Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

The role of Professional Development

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Newer celebrants may assume that the way OPD is delivered to Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants is the way that this has always been delivered and therefore has to be delivered in the future. Not so.

In February 2012, the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section (MLCS) held a workshop with the current OPD providers and CoCA delegates to consider some of the needs, concerns and possibilities for the future.

This is an important issue for all Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants, given that unlike the State appointed Recognised Religious and State Registry marriage celebrants who are not required to do any mandatory OPD, from this year there will be two annual mandatory conditions with financial implications ie
  • the Professional fee  ($240)
  • the 5 hours of OPD ($100 - $195 +)
for all Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants to maintain their appointments. 

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WHAT IS Ongoing Professional Development?

The web links in this issue give some references for exploring the meaning of Ongoing Professional Development (ODP) or Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as it is known in most professions.

Continuing Professional Development aims to increase and update your knowledge, skills and ability to perform your role over the course of your working life, to ensure your knowledge and skills are relevant to newer work, social and other conditions.

 Pymouth University UK makes the following points about OPD/ CPD:
  • We live in a rapidly changing world where legislative, social and economic developments directly affect the environment in which we live and work, and where technological advances provide radically different ways of working.

    So Ongoing Professional Development

  • is a means of supporting people in the workplace to understand more about the environment in which they work, the job they do and how to do it better. It is an ongoing process throughout our working lives.

  • provides a means whereby we can keep abreast of these changes, broaden our skills and be more effective in our work.

  • can be part of an individual's personal ambition to be a better practitioner, enhance his/her career prospects or to (be) simply feel more confident about their work and make it more personally fulfilling.

  • can be a step on the ladder to higher qualifications or enhanced job prospects or be required by professional bodies to maintain professional status.

  • can be part of meeting targets set by workforce performance management schemes or an opportunity for individuals to change their career paths.

  • can facilitate access to specialised structured training, help to review working practices and contribute to a more effective and profitable business.

  • can be invigorating for individuals and the business alike.

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WHAT Ongoing Professional Development IS NOT to be?

From exploring what OPD is, we can make some points about what OPD is not intended to be.

Ongoing Professional Development should not
  • replace training to become a professional celebrant in the first place.

    NB The 2003 to 2013 program has been plugging the gaps in VET training system and the inadequate qualifications to be a celebrant, that CoCA addresses in its February 12 Submission on Cost Recovery & Increased Professionalism. For example, recommending
    • participating in improving the VET training qualifications and assessment requirements of the RTOs (including additional core and elective units) and training for ALL state & Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants.

    • the MLSC introducing a pre-appointment assessment post-training pre-appointment for all prospective appointees ie ensure a consistent level to enter the profession
    • testing and approving trainers for their work in teaching the legal content of VET system (and OPD)

  • be punitive or restrictive or un-supportive or a mechanism for testing practitioners skills against entry requirements of Regulators.

NB Regulators are only concerned with one aspect of the professional practitioners work, and thus Ongoing Professional Development should not be confined to only their area of regulation.

  • be for the benefit of the employer or the regulator, though that could be a outcome
  • assume that all adult practitioners have the same needs for their career development.  
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WHY are only Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants required to do Ongoing Professional Development to maintain their appointments?

When the 2003 changes were being considered, the requirement for ongoing professional development was justified on the basis that

  • the State appointed marriage celebrants were "required" to do ongoing professional development as a part of their continued employment by the State Registry Offices or by the Religious Institutions for whom they worked. NB This could be on a range of information and skills and not necessarily about marriage or marriage law.

  • 5 hours untested was set against the current then average 35 weddings pa expectation of work (ie 1% of time on the job) and expense for the celebrant who unlike the State appointed celebrants would be required to fund their own Ongoing Professional Development.
Thus Ongoing Professional Development needs to ensure that meets its primary aims, NOT to introduce an unfair extra burden for ongoing appointment on Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants that the government does not require nor "police" for State appointed Marriage Celebrants.

So in this context, the only fair measurement of OPD is TIME spent by the celebrant in his or her OPD activity.  

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WHAT is the primary goal of Ongoing Professional Development?

OPD is basically for the benefit of that professional, the client and the public  .

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WHAT can be the objectives of Ongoing Professional Development?

Therefore, based upon the definitions of OPD, ALL the following objectives are appropriate for approval as an Ongoing Professional Development activity
  • develop the personal qualities
  • enhance skills and personal or professional competence
  • be a conscious updating of professional knowledge
  • optimize a person's career opportunities
  • support people
  • (for employers) to support their staff
  • provide more understanding about the environment
  • enable professionals to do their work better.
  • update changes legislative, social and economic developments  
  • up skill in technological advances that provide radically different ways of working. 
  • enable people to be more effective in their professional work
  • support an individual's personal ambition to be a better practitioner
  • enhance career prospects  for the professional
  • enable the professional to feel more confident about their work
  • make it more personally fulfilling
  • a pathway to higher qualifications or enhanced job prospects  in their association
  • facilitate access to specialised structured training,
  • a requirement by professional bodies to maintain professional status
  • an opportunity for individuals to change their career paths.
  • meet targets set by the practitioners
  • review working practices
  • contribute to a more effective and profitable business.
  • invigorate for individuals and the business alike  .
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Key aims of Ongoing Professional Development

To summarise OPD activities, can be classified as falling into the following 4 goals of

  • Knowledge (Information)
  • Attitudes (Values)
  • Skills
  • Support

for adult learners who have a diverse range of personal and professional needs thus requiring a diverse range of Ongoing Professional Development opportunities and activities  .

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A lot of research has been conducted into the ways adults learn in an attempt to design effective adult learning experiences. The following if an extract from A Framework for Continuing Professional Development of Vocationally Trained General Practitioners and Specialists (

"The central question of how adults learn has occupied the attention of scholars and practitioners since the founding of adult education as an acknowledged area of educational practice in the 1920s.

Since that time a myriad of models, theories, ideas and frameworks have developed in what is a burgeoning field of education. Merriam123 concludes that there are at least three ways in which these approaches are contributing to our understanding of adult learning.
  • First, the adult learner is seen holistically. The learner is more than a cognitive machine processing information. He or she comes with a mind, memories, conscious and subconscious worlds, emotions, imagination and a physical body, all of which can interact with new learning.

  • Second, the learning process is much more than the systemic acquisition and storage of information. It is also making sense of our lives, transforming not just what we learn but the way we learn, and it is absorbing, imagining

  • Finally, the context in which learning occurs has taken on greater importance. Not only can we see learning as situated in a particular context, but we can examine how race, class, gender, power and oppression, and concepts of knowledge and truth shape the context in the first place and subsequently the learning that occurs.
The contribution of learning theory to improve the effectiveness of (medical) practitioners' everyday practice is indicated by the growing literature on adult learning  and the (person) as learner and reflective practitioner  .

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Thus Adult Learning is based on five assumptions.

  1. Adults are independent and self-directing.
  2. They have accumulated a great deal of experience, which is a rich resource for  learning.
  3. They value learning that integrates with the demands of their everyday life. 
  4. They are more interested in immediate, problem-centred approaches than in  subject-centred ones. 
  5. They are more motivated to learn by internal than external drivers  .
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Some other objectives (to add to the above list) for Ongoing Professional Development

(Client) care

Provision of (client) care that is compassionate, appropriate, and effective for the (delivery of celebrancy services)

(Celebrancy) knowledge

Demonstration of knowledge about established and evolving (celebrancy practices) and the application of this knowledge to (client) care.–

Practice-based learning and improvement

The ability to investigate and evaluate (professional) practices, appraise and assimilate (new approaches), and improve (client) care practices.

Interpersonal and communication skills –

The ability to demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in effective information exchange and teaming with (clients), their () families and professional associates.


Demonstration of commitment to carry out professional responsibilities, adherence to ethical principles, and sensitivity to a diverse (client) population.

Systems-based practice

Demonstration of an awareness of, and responsiveness to, the larger context and system of (celebrancy services) and the ability to call effectively on system resources to provide care that is of optimal value  .

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Types of activities for approval as Continuing Professional Development

There are some examples of the types of OPD activities that have been approved for other professions.

From MARA (Migration Agents Registration Authority)

Effective continuing professional development activities offered to registered migration agents:
  1. Programs of Education
  2. Distance Learning 
  3. Seminar 
  4. Workshop
  5. Conference
  6. Authorship 
  7. Development or Presentation of CPD Material 
  8. Pro Bono Work 
  9. CPD completed with other professions
  10. Mentoring 
  11. Practice Ready Program  
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Continuing Professional Development - SARAH

"When we talk about Continuing Professional Development (CPD), we automatically think formal training. However, professional development can include a wide range of activities. Attending lectures, conferences and courses remains a key aspect of life-long learning, but it is important to realise that the majority of learning comes from experience in a day-to-day practice."

A comprehensive list of CPD activities (based on the framework developed by Health Professions Council, UK) from SARAH is a great guide for us as civil celebrants to consider developing a whole range of ongoing professional development activities. As our profession grows, these could become the options approved by the Marriage Law & Celebrant Section for authorised marriage celebrants.

Reference from SARAH : Services For Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health
10 Campion Street   Deakin ACT 2600  Australia

© Copyright 2013 Services For Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health

Here are some from SARAH's list, that could  be added to MARA's list above and that celebrants could ask to be added to the range of OPD approved options.
  • Further training for those without the current celebrancy or related qualifications
  • Reading journals/articles
  • Conducting a literature search
  • Online discussion groups
  • List-serves
  • Reviewing books or articles
  • Updating knowledge through the Internet or TV
  • Keeping a file of your progress
  • Participating in a committee
  • Membership of other professional bodies or groups
  • Giving presentations at conferences
  • Voluntary work  
What do you think?

SARAH's List is extensive. Check this list out and let The Coalition of Celebrant Associations - CoCA know what else you would like to see added from their list ... or even from your own ideas and experience. Or add to Your views on OPD as below.

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CoCA Recommendations

The Coalition of Celebrant Associations - CoCA has made a number of recommendations over the past few years.

Basically CoCA considers that:
  • as is the case in our professions, the celebrancy profession should determine what its OPD activities and parameters will be, especially as there is no mandated OPF for state registered marriage celebrant
  • with the online portal being activated this July, there will be a mechanism for direct feedback from celebrants as to the value of the OPD activity they undertook.
  • the approval mechanism needs to be simple and flexible with celebrants having a broad range of choice as to possible OPD activities
  • the current level of involvement by the MLCS is not cost effective nor necessary, and leads to delays in OPD approvals
  • the level of involvement by the MLCS should be minimal as the MLCS are not celebrants, adult educators nor trainers, and are thus operating outside their level of expertise as regards OPD.
  • MLCS needs to direct its efforts to ensure that celebrant trainers who deliver legal topics are fully versed in Marriage Law
  • Units of celebrancy course should be approved as OPD as should seminars and conferences held by celebrant associations
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