Notes taken at OPD meeting, 20 April 2012
AGD Esther Bogaart (Chair), Angela Tsongas, Lisa Hinder
Gordon TAFE Sarah Norris, Michael Menton
AssentTECS Leslie Mackee, Carol Marcroft
Australian Celebrations Training Beth O’Brien, Mark Reid
CoCA Ann Wilkinson (Ian Deegan unable to attend)
Update on Program Reforms from MLCS
Brief summary – there was nothing new
Discussion following MLCS Presentation
· All providers reported that their enrolments are down significantly. AssentTECS reported that for their work with one major association (I assumed AFCC) last year they conducted 8 sessions, this year have only been contracted for 5 – at this stage. They are aware and afraid that there could be a sudden rush at the end of the year. Celebrants report that they do not wish to enrol until they hear about the fee. Beth reported that she has found that those attended are obsessed by the fee. GordonTAFE said that they are concerned of their ability to deliver at the end of the year if this trend continues and advised AGs to send a message to all celebrants that the fee is under discussion and to give a time line. Also to advise celebrants to do their OPD.
· Related to this discussion, providers were interested to know if CoCA has evidence of a decreasing size of associations. I said we would let them and MLCS know.
· This led to a discussion about the administration of OPD. Trainers stated that celebrants know colleagues who have not done OPD and got away with it – for up to 5 years, and usually not until a performance review is carried out. Trainers were critical of MLCS system with OPD compliance. MLCS explained their need to follow due process but it really sounded as if at this point in time it is beyond them until they have a better data base.
· AssentTECS reported that no past Centre Link students have ever finished a Cert 4.
Celebrant Issues and Feedback
· CoCA report. I indicated that I would speak to the points raised in the CoCA report – sent to AGs before the meeting. None of the 3 AGs staff present seemed to have received the report. I was not sure if we had expected them to send it on to OPD providers, but they made it very clear that they would wish to see it in future.
o I undertook to send them the report for this meeting – they were particularly interested in our ideas for OPD. Since the meeting I have discussed this with Robyn who is forwarding it to them.
· Nature and timing of the meeting with providers and MLCS. No-one raised this issue. They all seem to have accepted that the meeting on the morning of the 3rd day is suitable. From my view point, it was a comfortable meeting with reasonable discussion. AssentTECS had the most to say with Gordon TAFE being very quiet.
· Evaluation Forms. I reported that CoCA understood from the last meeting that a compiled report of evaluations would be produced by each provider and sent to MLCS who would periodically send to CoCA. I indicated that we have so far not received anything like this. (I suspect AGs have not received anything either – although no one stated this in so many words).
o I reinforced our recommendation that we would like each of the OPD providers to submit a report and compiled evaluations to MLCS before each meeting of this group, to enable discussion of important matters raised.
o Beth suggested that associations should evaluate OPD sessions independently and send their evaluations to CoCA who would send on to providers. This is happening in some cases. She also asked that Associations tell the trainer that they are doing an independent evaluation of the session.
· OPD Delivery. I raised our view that we would like to see an additional 3 OPD providers in order to better and more flexibly meet the needs of so many adults over a wide geographical area. I made it clear we are not critical of individual providers.
o Providers were adamant that they are able to provide what is required. All raised the fall in OPD enrolments in relation to this.
o In relation to the flexibility of packages they stated that they are prepared to break packages in answer to requests and do this all the time, despite the administrative difficulties involved.
o They were keen to see our suggestions for new topics – these were in the report which they hadn’t received. I spoke briefly about them but by then we were running short of time.
o All providers saw the scope for a broader approach to what counts as OPD
§ Attendance at an association conference
§ Doing the pre-appointment exam as OPD when it comes in
§ Cert 4 units – as in our recommendation in the reforms submission.
o We will need to raise these matters at the next meeting when hopefully our recommendations to MLCS have been considered. Trainers were interested and agreed to talk together about the relationship of Cert 4 units to OPD.
o Distance Learning. Trainers said that they are aware that distance OPD takes a lot of time. They have read and timed the reading required, and as a result have recently reduced the number of exercises included. At the same time, they reported a large number of errors in completion of the NOIM and case studies, even among experienced celebrants.
Panel Issues and Feedback
· Gordon TAFE. Mark reported on their 2 OPD programs.
o Face to face – very positive feedback.
o On-line. Found it a difficult program to bed down but now have it together. 80% feedback from students enjoying it 68.5 saying they would do it again. They observed that the group who do on-line are a younger cohort.
· Australian Celebrations Training. Beth reported
o 96% of face to face and 93% of distance students were returnees.
o Great interest was shown in two new topics – culturally diverse marriages, and marriages for those with special needs.
o Mark Reid (who was the other ACT rep and who is a pastor) conducts OPD for non-aligned. He reported great interest in the OPD by this group, and that civil celebrants have asked to attend as well.
o Concern was expressed by all trainers about over large classes set up by associations, regarded by them as a less positive learning environment. All have fed this concern back to associations. Gordon cap OPD to associations at 30, and the other two at 50. They all cap public courses at 30.
· AssentTECS. Leslie reported
o This year they began OPD sessions in March and not Jan/Feb as in the past as there is little interest early in the year.
o Their largest group is face to face. Association courses are down this year, public courses up.
o Last year they had 164 distance OPD students. They have developed a work book based program which can be done on-line, and is proving popular.
o She reported significant positive feedback on all training.
o This year they have 1000 celebrants doing ‘Marrying people from Overseas’.
Pastor Mark Reid, Australian Celebrations Training
OPD for Independent Religious Organizations
Mark is a pastor of a non-aligned church. He was first a main stream minister in Victoria but increasingly found this did not suit him, so made the change.
He now trains non-aligned ministers for ACT.
He spoke of his concern about the lack of knowledge of the Marriage Act by mainstream ministers (in his experience), and raised the question about how to get training to the mainstream religious celebrants. Estelle responded saying that they are looking at ways to work with BDMs and in that way develop a pathway to the training of clergy.
He has for some time had similar concerns about the lack of knowledge of the non-aligned clergy, and says he is finding their training very fulfilling, and it is well accepted by them.
Mark concluded his talk by offering his opinion about the future fee and the non-aligned clergy. It is his view that it would be an injustice to expect a fee from them as unlike aligned clergy they are seldom on a salary, and usually support themselves by doing other jobs. In addition they don’t charge for weddings – I think he was saying that they can’t. I’m not sure if that’s the case.