Celebrants: Excessive number of civil celebrant appointments is totally destructive.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Memo: To Public Servants and Associations

Meeting on October 28th, 2019. 

Re the Number of Celebrants and
the sustained deluging of the market.

Dear Public Servants and Associations,

I am still alarmed that no discussion seems to be allowed on the one and the most important problem which is so destructive of the celebrant program – that of excessive numbers.

I keep my ear to the ground and talk to celebrants and the general public all the time.  There are a few quite wonderful celebrants, who by dint of skilled advertising on the internet and good reputation, manage to gain enough ceremonies to earn a part time income. There are a few  celebrants who are so well off financially that they are able spend a great deal of money to hire internet skills.  

The majority of celebrants, however, struggle to gain one or two ceremonies a year and when they do, through lack of practice, they forget the skillset needed and the procedures required. The public suffers from their lack of ceremonial expertise.

I am impelled to repeat the points I have made before. There are so many bad effects of these excessive numbers. 

  • Celebrants who used to be involved have lost interest; the energy they used to give to celebrancy, now goes to other activities.
  • All the work done with Ongoing Professional Development is mostly wasted because it is not applied. And by the time it might be applied it is forgotten.
  • In some areas over-competition has become really intense. Degrading and false claims in advertising abound. As a result we have lost status and dignity in the community.
  • Celebrants who outbid each other in price for ceremonies, find ways to lower standards. They find it impossible to put their time in to plan and execute a ceremony really well. These celebrants find it is not financially worthwhile to observe the high standards we have developed over many years, if they are not paid reasonably. 
  • Celebrants are thus spread too thin to develop intellectual, political and media leadership. 
  • Some celebrants have developed demeaning “gimmicks” to “get business”.
  • In general, celebrants have lost esteem in the eyes of the general public. I don’t see them looked to now for a range of other personal ceremonies (namings, adolescence, dedication of houses, industry transitions etc.). I don’t see them looked to as skilled ceremonialists for public ceremonies such as Anzac Day, or university and school graduations, building openings and the like. 
    • The good governance reputation of the Attorney-General and the Department, i.e. you, the public service, have been diminished. (Your over-concentration on legal trivia means that you are not concentrating your energies on the essence of the program. The people who pay your salary are only interested in the quality of the ceremony – after the event it is the only thing they discuss.)

THE NUMBERS: This is how I see it.
Before 2003, 1600 celebrants adequately catered for the whole of Australia. 2000 maybe would have been OK.
2500 would have been excessive.
Your destructive predecessors, dear public servants, against all advice, at that time appointed 11,000 !!
A crude bureaucratic fee and compulsory repetition OPD has forced out some wonderful celebrants. Admittedly it has reduced the numbers to 8,500 – still 6,500 too many.
Now, the influx of new celebrants equals or surpasses the ones who are resigning or dying. So we are stuck at this very destructive figure of 8,500.

If you are not insisting that this issue be discussed at your coming meeting, you are not speaking truth to power, and you are wasting each other’s money and time. 

YOUR QUESTION: What would I do?

  • 1. Place a moratorium on all appointments for say 5 years or so. (It was done before.) 
  • Make it clear that any “recognised” qualification only entitles people to apply to be a celebrant. Celebrants  are then only appointed through an independent vetting, selecting and interviewing process, according to balanced need.

(I wish I would have been a public servant — what a wonderful opportunity you have to do something good for the country.)

Respectfully yours with the utmost goodwill, 

Dally Messenger III STB, LCP, BEd, DipLib, ALAA

Currently: Principal of the  International College of Celebrancy
Sometime Lecturer – Victoria University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy)

Sometime Lecturer – Monash University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy)

Foundation President and Administrator of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1994-1999).

Sometime Life Member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1996). 

(Until they abolished Life Members !!)

Life Member – Celebrants and Celebrations Network

Foundation President of the Australian Association of Funeral Celebrants (1978).

Foundation Secretary of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of

Australia (1975-1980).

Author, Ceremonies and Celebrations (4 editions) – a handbook for celebrants.

Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the Civil Celebrant Movement




Mal Abrahamsen

Fellow I.M.A. : Life Member A.I.S.P. Govt. Authorised Marriage Celebrant 🤵
9 MIDDLE ST HADFIELD (nr Glenroy) 3046 
Phone:  (03) 9323 5477  or  Mob 0414 317 340

Excellent, bravo. Good onya Dally. Thank you for the wonderful work you do. 

Yes I totally agree and concur etc. etc.

Yes I too advertise on the web but it seems the costs far outweigh the benefit (if any) 

I rarely receive an inquiry, 

There are many cut price operators e.g. all done in 15 minutes.
I have conducted well over 300 marriages, most are referrals from previous clients.

I agree wholeheartedly that there are too many celebrants. The professional and high standing of Celebrants is suffering via the cheap gougers. 

Cheap prices – Cheap service and sometimes non legal marriages due to the inexperience of the Celebrant. AND a beautiful wedding does not happen.

Tougher licensing is required to avoid the constant erosion of the profile of good Professional Celebrants.  I have attended many OPDs where I have heard some ridiculous questions from attendees that are authorised Celebrants , but obviously have no idea and shouldn’t be seeking to conduct Weddings  until they pass an examination of some substance.  Being a member of a recognised Celebrant association should be compulsory, always a good idea for those that take their services seriously, keeping up to date and want to give their best. Have I been checked… ?

Yes over 11 years ago  I conducted 25 weddings as a trainee, supervised by one of the best Celebrants in Melbourne before I obtained my ‘licence’ to do so.

It is about time that the AG’s department started to take notice of the damage they are creating.

Mal Abrahamsen. Melbourne.

Denise L. Clair

Continue the quest, Dally! You will continue to make a difference.


Celebrants: index to previous blog posts

To be edited.

Civil Celebrants under threat from Phillip Ruddock MP who wants to turn us into old style registry offices.

Celebrants: A Diploma course that focuses on Celebrancy


Celebrants: A Celebrant’s Notebook by Anna Heriot

Celebrants: Leadership from the top, reform Section 39 of the Marriage Act, reverse the monopoly on printing marriage certificates, ensure Funeral Celebrants are not controlled by Funeral Directors, instigate and adolescence ceremony. 

Celebrants: Leadership, excessive numbers. proper Training

Celebrants: Valid Marriages, Disputes, Section 48 of the Marriage Act

Celebrants: The wedding Vows as a compact
Celebrants: The Wedding Vows as a Compact

Celebrants: Meeting with Public Service April14, 2016

Celebrants: Civil Celebrants in New Jersey USA

Celebrants: Signatures on the Decorative Marriage Certificate (Australia)

Celebrants: Civil Celebrant Ceremonies Enrich the Culture and preserve genuine values

Search Ceremony etc etc





Celebrants: The objective, the plan, the vision

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Dear public servants and fellow delegates,

Without a vision, the people perish.

In the last few years I have been looking at your Agendas and Minutes and find myself with a growing feeling of despair. I cannot detect the vision any more.

Let me explain. There are two groups in Australia who are good examples of those who understand deeply what the word “culture” means – the Aboriginal people and the Jewish community. Their lives are full of ceremonies and rituals all year round and all life through. They know who they are, and to whom they belong, because their values and beliefs are enshrined in these events.

Photo: Remi Messenger

When I was young, Christian church attendance dominated the lives of most people. The church and Christian organisations (e.g Boy Scout/Girl Guides, the YMCA, YWCA, YCW, CYO) dominated most Australian lives. The rich rituals and ceremonies of the Christian communities expressed, transmitted and reinforced values (most of them really good and still are), recognised achievements, and communicated self worth. How proud I was as a cub when I was awarded my badge for tying knots, putting up a tent and swimming 50 yards!).

These ceremonies connected communities and celebrated our history (think Anzac Day). Ceremonies helped people adjust to change – the marriage ceremony being an obvious example.

In addition to values, self belief and self worth, I gained a sense of identity (I was a cub, I was catholic, I was an Australian, I was a Messenger). And there’s more —- the Christian religion was full of stories, literature, songs, unbelievably beautiful music, choreography, symbolism, architecture, sculpture (pseudo sculpture!) and  paintings. The whole range of the visual and performing arts were communicated through the churches and their offshoots.

But then, for reasons I won’t go into here, the churches started to take nose dives. Church attendance dropped dramatically.

It was the renowned philosopher / businessman / philanthropist, Gordon Barton, who declared publicly that the biggest challenge facing the western world, in the Australian context, was to create a believable culture to replace the Christian churches. I think he said “filling the cultural vacuum”.

To over-explain. In Barton’s insight, the growing body of secular people needed a culture. They needed ceremonies, rituals, traditions, ceremonial constructs to acknowledge achievement, to engender identity, to establish values, to express the arts.

This has happened to a certain extent, but to my mind the greatest contribution to our secular culture came from our statesman founder, Lionel Murphy. He used his position as Attorney-General in the Whitlam government to enrich Australian society. He considered the establishment of civil celebrants one of his greatest achievements, if not his greatest achievement. He saw it as a reform that permeated the whole society, which he believed would do substantial and lasting good.

He saw celebrant ceremonies as the base of a rich culture for secular people; a culture that was honest, authentic, flexible, creative, and enriching.  He saw a complex of ceremonies in our society as touching and improving almost every individual, deepening their “spiritual” life.

Legalities were important – and Murphy could easily claim to be our greatest law reformer. But to him, when it came to celebrants, it was the human person who was paramount. He was well aware that happiness depends on how we think about ourselves, how we perceive others think of us, and what we think of of them. The values were psychological, societal, communal, familial, “spiritual”. Ceremonies, which humans have evolved to communicate in the most serious way we can, can achieve these ideals in many different ways and  circumstances. The better the ceremony, the more it achieves its aim.

This was his vision.
So I ask, where is the concern and support for current celebrants to learn to create the full range of meaningful substantive ceremonies?

Dally Messenger III STB, LCP, BEd, DipLib, ALAA

Currently: Principal of the  International College of Celebrancy
Sometime Lecturer – Victoria University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy)

Sometime Lecturer – Monash University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy)
Foundation President and Administrator of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1994-1999).
Sometime Life Member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1996). (Until they abolished Life Members !!)
Life Member – Celebrants and Celebrations Network
Foundation President of the Australian Association of Funeral Celebrants (1978).

Foundation Secretary of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of Australia (1975-1980).
Author, Ceremonies and Celebrations (4 editions) – a handbook for celebrants.
Author, Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the Civil Celebrant Movement.


*<Badges and Awards are presented to Cub Scouts as recognition of their hard work towards a certain aspect of the Cub Scout program. They are based around a wide variety of achievements and activities and generally include one to three levels of achievement. Once received, Cub Scouts are able to proudly display their hard earned badges on their uniforms.>

A Celebrant’s Notebook: by Anna Heriot – Review

Anna Heriot

Anna Heriot

“Here is an author who deeply understands ritual and symbolism.

If you understand what celebrancy is about, the first of September 2003 is a day which makes you put you face in in your hands and weep. This was the day when a group of uneducated, insensitive, unintelligent and rather vicious public servants, endowed with new and extraordinary government sanctioned powers, set out, knowingly or unknowingly, to destroy the civil celebrant program.

A disillusioned Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, who left the political scene mid-term, must have signed off or approved the changes to the Marriage Act – changes which gave extraordinary new powers to these empire building pubic servants.

The first thing they did was to destroy our worldwide, and uniquely recognised title and identity as “civil celebrants”. Unbelievably, they jumbled us up with the “fringe” clergy (small churches, breakaway religious splinter groups, neo-ethnic religions and the like). 

But it gets worse, celebrancy became a world of overblown legalisms, concocted but baseless legal problems, many of which were  unworkable in practice and erroneous in law. 

But it gets worse still, these “reforms” (god, how I hate that word) stopped a wonderful community program in its tracks. Since that time from the Attorney-General’s department – or rarely from the associations or “training organisations”, I have never seen the words “music”, “poetry”, “story-telling”, “choreography”, “symbolism”, “literary quotations”, “visual arts”, “community bonding”, “relationship strengthening” ,”transmission of values”, “recognition of achievements”, “the power of ritual” – and on and on.

I have put my face in my hands many times since and anguish “Oh, for some understanding, some depth!”

And then along comes Anna Heriot’s book. Talk about fresh air. Not a word about Google, not a word about marketing, not a word about legalisms, not a word about the ever perfectible Notice of Intended Marriage. But here we have a book about people, about ceremony, about resolving issues and communicating and enriching humanity through ritual. 

Anna’s book is divided into three parts. The first part is an appreciation of the history of celebrancy and the main issues which were faced by the founding father. She tells the tale of Lionel Murphy and the issues of love and hate, religious domination of the institutions of society, religious conflict between Catholics, Protestants and to some extent, Jews. Issues of misogyny, social exclusion of divorced women, equality, and most of all, divorce and re-marriage. She lauds the Family Law Act  and civil celebrancy as the means by which persons regained self-respect  and justice through the law.

The second part of Anna’s book focusses on her understanding of secular ritual. She relates her own experiences to Arnold Van Gennep (“The Rites of Passage”) and quotes the philosopher Xunxi from the third century AD.

The meaning of ritual is deep indeed.
He who tries to enter it with the kind of perception that
distinguishes hard and white, same and different, will drown there.

The meaning of ritual is great indeed.
He who tries to enter it with the uncouth and inane
 theories of the system-makers will perish there.

The meaning of ritual is lofty indeed.
He who tries to enter with the violent and arrogant ways of
those who despise common customs and consider
 themselves to be above other men
will meet his 
downfall there.

In the practical sense she illustrates the necessary skills of profoundly attentive listening and animated creative writing of unique ceremonies.

The third part of the book is, in my opinion, the best. It is her stories of her own experiences with people for whom she has been challenged to create ceremonies which have the power and effectiveness to change lives for the better. She calls these stories “vignettes”. 

Here are some first sentences.

“They had started to think, in desperation, they would just have to elope …”

“The bride had married twice in her teens. Two “boofheads” her dad called them …”

“They met through music, and liked each other immediately…”

“This is the heading of the email she circulates, “No more miracles,  I am preparing to die ….”

“Her mother suicides in the city at the age of 53, when she is a teenager…”

“Her twin girls died at birth …”

You get the idea. The book is about the creative challenge of the sensitive compassionate celebrant in the real world. 

by Dally Messenger III

The Title of the book is “A Celebrant’s Notebook”, writer and publisher, Anna Heriot 2018 (edited by Emily Buster). RRP $29.95 ISBN9780-646-98048-5 Hardback. Available from —  annaheriot.com.au – or it could be soon available from the Celebrants Centre – 1300 446 786

Civil Celebrant Ceremonies Enrich the Culture and preserve genuine values


Dear Attorney General
I have just finished watching the Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne Dawn Anzac services on television.
The woman surgeon who spoke at the Canberra Dawn Service and the other woman surgeon who spoke at the Melbourne Dawn Service movingly articulated the ideals in which they believed – such a contrast to Australian life as we currently observe it.

These Dawn Anzac ceremonies were top illustrations of how ceremonies are meant to preserve our values. The civil celebrant program for which you have responsibility was not established by your predecessors for occasional use, but was instigated to permeate Australian life on all its occasions to express, inter alia, the values we acknowledge as good. Every family , every community is enriched and stabilised by ceremonies and rituals great and small. This need in our culture has become more acute as church attendances have declined dramatically. In short, Mr Porter, we civil celebrants were established to build and enhance a culture, wherein, at ever level of society, our best ideals were expressed, transmitted and reinforced.

Unfortunately, your predecessors have let us and the country down badly. September 1st 2003 was a sad day for celebrants. On that day our whole purpose was changed from creating the best ceremonies for the Australian public to a preoccupation with a mass of legal trivia.

In brief, the market was super-flooded with so many badly educated celebrants that original ideals were lost, understanding of the role became almost non-existent, and pre-occupation with ceremonies for the whole spectrum of human life was replaced with celebrant organisations seeking members, celebrant “trainers” without ethics, and individuals grovelling to a public servant, who over-asserted her authority, and who demanded strict adherence to her destructive ideas.
It is important to run a good country – good governance as we call it. It is important to develop a culture which supports decency, values, and principles. Civil ceremonies are one of the main means we have to influence society for the better.

Until that tragic day in 2003, Australia led the western world on civil ceremonies. Civil celebrants were abolished on this day and jumbled up with an unwilling clergy — a situation in law you have the power to rectify.

Lest this letter get too long to read, and just incase you are interested in this program, I have two recommendations for starters.

Recommendations for starters–

1. That in the next meeting of your representatives with celebrants the topic of excessive numbers should not be passed over until action is planned to begin solving the problem. My recommendation is a full or part moratorium on appointments – and a waiting list. As a partial moratorium, say, one appointment for every four who leave the list. (This has been done before.)

2. Then once something concrete has been decided about no.1 above – the meeting should discuss purpose. Similarly the meeting should not be allowed to continue until they have progressed towards expanding and encouraging the range and quality of the ceremonies which our society so badly needs.

3. My impression of your current staff is that they are decent people without the malice we have experienced in the past. But you as Attorney- General should not tolerate in the marriage celebrant section staff any public servant who does not understand and support the purpose of the civil celebrant program and who sincerely wishes, according to the highest ideals of the public service, to progress it.

Mr Porter, there is nothing better you could be doing for Australia, for its lasting good, than using your influence to enrich the culture of this country. The civil celebrant program began this way, and continued this way for a long time. I defy you to name anything in your portfolio of responsibilities, which is more important than the spiritual life of the nation itself.
With sincere good wishes for success in your portfolio. Yours sincerely

Dally Messenger III STB, LCP, BEd, DipLib, ALAA

Currently: Principal of the International College of Celebrancy
Sometime Lecturer – Victoria University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy) Sometime Lecturer – Monash University – Graduate Diploma in Arts (Celebrancy) Foundation President and Administrator of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1994-1999).
Life Member – Celebrants and Celebrations Network
Sometime Life Member of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (1996).
(Until they abolished Life Members !!)
Foundation President of the Australian Association of Funeral Celebrants
Foundation Secretary of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of
Australia (1975-1980).
Author, Ceremonies and Celebrations (4 editions) – a handbook for celebrants.
Author, Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the Civil Celebrant Movement

PS. In case I am maligned. I consider legalities are important, and I have always advocated exactness in the recording of marriages, and practised it with exactness in my own celebrancy. But it is not the main game – ceremonies are!

Dally Messenger

This is the reply I received via our representative at the Meeting with the Attorney General’s representatives

As Yvonne Werner will testify, I raised your recent letter to the AG with the MCLS staff at the associations meeting here in Canberra yesterday. They said they had read it. Nonetheless I raised the point of oversupply & moratorium in front of all. They simply said that the law says that if a qualified fit & proper person applies the Registrar has to appoint. ‘A moratorium or a delay (4 to 1) in appointments will not happen.’  I tried. Hope you are well. Charles 😎👍🏼

My Note: In the past The Marriage Act and the Regulations, especially those which oppressed celebrants, were changed in the blink of an eye.

OPD 2017 -Friday May 27, Docklands Library

http://www.icccelebrantopd.com.au – 1300 446 786 (Yvonne) 

dallymessenger@mac.com   – 0411 717 303 (Dally

http://www.icccelebrantopd.com.au – 1300 446 786 (Yvonne) 

dallymessenger@mac.com –  Dally  – 0411 717 303

Civil Celebrant or Commonwealth Registered Celebrant?

Section 39 of The Marriage Act in Australia should be changed back so as to clearly distinguish clergy from Civil Celebrants. The destructive change in 2003 should be seen for what it is – an attempt to destroy the civil celebrant program and a wonderful uniquely Australian social innovation.

Students of the International College met at Circular Quay in Sydney

Students of the International College met at Circular Quay in Sydney

How very distressing to see these wounds opened up. But maybe opening this wound up it can be healed!

From the beginning we were “civil marriage celebrants” or “civil celebrants”. In 1977. When the dispute about what we should do emerged, the founding Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, weighed in to publicly state (he was then a Judge of the High Court) that civil celebrants were to officiate at all the ceremonies the non-church world needed, in those days marriages, funeral and namings. We were to be seen as enriching the culture in every way we can.

In perhaps the most catastrophic day in the history of Civil Celebrancy, Sept 1 2003, a group of ignorant and/or malicious public servants in the Attorney-General’s Department ravaged the Civil Celebrant program by jumbling up civil celebrants with the fringe clergy. This was  a surprise change never envisaged, a change the clergy did not want, and we civil celebrants did not want.

We were stripped of our proud title of “Civil Celebrants” and cast into the dishonest and limited world of legal trivia and fear administration, which ignored 30 years of cultural and legal precedent. This recalcitrant act partly destroyed the vision of Lionel Murphy.

Since this catastrophic day I have been sick in the stomach regarding what passes for training in celebrancy.  We now have the ignorant setting syllabi for the new and untrained.

With due modesty may I ask members of this forum to read my book “Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: a History of the Civil Celebrant Movement”. It is well reviewed as “readable”. The history of celebrancy should be essential in every course of training. You can get the book from Yvonne on 1300 446 786. You can get it as an ebook on iBooks or at Amazon/Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Murphys-Law-Pursuit-Happiness-Celebrant-ebook/dp/B00GSYEDFK?ie=UTF8&keywords=Murphy%27s%20Law%20and%20the%20Pursuit%20of%20Happiness&qid=1384990080&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

If participants have some accurate information, we can then have the facts which will lead to discussions, which will lead to progress in the form of information — and inspiration to be better celebrants.

Finally, may I ask all celebrants to campaign strongly with the Attorney-General to restore our proud title of “Civil Celebrants” and restore our original purpose of being top class ceremony providers, and to rescue us from the morass of legal trivia which now passes for celebrancy.

Dally Messenger

Celebrants Meeting with Public Service April14, 2016

Charles FoleyUnofficial report of Attorney-General’s Department – Celebrant Associations Meeting 

Thursday 14 April 2016 9 AM to 2 PM

Courtesy of Charles Foley – Humanist Network Representative

  1. Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed attendees to the meeting between the Attorney-General’s Department and representatives from various celebrant associations.

Attendees:  There has been an internal re-organisation of the MLCS’ division and location.

Some of the staff of MLCS whose names I can remember from Attorney-General’s Dept

Greg , First Assistant Secretary.  Chair of meeting until about 1 PM so some agenda items were taken out of order.

Kelly Williams, Assistant Secretary,
Kim Williams, Principal Legal Officer,

Rohan Verco, Assistant Director, Marriage Law and Celebrants Section

Janine McFarlane, A/g Senior Legal Officer, Marriage Law and Celebrants Section

Rachel Trow, Project Officer, Marriage Law and Celebrants Section

Georgie Leahey-Butler, Project Officer, Marriage Law and Celebrants Section

  1. Action Items from last meeting

They handed out a list of 11 items that included removing the requirement that the Declaration of No Impediment be on reverse of Official Certificate of Marriage.  This will be added to list of potential future legislative amendments. There were various comments regarding the ongoing forms review.  Two items were completed by Attorney-General s email on 4/12/15.

  1. Cost recovery and regulator performance update

There was $35,000 left over from last year’s budget. It was projected that the $240 annual fee will stay the same on 1 July 2016 for 2016/17.  Updated procedures regarding payment were presented.  The Portal payment preference was discussed — with 30 days to pay the fee.  Celebrants should check the portal in early July.  The invoice becomes a receipt on the portal. Civil Celebrants are now at a steady number steady of 8,700. (926 Celebrants resigned.  A statistics sheet was handed out.)

  1. Annual Registration process for 2016-17

Exemption procedures were discussed.  The Notice of deregistration has been extended to 21 days.  The Annual fee will be pro rata for new celebrants. Last year 200 were deregistered and 6 went to Administrative Appeals Tribunal .  All the de-registrations were upheld by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The four panel members (i.e. current providers) arrangement expires on 31 Dec 2016. 94% of celebrants completed OPD.  There were 303 disciplinary measures.  13 were de-registered for not completing OPD for several years.  Some were suspended for 3 months — their explanations were eventually accepted.  128 were cautioned. (some new celebrants in their first year got wrong advice or misunderstood the requirements …).
Future OPD.
Would the 5 hours continue? Should there be more options for the compulsory part?  Should we stay with same providers?  This will be considered in a discussion paper in May/June.  Marriage Law and Celebrants Section (MLCS) is looking at removing Marriage Regulation 37M(6) (OPD and Cert IV completed before 1/7/10).

  1. Communications – Newsletters/Fact sheets

There are 3 new fact sheets on the website (handed out) and in late April/early May a new Newsletter will be issued.

  1. Certificate IV changes

The New Vocational Education and Training (VET) Certificate IV in Celebrancy will be tougher. It will cost an estimated $4000. The four current marriage units will be folded into 3 units. The RTOs were shocked at this! It will mean that the competencies will be onerous and very much harder; there will be way too much to do. It will require far more assessment days.  They stated that this may be an “unreasonable barrier” to entry into Marriage Celebrancy.   It should be at Diploma level.

MLCS says the de-registered who have the current Certificate IV can still re-register under certain conditions.  MLCS staff say this is not in their hands, as they have no control over the VET process.  Mention was made by one participant regarding lack of input and hence the unsatisfactory outcome.  I raised point that if it is so difficult that many or most will not  get into celebrancy for the foreseeable future because of the cost, and the high hurdles. The regulator (MLCS) will have a numbers and cost recovery problem. Certificate IV is a legislative requirement of entry for Civil Celebrants. (I noted that the National Party has as a platform policy that all recognised religious celebrants be required to have a Certificate IV in Celebrancy to solemnise marriages.)

  1. Forms Review

MLCS went to all BD&Ms discussing inconsistencies.  Associations will be consulted about these inconsistencies in July/August.  The Bureau of Statistics has asked MLCS to discuss what information is actually needed on the forms.  Ms Kelly Williams is working on the Form Review.  The Attorney-General told a Senate Estimates session that amendments to the Marriage Act will be eventually available.

  1. Celebrant Portal update 

Celebrants are advised to regularly look at the portal and not just when paying once a year.   There was a slide show on the portal changes. “We are always trying to improve communication”.  ”Information in the Newsletter there to be read”.  “When invoices on portal are paid, then it will be automatically replaced by a receipt.”

  1. Marriage Regulations review

Regulations with “sunset” life expire on 17 April 2017.  New or updated regulations require consultation with associations as stakeholders, and will be asked for comments.

  1. Conflict of Interest (CoI) 

MLCS is working on a paper with 4 options:

  • Maintain current policy;
  • Have a narrow range of items that can be sold:
  • Have a wide range of items:
  • Scrap all requirements entirely.

All will be based on Case Law, AAT decisions (as advisory, as they do not set a precedence).  Problems may only come with a “high standard of misbehaviour” due to the Code of Practice calling for high standard of professionalism, so the discussion paper needs to balance/juggle many concepts — to be accountable and defendable in any Administrative Appeals Tribunal case/appeal.

  1. Workforce Development (CoCA to lead)

Yvonne Werner, representing CoCA, took us through history of numbers and the current statistical reality.  She painted a picture of declining expertise resulting in an increase of questions to Associations, BD&Ms and the MLCS.  She pointed out that there had been an 82% drop in expertise, lower expectations, loss of legal knowledge, and much lower incomes for all Civil Celebrants.  Her conclusion as that most celebrants are “volunteers” for the department after all the costs of doing this work are factored in.

MLCS countered with statistics from a sample of civil celebrants who had an average term of staying for 8 years, and had an average age of 42.

  1. Update on Complaints/AAT cases/Prosecutions

There had been 30 complaints, mostly from celebrants about other celebrants, and mostly about conflict of interest.  One notorious prosecution was held in the Brisbane Magistrates Court regarding an ex-celebrant husband/wife team on an immigration “Contrived Marriage” case.  There were 5 applications to the AAT with 4 resolved by celebrants withdrawing after discussions (Conciliation? Mediation?). One applied out of time (3 month limit) so the Administrative Appeals Tribunal refused to hear it and it was dissolved.  There are no criminal proceedings against Celebrants at present.

Charles Foley

Humanist Celebrant Network Representative to Attorney General’s Department.

OPD at Docklands Library May 27, 2016

Ongoing Professional Development

Dally Messenger and Yvonne Werner

– Docklands Library* (The Dock)
Friday May 27, 2016 – – 9.30am-12.30pm
Poetry – the Power of Words in the Marriage Ceremony & 1.30pm-3.30pm Compulsory Legal Topic

Dear Friend


Then seek not sweet, the “if” and “why”
I love you now until I die
For I must love, because I live,
And Life in me is what you give.”

The main purpose of ceremony is serious communication. We want to do this in a powerful way. The main way we communicate is with words. “Poetry”, according to Matthew Arnold, “is the best words in the best order” . So why would we ever use mediocre words in any order?

ICC Diplomas

Are you interested in deepening
your knowledge of celebrancy?

We are the best on the planet!

It costs you nothing to try us out.

(Look for the Star on the Home page (http//:iccdiplomas.com))

The Full National OPD Schedule (http://www.icccelebrantopd.com.au)
Place: **Docklands Library- 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands
Car: Parking in Woolworths off Bourke St, just past Merchant St (buy stuff for parking discount).
Trams: 48 and 11 take you to the door. (Last stop on the line.)
Train: to Southern Cross Station, then catch the free tram (11 or 48) down Collins St to the Docklands Library.
Library Coffee Shop available for breaks.
Lunch is supplied — at Vintam’s Bakery, 109  /111 Merchant St, Docklands.
By phone to Yvonne Werner at 1300 446 786 — Email us
Our websites – Portal – www.celebrancy.com