Celebrants – what is and what ought to be. #3


What is happening?
What should be happening?

There are about twenty or so celebrant organisations – divided and ineffective. Some are run by “new” enthusiastic celebrants who, as yet, do not know anything.
In the past the Registrar and the Senior Public Servants have –

–  engineered this division on the “divide and conquer” theory.

–  have told various Attorneys-General that it is the fault of celebrants.

–  made all organisations ineffective buy tactical obfuscation (“Yes, we will note that”, “Yes, we will take that on board.” “That seems worth considering” etc etc).

What should happen. – There should be one, two, or at the most three celebrant organisations.  The elected representatives should be listened to and encouraged to provide constructive feedback from the coalface. This could easily be achieved as follows.
The Attorney-General (supported by his public servants) simply strongly and directly asks that celebrants come together. If this fails (and it won’t) he could require that an advisory committee (of say 10) celebrants be formed by preferential senate-like voting with whom he can consult, and then he should listen to no other organisation in an official capacity.


The original Registrar, in punitive mode, conducted these reviews from paperwork submitted. Farcically, against all established norms, no performance i.e in the conduct of a ceremony – was ever on the radar.

What should happen. – Performance Reviews of celebrants should be conducted by respectful and carefully selected peer celebrants. The primary assessment should be on the quality of the ceremony conducted – and the legal  obligations in connection with the ceremony. It should be constructive, encouraging and a contribution to genuine professionalism and service to the public.

This has been a good initiative, and on balance has done a certain amount of good – BUT the appointment of trainers (non-celebrants) has been unjust and unintelligent.

What should happen. – Creeping legalism has made most celebrants, but especially those who lack a good general education, paranoid about unimportant points of law. It has contributed to ignorance and a counter-productive preoccupation on the law and procedures, instead of the main responsibility of serving the public with ceremonies which have meaning, beauty and substance..

Celebrants – what is and what ought to be. #2


What is happening?  What should be happening?

There should not be a Registrar of Marriages. That such excessive power is given to a Public Servant militates against democracy, and transfers responsibility from the elected representative to an unelected bureaucrat – most of whose decisions cannot be appealed against.
Section 39 of the Act, listing all the powers of the Registrar, is an obscene intrusion from the Downgrading of 2003.
Other more important responsibilities of the Attorney-General are not under the control of a “Registrar”.
To have a “Registrar”, written into law, lets the elected Attorney-General off the hook – so he can wipe his hands and go out to dinner. (“Someone else’s problem”)

What should happen –  Section 39 should be returned to what it was before the Downgrading. Appointments of public servants should be by internal arrangement of the department and should not have any force in law. The Attorney-General should take responsibility foo his portfolio.
Celebrants, especially those who have experience and a good track record in ceremonies, and with years of experience, should be consulted and involved in decisions.
Sometimes, offensively, after the main decisions are made the Registrar consults some celebrants about fringe  and minor decisions thus pretending to consult. Pretending to consult is an offence against the public service Code of Conduct and should be punished.[3]

These are all given to Canprint without consideration of anyone else e.g. printing of marriage certificates – no one else can quote – no one else can tender.

What should happen -Tenders and contracts and retail rights should be offered to all reputable contractors.

Funding is never given to celebrants but excessive funding e.g. goes to Relationship Educators and Counsellors. Some time ago celebrants in Australia recently received a box of DVDs on Relationship Education which were not up to standard – we received them without briefing – without explanation. [4] They will simply be thrown out by most celebrants. [5]

What should happen – Funding should be given to celebrants on a careful basis. For example, of the millions of dollars spent preventing our high rate of Youth Suicide, celebrants should have been given a fee per adolescence ceremony aimed at strengthening the bonds between the disconnected teenager and their family, friends and community – expressing love, support and encouragement. Funding should go to celebrants to develop community ceremonies which strengthen bonds within the community, express, rein force and transmit the best of society’s values, and which help form a culture.


Celebrants – Leadership, Numbers, Training. #1


What is happening? What should be happening?

It is difficult to conceive of a government program that has been more mismanaged than the Civil Celebrant Program. Now is the time to attempt to try to fix it and get it right. We have a new Attorney-General and some new and, it seems, courteous public servants. ————————————————————————————————
LEADERSHIP – we haven’t had any – we haven’t even had an attempt at genuine interest or understanding for many years. Without a vision, the people perish. Nothing good can possibly happen until people in power take a real and genuine interest.

What should happen– the Attorney General and the public servants should cease the games of the past, and the dismissals of our concerns in the past, and assist us bring quality ceremonies to the Australian people. —————————————————————————————————
NUMBERS There is an excessive number of Celebrants. 1600 was enough, 2000 would be plenty, 2500 would be excessive – but we have 10,500! Also read this blog on The Numbers

What should happen –
There should be an immediate and indefinite Moratorium on appointments, and a program of reducing numbers begun immediately. There should be  balanced number of celebrants so that the public gets a sufficient and wide choice and celebrants themselves have a chance to develop and maintain skills and be given the chance to believe in what they are doing. In the first place The Attorney-General should ask every celebrant who was duped into applying on the promise of big and plentiful money, to resign. That should be the  first move. There are a number of other moves after that which could be made. ———————————————————————————————————— TRAINING
Most celebrants, in general, are badly trained in law and have virtually no training in ceremony.

What should happen – Celebrants should be trained especially well in ceremony and in law.
———————————————————————————————————— SYLLABUS AND METHOD OF TRAINING The syllabus for the training is inadequate and focussed too heavily on legal matters. Nationally Registered Training, based on the profit motive, compels the owners of RTOs to teach the least amount they can get away with, so that they can lower prices, and beat the competition. As such it is a failed and flawed system inherently and inexorably driven to lower and lower standards and thus internally programmed to self-destruct. Against all advice, previous Attorneys- General opened up to this  “Nationally Registered Training”.

As well as the basic deficiency mentioned above it is, as far as resources go, a leaderless, oppressively bureaucratic, and fractured-among-the-states system.  It is a  system open to exploitation. The “course” for celebrants, originally two years part time at Monash University, was gradually reduced to five, four, three, and finally two days, taught mostly, for seven years after the Downgrading of 2003 by non-celebrants. There now is a “Certificate IV” but it is still in the same system subject to the same inbuilt weaknesses.

What should happen – The syllabus, which the department, with some excellent public servants, got right in 1995, was badly diminished in the Downgrading of 2003. It should be taught by celebrant/educationists with proven skills in creating and delivering ceremonies, as well as the correct legal procedures. Such courses should be independently assessed and rated by properly briefed and genuine teachers who are not part of the current self defeating system. The training of celebrants should be adequate and more than adequate. It should be aimed not just “competence” in law  but in really high and professional standards in the creation of ceremonies, and with an awareness of the deep psychological and lasting good effects in the lives of individual and in the cultural infrastructure of society.

Celebrants: Bad Management: Excessive numbers

A celebrant friend wrote the following to me about the tragedy of Civil Marriage Celebrant Program and the results of Bad Management

The so called training institutions are spewing out some terrible so called celebrants – we have a couple here who do not understand the regulations at all – one recently conducted a surprise wedding (supposed to be a housewarming and the couple were married, to the groom’s surprise) and another conducts weddings without the 31 mandatory waiting period.The Goat Track.JPGWhen I discussed it with one of them the reaction was – oh, don’t be like that – rules are meant to be broken!! If I don’t do it, someone else will!!
It is about money, not rules and ethics and codes of conduct.
A videographer recently dropped off 4 weddings conducted by celebrants both here and in (town mentioned) – I was horrified as I watched them and it would have been a comedy show akin to Fawlty Towers or Big Girls Blouse if it was not a couples most special day.
There were scenes in some of them that you would have thought had been based on Monty Python.
“My town” is really beautiful, in spite of the 21 celebrants who roam around with their cars signwritten like a local plumber!!
Name and address Supplied!

I mentioned the report (with my friend’s permission) on Facebook. I received these comments:-

  • Nicole  What about celebrants who can’t pronounce simple words, speak with a lisp or make jokes in bad taste?
    You may now kiss the groom – I’m sure you’ve had plenty of practice with the best man.”

  • Jan  – we could write a book of the stories we’ve heard (including funeral celebrants)

  • Bill  This so frightfully common around Australia. What a disgrace, no amount of correspondence to the AG or registrar makes any difference. There are so many bad trainers in the system, in all MC training and even worse delivering opd, these trainers fail with one approved trainer and move to the next taking all of their inadequacies as trainers with them. Dally messenger lit a lamp with Lois D’Arcy and Lionel Murphy so let’s keep the lamp burning with honesty, justice and education integrity.