Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

For the Media

The issues behind these Bills are complex.

What looks like simple 'cost recovery' will ONLY leave approx $200,000 in the Attorney-General's Department's budget for all the legal work related to the Marriage Act 1961. This is a miniscule amount for such an important national over-sighting function.
  • The remainder of $1.8 million (PLUS $0.6 million extra) is to be recovered by independent Commonwealth Celebrants with the annual registration fee as proposed by these Bills.
The Marriage Act 1961 was introduced to bring together all the states and territories laws in place at the time.

It is a simple common sense piece of legislation, that protects the couples from any mistakes the celebrant may make, provided the couple are free to marry.
  • At the time it gave existing rights to the mainstream churches, definition now expanded and called Recognised Religions, and the Registry Offices of the Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • When expanded in 1973 to include independent Commonwealth Marriage celebrants, their appointments were based upon similar principles to the religious and the government of the day set the fee. Then 1995, the provisions changed to allow  independent celebrants to charge their own fees, giving parity to the mainstream religious celebrants who could set their own fees.
  • Even the changes in 2003, except for one exception, where still based upon similar principles to the main-stream religious and registry staff ie an assumption the person would have some relevant pre-appointment training, keep up-to-date with ongoing professional development, would be reviewed by their employer (church or state public service) on a regular bases to ensure they service was satisfactory for  their role. The exception was that Recognised Religious and Registry Staff are chosen on a needs-basis.

    The 2003 changes removed the "Needs Based" appointment for Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants. These changes were based upon a "profession" model of celebrancy, with the intent that the profession would evolve to self-regulation.

    A simple regulatory system of 5 year reviews was put in place based upon the celebrant
    • completing 5 hours of ongoing professional development
    • notifying change of contact details
    • having no serious complaints against them.Unfortunately the government chose too low a training standard (one TAFE unit equivalent) against the advice of the professional celebrant associations, and a far higher number of appointments have been made than envisaged at the time.Instead of holding the 5 year independent Review as planned, the Government has moved to take actions to remove numbers based upon an ability to pay a fee, NOT on performance. This ignores the advice of the peak body CoCA and its associations, and is now poised to add another requirement to maintain one's appointment as a celebrant.
  • The Bills are now set to remove any parity Commonwealth celebrant had with State marriage celebrants, even though both groups perform the same legal function for the government of providing a valid marriage of the couple under the Commonwealth Act
If these Bills are passed, the Marriage Act will remove any parity Commonwealth celebrants have had with State celebrants, and thus provide NO protection for CIVIL  CELEBRANTS even if they are continuing to provide valid marriages.

This is because the Exempted Marriage Celebrants (Recognised Religious and the Registry Office celebrants) are NOT required, as Commonwealth Celebrants are, to have
  • Prior training in marriage law
  • Mandated numbers of hours pa of ongoing professional development, nor
  • To pay an Annual Registration Fee

Thus Commonwealth celebrants can have their services terminate on grounds that do not apply to Exempted Celebrants.

The Marriage Act needs a comprehensive review and modernising to meet the needs of Australia adults in the 21st century.

Thus CoCA recommendations are to have the Marriage Act amended in line with all its recommendations so as to restore parity between the different groups of celebrants OR to reject these Bills and establish a Full Senate Inquiry.

More detailed points are available on our Campaign Now.

Rona Goold
CoCA Secretary.

June 2013

Media Contacts for the Coalition of Celebrant Associations:

Officer Bearers:

CoCA Chair and Media Contact for CoCA
Dorothy Harrison – 08 9495 4092
Vice Chair: Liz Pforr
Secretary: Judy Brooks  – 0417 551 045
Treasurer: Rona Goold – 02 4885 2393 or 0419 498 768
Public Officer: Marion Way

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