Surrogacy in the Northern Territory is neither legal or illegal. This is because there are no surrogacy laws in the Northern Territory at all. All the States and the ACT have their own surrogacy laws, but the NT has none.
Does this mean you cannot pursue surrogacy in the Northern Territory? Well, if you are an intended parent living in the NT, you can pursue surrogacy overseas, as many Australian intended parents do. But you cannot enter into a formal, recognised surrogacy agreement in the Northern Territory, because there is no such thing. Some Territorian intended parents relocate interstate to pursue surrogacy, where they can access the laws of that State.
A woman living in the Northern Territory can be a surrogate for anyone living outside the Northern Territory. There are logistical issues with such an arrangement however, as she will need to travel to the intended parents’ home State for treatment, including for counselling (some counselling can be done by Skype, but not always). The embryo transfer will need to happen interstate. The surrogate also needs to travel to the intended parents’ State for the birth, which could mean spending 4-8 weeks or more away from her home and family.
If a surrogate gives birth in the Northern Territory, the Birth Certificate will list her and her partner as the legal parents. As there are no surrogacy laws in the Northern Territory, there is no mechanism to apply for a Parentage Order to transfer parentage from the surrogate team to the intended parents. The parties could consider an adoption process or applying for Parenting Orders (not to be confused with Parentage Orders) to provide them with parental responsibility of the child.
The good news is that there are people in the Northern Territory who want to pursue surrogacy, either as intended parents or surrogates. The NT Surrogacy Advocacy Group is active and petitioning the NT Government to introduce surrogacy laws. Rebecca, a Darwin woman who is a surrogate, has been very active and advocating for law reform in the NT, and we did a Podcast interview together about surrogacy in the NT. At a meeting in early 2019, a representative from the NT Attorney General’s Office advised us that they are willing to consider introducing surrogacy laws in the NT, so fingers-crossed it’s a matter of when, not if.
If you are in the NT, I encourage you to get behind the NT Surrogacy Advocacy Group. And watch this space for updates about surrogacy laws in the NT.