Ms Bridget Quayle
Marriage Law and Celebrant Program
3–5 National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
6th March 2018
Re: OPD Compliance 2017
The Coalition of Celebrant Associations (CoCA) has received complaints from a number of celebrants about the official cautions issued to them for apparent non-compliance with 2017 OPD requirements.
CoCA is concerned about this process for the following reasons:
1. Receipt of a Disciplinary Notice without prior warning
Some of these celebrants had completed their OPD but due to an administrative oversight by the relevant OPD provider the completion had not been recorded.
These celebrants were shocked and angry to receive a disciplinary notice stating that an official caution had been placed on their record when they had not been given the courtesy of any prior advice or opportunity to provide evidence that they had completed their OPD obligation.
While these disciplinary notices were quickly withdrawn once the records had been corrected, it is CoCA’s view that it would have been more appropriate to send out “show cause” notices initially.
2. Issue of a caution for “first offenders”
The disciplinary notices indicated that the Registrar was giving a caution to those who had completed their OPD in previous years – thereby indicating that the caution is seen as the appropriate disciplinary action for a “first offence”.
CoCA has previously advised that the appropriate penalty would be to require the celebrant to complete the missed year’s OPD in addition to the current year’s OPD. In part this was because celebrants who do not complete OPD gain a financial advantage over those who meet their obligations and are lacking in the general knowledge of updates to the program. CoCA thought that this was also the Department’s policy as the Minutes of the Department’s Meeting with Associations of 14 April 2016 stated:
The department explained that the previous year’s OPD had to be undertaken in addition to the current year’s requirements. Therefore celebrants were being asked to complete ten or fifteen hours in the one calendar year (not just the compulsory units), as opposed to five hours. Additionally, the department explained that, if appealed, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal expects the department to demonstrate that it has given a celebrant every opportunity to meet their obligations."
CoCA appreciates that departmental policy does change over time and that efforts have been made to streamline processes and finalise the 2017 OPD round earlier than in previous years. However, such efforts must be balanced against the requirements of natural justice.
The celebrants who were wrongly disciplined did not receive natural justice. Similarly all the celebrants who completed their 2017 OPD have been financially disadvantaged compared with those that did not. OPD is a significant financial burden on the many celebrants who do the average of 5-6 weddings a year as well as the time factor in taking a day from their normal activities and in some cases, other paid work. They should not be financially penalised for meeting their obligations.
As the peak body whose role includes advising the department on matters arising from the regulation of Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants, CoCA recommends that the Department reconsider its approach to managing OPD compliance.
We would of course welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you. Please contact Dorothy Harrison, CoCA Chairperson, if you require any further information.
Rona Goold CoCA Secretary
Coalition of Celebrants Association (CoCA) Inc.
Mail: The CoCA Secretary PO Box 3113 Robertson NSW 2577
Phone: 02 4885 2393
Dorothy Harrison CoCA Chair
Coalition of Celebrant Associations (CoCA) Inc.
Mobile: 0419 939 733