Roman Deauna’s Amazing Journey into Surrogacy
In the latest edition of the Australian Family & Fertility Law Podcast, Stephen Page talks with Roman Deauna, Migration Agent about his amazing journey into surrogacy.
Intro: You’re listening to the Australian Family and Fertility Law Podcast. Here’s your host, Stephen Page.
Stephen Page: Well, welcome. My name is Stephen Page, and I’m from Page Provan. And this is the Australian Family and Fertility Law Podcast. And my guest today is Roman Deuna from Far and Wide Migration in Sydney. He recently joined me in the webinar about citizenship for Australians who are going overseas and seeking for their children to be born overseas by surrogacy and intended Australian citizenship. Welcome, Roman.
Roman Deuna: Thank you, Stephen. Nice to be here.
SP: So I just wanted to talk with you, Roman, first that you’ve somehow ended up in the space as a migration agent doing surrogacy work. And we first met, as I recalled, and you may correct me on the date that it was the 15 December 2010.
RD: That’s a long time.
SP: It is a long time. And you and I were speaking at a seminar that Dr. Kim Bergman from Growing Generations had organised in Sydney to talk about surrogacy. And I thought I remember that you remember that. And remember, I think you’ll remember that evening quite clearly because it was just one of those extraordinary events afterwards. And then I thought to myself, Kim introduced you as Roman always gets the baby’s home. And I thought, who is this guy? Who is this guy? Who’s this migration agent who has somehow specialised in this ultra-niche area of surrogacy.
SP: And how did he get this? So I suppose the starting point that I wanted to ask today is, how did you become a migration agent? What was your motivation to become a migration agent?
RD: It’s very personal, and it’s a very in factors. My own application, really. And the process, the experience and the heartache involved in my mother’s attempt to sponsor me on a child visa to Australia.
SP: Let me explain first. You weren’t born here.
RD: That is correct.
SP: And where did you come from?
RD: The Philippines. Okay, so it’s personal. It’s up until now, I must say that every time that I have a visa grant or a successful application, which thankfully, I only have a successful application, I could really still feel how it was to rejoice and be glad that something came through. So that’s why I think I take is very personal, because in a way, I’m trying to live that moment because it’s a moment of joy and freedom. Almost like this belief that finally, after such a long journey in many, many years, I am a citizen and my move to Australia would probably rank among the top three, if not second important decision that I took.
And so that’s how I got involved in migration.
SP: Was it a straightforward process?
RD: No, it’s not a straightforward process because my mother didn’t have the benefit of advice when she was attempting to sponsor me. My mum was probably about 65 or even 70, and she used to get this information from fellow senior citizens on how to sponsor your child. And that’s the reason why I feel in hindsight, I said, how is it possible that my application to five in six years and she literally had to…She died. That’s the only finally, when she was dying, the consular, the staff at the Australian Embassy in Manila gave me a tourist visa, one-month tourist visa to be with my dying mother. And she died while I was airborne, making my way from Manilla to Australia.
SP: And that is absolutely extraordinary that you are seeking to come here. You’re waiting forever. Your mum relied on her friends. We’d say these days talking over the barbecue that I suspect she wasn’t talking about barbecue rather than getting the right advice. And then you get compassion from the Australian Embassy in Manila. But by the time you land, your mum has died.
RD: That’s right. And I learned from her friends that my mom, she’s a courageous woman of a simple dream. And her dream is for me to call Australia home. And all her friends said when Cora that’s her name, Cora, was alive, she speaks nothing else other than her dream that one day you will be here in Australia and to honour her memory, I decided that I’m going to stay because there is something worth mentioning that when my mother died, my application also died.
SP: So when the sponsor dies, therefore no longer is the application alive?
RD: Yeah, that is correct. So I’ve been through a lot of processes, and there was even a point when I nearly ended up getting a wrong advice.
I think that is very important. I feel that there is an access to someone who would see someone in my situation as a chance to help rather than take advantage of. And unfortunately, there are too many stories of people getting the wrong advice at that moment when they should be getting the right advice.
SP: And when you don’t know who your who can give the right advice, it’s so easy to choose someone bad and then be taken advantage.
RD: That’s right. And I was very aware, aware of the black of a better term. I would say community or cultural. Probably that’s not the right word, in a sense that when you are new in a place or certainly in Australia, you tend to rely on your community, and that’s a wonderful thing. But there are limits. There are dangers as well. So early on, even when I was already in Australia, I realised that a simple mistake, a simple not getting proper advice could have easily ruin all my chances of being able to stay in Australia.
SP: You would have suffered what I think Paul Keating has described about double banger in that you had to deal with the devastation of the loss of your mum and compounded by the fact that you were desperately trying to get there in time. But she died before you got there. So by the time you arrive, your mum had already died, despite all your efforts to get here in time and then discovered soon after, lo and behold, I may not be able to live here after all, because all my hopes and dreams have gone did his work.
But that must have just been extraordinarily painful. It almost hard to describe in words how hurtfufl it was.
RD: That’s right. And not to mention the fact that then I really had nothing to go back to Philippines because there was an application a pending for about five years. So you’re constantly thinking about that. And that’s why when I talk about decision-ready application, because I constantly turned my mind to and later on, I requested a copy of my files through Freedom of Information requests. And I can tell you the emotions and feelings that I had when I was looking at I had only my mother had the benefit of proper advice.
It would have been a completely different story.
SP: So it was that painful experience that somehow launched you into becoming a migration agent.
SP: Because you had to get it right in your own matter. And you figured I’m not trying to put words in your head, but you figured that, well, I’ve got to learn this stuff and well, I do it better than the other people that I was going to go to talk to, going to get me wrong advice.
RD: That is definitely my experience when you’re certainly in my case. Even now, as I talk to you, the emotions are there because to miss the chance to be with my mum, it’s something that I cannot recover from easily. It’s almost like become militant about it. And so even now, when I hear people getting the wrong advice, getting the wrong advice, it feels like I’m experiencing it all over again.
SP: I’m sorry to hear that that has an impact on you. And it’s such a personal journey to have been on. It wasn’t the case of waking up one morning and thinking, what am I going to do today? It was really forged by fire, this dreadful set of circumstances that you found yourself in, that you ended up becoming a migration agent.
RD: And probably that also influence why I believe in specialisation. Unfortunately, I find that some people would be comfortable. Some professional advice would feel like experimenting on you. We all have to learn. But in migration, as I say, there’s very the process, the outcome and consequence. I leave very little time for self-discovery. You have to get it right, because if you don’t get it right as much as we all want to discover something, it’s something that you cannot easily recover.
SP: Well, I’ve seen it in my own game. I have clients who say to me, the lawyer wants to charge this amount of money and I feel the all that I’ve been doing is educating me. I don’t hear it that often these days, thankfully, but having to educate my lawyer, I think.
This whole idea of self discovery on the player. That’s great. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of decline.
RD: That’s right. Yes. And so moving on to how I ended up doing this work or before you go.
SP: What I also feel I’m curious, was and I’m sure any my listing. What were you thinking? Well, you had a one month tourist age, but somehow you ended up here for five years or however long it was until your application was dealt with. So how did you solve the problem about staying here and then managing to live here when your mum is your sponsor had died. So that all that you are entitled to do was to live here for a month?
RD: Right. Well, I am thankful that this is looking at the options that might not necessarily be. This is my first lesson on how to be strategic, which is that one month. Imagine if that lapse, that would have completely changed the options available to me. And so early on. I understand. And that’s actually relatively short. Most visa in Australia to Australia family three months. We also need to put this in context. And this is worth mentioning, because whenever I talked to people who probably came from what Australian immigration would say, Loris countries, it’s not a big deal.
And Americans, Canadians, Europeans, they all world into Australia. And we realise too, I know that this is more of a broad statement realise that more than half of the world are not free. These things that we take for granted. I mean, of course, cover that’s why Cove it is very interesting because Australian, for example, we find ourselves in this situation. But this is always we have life in those countries. Philippines is one of those. I mean, I remember that you can’t even go near the Australian embassy, right.
Just a feeling of, wow. You always pass by this embassy to say, I wonder what’s happening there. I wonder what my paperwork. I wonder what they’re doing there. It’s real. So when I got here, I have one month and they forgot to impose an offer. The state condition they forgot to impose for the state condition.
They forgot to impose this condition. And my view is that we’ll if this is an option, I always say that all the time, nothing’s wrong with that, because only dead people cannot change their mind. They can’t do anything anymore. My view is that it’s not about jumping queue to begin with. There is no such thing, as I always say, is that it is the intention of lawmakers parliamentarians to disallow certain action the they would have a specific to do. So that’s right.
RD: And through that, I was able to be included on my sister’s application like a skilled application. So I was able to lock in up. I was able to prove that on the death of my mother, then I am dependent on my sister. So there was a time there was a period of time when I was a dependent visa holder to my sister who holds a visa. And of course, it’s also a discovery for me. I mean, I’ve always known that I am gay man. And eventually I have met a lovely guy that we had a relationship and I was sponsored on a partner visa.
SP: There you go.
RD: And that is how I became involved in Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force.
SP: So tell me about what is the Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force?
RD: Well, it used to be that same-sex migration was not allowed in Australia. We’re really talking here about 30 years or much longer than that. And then gradually they changed that so that there’s a special visa for same sex couples. They call it interdependency visa, a special visa. And it used to be that this was decided a visa come in rain by colour.
SP: So I suspect it, though.
RD: Yeah, this is a special visa. It used to be decided by the Minister.
SP: It doesn’t have rainbow colour collaborate to celebrate. Nothing like that.
RD: No, no, they called it later, Interdependent visa.
SP: Oh, there we go. Just in black and white.
RD: That’s right. And it was a big it’s very hard back then. So the Gay and Lesbian Migration Task Force was formed. It has helped her organisation where we basically are volunteer, advises that provide their time to assist. And I became involved because I always love to volunteer. That is never from school days. I always want to do something because I find that it really enriches me in terms of experience in gaining confidence. So I started there facilitating the meeting, answering the phone, and eventually they elected me in the committee, the Transit, and became its President.
RD: And of course, I couldn’t give advice. So they encourage me. And I’m very grateful for their encouragement to say, Well, why don’t you get yourself to the training so that you could give advice on that specific area, which is partner visa and which I did until I probably would say that not many people will claim that they have handled partner visa as much as I have.
SP: So that was really imagine I was a tricky when you don’t have a marriage these days, I suppose whether it’s a marriage, it might be easier, but we don’t have a marriage. You’ve got to prove that this couple are in fact, a couple.
RD: This is great. And thankfully, we all now know we are now on the same footing as our heterosexual count about. But it was a journey. It’s a lot of subjectivity. And there are applicants as well, from backgrounds where culturally there’s a cultural sensitivities. And it’s fascinating, really to see how the experience dealing with immigration are heavily determined by where the decision makers are a lot of prejudice. And that’s a very interesting process. And so after doing that, I still do that after doing that for many years, a lot of those couples that I have assisted to be together in Australia, I remembered that there was this organisation and that helped them.
RD: And specifically, they got back to me to say, we now want to start a family. And that’s how I became involved in race because it’s unusual. I remember how fascinated I was reviewing all the code documentations and all of that a journey. And I said, wow, this is very interesting.
SP: Well, it’s such a complex. Why creating a child to have a child, it’s certainly the most complex form of reproduction. And in international surrogacy, that is even another level.
RD: Well, that’s right. I think every now and then we hear we hear people say, and I think I hear you said this where there was a time or even now where people think that sorgas we rich people just wanting to make it easy. It’s not really it’s a lot of planning. I find that the desire to become parents is fundamental. And so I started helping my same experience to start a family. And that’s how I became involved in doing these very specialised work. So I have seen them different.
I call it different combinations. So obviously, I am also very grateful that Kim, for example, to Kim and a mutual friend of ours. She discovered me in a sense, I find that if you do your job properly and then it’s just a matter of time before people we hear about what you do and that’s how I become the Mr surrogacy in terms of migration and citizenship. And it’s very interesting to note that, of course, we do this now for single women. I have seen an increase in heterosexual parents relying on the surrogacy to build a dream family.
And it’s wonderful and a reflection. We in the game lesbian Immigration Task force, especially before when same sex marriage is not recognised and traditional family. And it somehow to say that, well, sometimes it’s hurtful that somehow you are not a suitable parent if they are two dads. And of course, when we speak on conferences and we are the game or who would affiliate in our community, guiding straight parents to their journey of being a parent. I feel like it’s it’s a nice thing, almost like you think that we’re not suitable parents to build a family.
But here we are doing we look.
SP: I remember many years ago when I was right in the Australian Go Lesbian Law blog, and I had this married couple who came in and husband and wife and I said, how did you find me? And from the Internet, I was told, Right, we’re on the Internet. Well, it was he said on that Date website, even I thought he was gonna pass out of that at that moment. But he’d worked out that that was really the only place that there was actually any information. And anyway, family from there.
But I think that was I think over ten years ago. But I think times have certainly changed since then that it’s much more comfort with straight couples talking to again lawyer about a gay migration agent about having babies. I don’t see the same push back as I did so with that client or all those years ago.
RD: That’s right.
SP: And that’s why he had a favourite description about how society’s changed, certainly.
RD: And that’s why I love going to conferences, surrogacy conferences, because you see that family, the concept of family, you feel kind of connected and you just feel that this is building a family could be what holds a family, I think, is the love and the creation of the family. And you wanted to obviously do something for Australia. What did the former Treasurer said that you have to you have a baby for Australia.
SP: That was pretty good. Yeah, that’s right.
RD: So I love going to conferences because the family there that you see, and to also see all those parents that you help. And I’m sure you see many of those. So it’s an extended family, if you like. I called them my God, children all over the place.
SP: So I think a judge put it best. Most of one judges deal with, of course, it’s misery. And I have to made decisions, whether it’s in criminal law or civil law, family law. It’s all about something going wrong and trying to minimise the damage or punish the perpetrator. And this judge, when we went to get a parentage order, so to transfer partage through surrogacy, most of what we deal with as judges is a poor city of parenting. I thought that was very illiterative. I’m in a paucity of parenting, but here we have an abundance of parenting.
RD: That’s right.
SP: She got it right. And at which point he started to cry tears of joy. And he even went further than that. And he said because this was all in Brisbane. And he said, this particular couple, you live in this particular area of Brisbane, and your child might ultimately end up in this child care centre, this particular childcare centre, which is where my granddaughter goes to I thought, wow, and he was just saying it as a matter of pride and joy that this child had been brought into the world just through the actions of this couple, through so the extraordinary actions with joy and love.
But to see a judge cry incourt, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a judge cry in court. I’ve never seen a judge crying court until that day. And those were tears of joy that he was helping this child on their way in the world. And in such a good news story, as opposed to the usual drama that judges have to deal with nothing for you.
RD: Stephen, this is actually a good balance because I call this had a happy, happy family building one because I have done other things. I’ve been to Christmas Island doing all these protection visa. A lot of mystery. There a lot of heartaches, and I tried to protect myself from I need to have a break from heartache. Sometimes. Otherwise I become inured and become numb in the process. But this is a happy visa. I found my calling in uniting family, like how to unite couples together and how they build a family.
It’s a joyful part of work in terms of migration.
SP: That’s why I and it is happy work. But across the Nine Guide Lesbian Immigration Task force, I would hope it’s not just learned to guys and lesbian, so it covers the full rainbow spectrum.
RD: That is correct. I was going to say that we would welcome anybody, but probably it’s not appropriate for me to say that, but yes, we have the learning, for example, so same experience they had to do so Gacy, because that’s the only way to make it happen. It almost like we normalise. It that certainly is my observation. I’m not saying, but I’m not saying I find that the key figures in this movement and helping parents and I would probably count you in that as well. And no doubt your listeners are.
So it’s an honour. I feel that I do my part as well. So I think despite of all the difficulties for us to get to the point where we are now, I feel I feel gratified where things are now with us. And Stephen, every time that I see a family in one frame, especially now when we do a lot of video call, every time that I see a family in one frame on a call, I have a get booze bumps, however many times that happens. And that’s why it’s almost like for me, it’s a ritual.
SP: I think what I love is when I see, because I normally see people before the babies come along. Of course, you see that after the babies come along. But when I see the couple and typically a couple, sometimes it might be a single person and we’re on Zoom or whichever app we use and they had their dog in the background that’s going mad. So you would love a dog, but we want a child or they had their cat wander across the screen in front. They said, yeah, George is a great cat just to think of a name of a cat.
Recently, we actually want to have children. And then when they’ve already had one child and they want to have more or sometimes they had several children, but they want to have another and you see the children, then you go, oh, wow. This is just because they know what they’re in for. Well, sometimes they know what they’re in for when they’ve probably had a child. I think it’s just such a privilege to help.
RD: So it’s very special. And that’s why I say to my clients, and I always say that most of the standard work that we do, it’s easy to say, I’m the first one to say I have no doubt that your child is entitled for citizenship by descent. Oh, that’s not really the value that maybe it doesn’t matter whether we work together or not. It is the experience. I am curious about this because when I was born, my dad, my dad was 67 and my mom was 37. I actually reflect that by right.
They should have had me through surrogacy. Probably I’d turn up normal, but of course, they didn’t have access to that. I’m just glad that they did almost an accident. So anyway, I look back at all my experience and from the time you realised that we are not born complete and that crucial, one year or even longer the formative years, I say to parents, you know, you have waited for this for years and years and years enjoy it, because if they’re worried, we think of some parents that are stuck.
I know it’s only three months or so, but I don’t know about you, Stephen, because you certainly know more about this than me. The bonding, the chance to bond with your child, I feel is precious. You cannot.
SP: Absolutely. It’s the glue that holds me together. Just so lucky to be up here. I couldn’t imagine having my life with that, being a parent and I do just such a joy. It’s got all those challenges being a parent. Well, you’ve got to change nappies, never fun, never fun. Sometimes not as much fun as others. But you’ve always got to change nappies, at least in the early stages.
RD: It is daunting because I think we had this fashion before, Roman, when you’re going to start your own family and not to say that I’m going to follow what my dad did because he had me when I was 67. But I’m still trying to let the child in me grow up.
SP: My we might finish on it on an uplifting note. What would you be, your Pearl of wisdom? Aside aside from still wanting to grow up?
RD: Yes, certainly in terms of the work that we do, it’s not very low wisdom, really. I suppose message that parents need to hear is part of the fact that I have available. I said that my opposite of the Department, the decision makers. And I said the other day that I hate and I love them in equal measure. I need to say to you that they are just like you and I their parents as well. They’re really there to help. They want to help. Yeah, I have never come across anyone I most like, like the vest.
So when there’s a baby. But of course, there are things that they need to do. And I find that if I find that once we understand that, then the process is easier, then it gets more of a collaborative approach. So I think it’s important to remember that that certainly is my approach with the Department.
SP: More persuasion, the message I’m hearing from you is that they have people, too.
RD: That is correct. That is correct. And I think the last one really is just understanding that understanding that it’s an evidence driven. So they say evidence driven. And that’s why we need to understand that with immigration is always proving the obvious. And I always say to parents, that is part of my claim. Part of what I’m saying is that the Pope is Catholic. We would need his baptismal certificate.
SP: Or is it one of our judges but say evidence, not assertion. And the devil is in the detail?
RD: That’s right. That’s right. And so I made a career out of. Well, I think I spoiled them because that’s the only way I could make a difference.
SP: Fantastic. Yes. Roman Diana from Farm Migration thank you for joining me today in today’s episode of The Australian Family and Facile Law Podcast. Thank you.
RD: You’re most welcome. Stephen, nice to talk to you.
Outro: Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate. Reaching out to Stephen at pageprovan.com.au.