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A glossary explaining key surrogacy terms and concepts.

Below is a simplified explanation of some of the terminology used on this site that may be unfamiliar to some readers. State and territory legislation may use different, specific definitions for some concepts.


A process where a woman, known as a surrogate, agrees to carry and give birth to a child on behalf of another person or persons.

Altruistic surrogacy

Surrogacy without commercial reward or profit for the surrogate. Generally, an altruistic surrogacy arrangement can provide for the payment or reimbursement of the surrogate's reasonable costs of trying to become pregnant, being pregnant, giving birth and entering into the surrogacy agreement. States and territories have varied definitions of reasonable costs. Altruistic surrogacy is legal in Australia.

Commercial surrogacy

When a surrogate gets a financial profit, gain or reward for the surrogacy (paid for more than their reasonable costs). This is illegal in Australia. 

In commercial surrogacy arrangements there are also usually brokers who significantly profit, sometimes even more so than the surrogate.

Domestic surrogacy

A surrogacy arrangement where all parties are in Australia.

International surrogacy

A surrogacy arrangement where the surrogate is outside of Australia and the child will come to Australia after they are born. The majority of international surrogacy arrangements are commercial.

Commissioning parent

A person who enters into a commercial surrogacy arrangement for a surrogate to carry a child on their behalf.

Intended parent

A person who enters into an altruistic surrogacy arrangement for a surrogate to carry a child on their behalf.

Surrogacy agreement (or arrangement)

The contract between an intended or commissioning parent, or parents, and a surrogate (and sometimes the surrogate's partner) setting out the terms of the surrogacy. State and territory surrogacy law sets out requirements that must be met for surrogacy agreements in that state or territory.

Legal parentage

Parental responsibility