like it, it’s a nice, loud shirt, and I can feel safe in Copenhagen. No one’s going to bash me for wearing this shirt there.
So on day two, I wore this shirt, and I told everyone, whether they liked it or not, you can’t ignore me. Look at this message, love makes a family, that’s the important message and the other news of this year, well, a couple of other things.
This year, I’ve been honoured, the Queensland Law Society President’s medal, I am the recipient, extraordinary. I didn’t want to be nominated, a friend nominated me and I thought, Oh, the last thing I want to do is be nominated. I got to put all this stuff together. Then after I received the award, which was extraordinary and humbling.
Before I actually got the award, there’s the contents of the night, because it was the only award that was given out, and here are the judges. There were four former presidents of the Law Society.
I blanched, and I thought, they didn’t say who the awardee was at that point, and I thought, wow, did I have been seen fit by four former President’s noble, these noble practising lawyers, as being good enough to have the President’s medal, that is extraordinary.
Then afterwards, a while afterwards, I was at an event and the CEO of the Law Society came up to me and said, Stephen, we want to nominate you for the Law Council of Australia President’s Award, and then explained what was involved with that.
Anyway, I said I was deeply honoured and humbled to be nominated, and of course, I agreed. So, I’ve been nominated. I don’t know whether I’ll get it, I haven’t seen an award of who has been the 2023 Law Council Australia President’s Award. Whoever it will be, I have great confidence that it will be the best lawyer for that, whether it’s me or anyone else.
I’m sure there’ll be a high-quality candidate who’s awarded it. But when the letter was prepared in support, I found to my horror that there had not been four former presidents of the Queensland Law Society who had been the judging panel, there had been five.
So I’ve been seen sufficient and adequate to receive the Queensland Law Society President’s Medal by five former presidents of the society, just simply extraordinary. As far as I can see, I am the first family lawyer ever to have received that award.
So very, very fortunate and deeply, deeply humbling. I hope that your 2023 has been a good year for you and Merry Christmas. I hope that your 2024 is an even better year. Happy New Year.