Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

CoCA has previously approached the AGD/MLCS for funds to support the CoCA associations and their delegates.

This recommendation is to support that application with the following:

It is recommended that the AGD/MLCS provide funds to support CoCA for the following:
  • With assistance to upgrade the CoCA website
  • With travel equilisation
  • With a salary for a part-time person to resource CoCA
  • Recommendation 12
CoCA is committed to maximising the services of celebrant associations in providing advice and support to MLCS, BDM’s and the independent celebrant community and to promote maximum involvement of all celebrants. Financial and other support from AGD/MLCS would aid them in this vital role.

Cost Recovery

As per Recommendation 13

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS

The purpose of these recommendations are to streamline the process of support for celebrants, especially as regards legal matters. It can be split into two levels.

It is recommended that in the event of a celebrant contact to any source, in the first instance:
  • All celebrants to be asked whether they have made reference to the Explanatory Material, When Words are Not Enough, the Marriage Act and the Marriage Regulations, the Fact Sheets and other information available inside the Celebrants Only Section of the website.
  • Then contact the BDM who will be registering the marriage for clarification.
  • If the question asked is not covered by the Explanatory material and/or BDM advice appears contradictory, the celebrant raises the matter via their celebrant association or requests the BDM raise the matter with the “Expert Resource Team” on their behalf.
  • If no answer is forthcoming within a reasonable period of time, then the celebrant may contact the MLCS.
This will enable the front-line services to refer the more difficult matters to the Expert Resource team for advice. It will also ensure:
  • The most efficient and cost effective support service for celebrant support is available and to enable services such as the BDMs and Celebrant Associations who provide marriage services, to deal with the first level of celebrant enquiries.
  • Promote the use of celebrant associations and thus to minimise the work load of the BDMs and MLCS.
  • Less of a workload on part-time marriage celebrants and minimise distress and hardship on couples by having both standard and expert advice systems clearly identified.
Cost Recovery

As per Recommendation 9

Further Explanation:
  • Note: Prior to 2003, it was rare for a celebrant to contact the Marriage Celebrant Section of the Attorney General’s Department. Celebrants contacted the appropriate BDM for advice or their celebrant association.

    Almost all problems were resolved this way. Occasionally the BDM or the celebrant or a celebrant association would contact the Department for advice.

    Also prior to 2003, celebrants paperwork was of a much higher standard than that of the Recognised Religious Celebrants.

    Thus the new system of low training standards from 2003, high celebrant numbers compounded greatly by the insistence of the MCS that all celebrants contact the Deparment, has created the current problems and work-load of the MLCS.

    It is unfair to expect celebrants to now pay for increased staffing to fix the problen of 18,000 enquiries pa.

    This CoCA submission proposes a systems approach to solve these problems by changing the recommended process, backing that up with an Expert Panel to deal with the more difficult problems, from which new resources can be developed, along with the other strategies proposed in this document.
Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
The aim of this recommendation is to assist MLCS and other areas in minimizing the number of unnecessary contacts made to these areas.

It is recommended that:
  • A resource team made up of MLCS legal staff, BDM representatives and celebrant association/CoCA representatives be appointed to handle difficult questions/situations.
  • The role of this panel would be to:
  • To examine the more tricky questions that come in via celebrant associations or BDM
  • Provide a team approach to problem solving.
  • To request the AGD to contact the relevant embassies etc as required
  • To document the findings into Fact Sheets or Information Sheets as matters are resolved.
  • Be a resource group for Prescribed Authorities
  • It is envisaged that this panel would be a closed in-house web-based forum inside the upgraded MLCS website.
It is suggested also that a MLCS legal officer would be assigned to 2 or 3 associations as the contact for queries. This would ensure the most efficient and cost effective support service for celebrants is available to all. It would also promote the use of celebrant associations and thus minimise the workload of BDM and MLCS.

It is further anticipated that it would minimise the workload on part-time marriage celebrants and enable couples to have both standard and expert advice readily and clearly identified.

Cost Recovery

MLCS, BDMs and celebrant associations are already devoting time to address celebrants queries and needs for clearer information. No extra cost should be involved – rather less as these groups efforts would be coordinated and streamlined to improve efficiency an quality.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
The aim of this group of recommendations is to ensure that the proposed upgrade to the MLCS IT infrastructure is cognizant of the requirements of the celebrant users of the system.

8.1 Requirements for Data analysis and planning.

The aim of this recommendation is to ensure that the new system can cater for the data requirements of celebrants and the need for access to statistical data for planning, record keeping and compliance purposes.

It is recommended that
  • CoCA be consulted as regards what data MLCS is proposing to store for planning, program review and compliance needs.
CoCA has expressed to the MLCS, a need for statistics on marriage and marriage celebrants in the areas of compliance, national and regional statistics related to marriage and marriage celebrants and other relevant information. It is vitally important for CoCA to be included in the planning phase to ensure the statistical information required will be available.

8.2 Celebrant Only Section.

The aim of these recommendations is to ensure that the new system can cater for all classes of marriage celebrants to access easily and update details as required and assist with streamlining the work required to confirm celebrant compliance with their obligations and the Code of Practice.

It is recommended that:
  • All marriage celebrants have the ability to login to a secure portion of the new system via an easily understood web portal environment.
This section will allow a celebrant access to their own personal information, as well as contain restricted information such as celebrant only Fact Sheets, Bulletins, OPD information and other information.

It will also allow celebrants to:
  • Update their contact details
  • Provide annual statistics on number of weddings performed and where
  • Provide evidence of their professional attitude and duty of care and
  • Confirm compliance with OPD and other matters related to the Code of Practice.
This should allow MLCS to track marriage celebrant progress through their 5 year compliance review. Thus it should allow for an administrative officer to take less time when addressing the compliance of a particular celebrant, and enable email confirmation of requirements to and from celebrants to MLCS.

This will encourage professional attitudes and behaviours as well as promote the learning of computer skills in the celebrant community, either with association memberships or through OPD training.

8.3 General Public Section.

The aim of this group of recommendations is to ensure that the national register of marriage celebrants contains information pertinent to all aspects of marriage celebrancy, from information about training to finding the right celebrant.

It is recommended that for celebrants:
  • The national register contains celebrant details of suburb/region, phone and email contacts.
  • It also contains language skills and association membership or religious organization affiliation where applicable.
It is considered that these measures will better assist couples to find the right celebrant for them, and will encourage association membership.

It is recommended for the marrying public that information is provided on:
  • The different types of celebrants
  • The different types of fee structures
  • Information on how to choose a celebrant
  • Relationship education
  • Press releases
This information will:
  • Inform and educate the marrying public and the media about a range of matters related to marriage.
  • Encourage stable loving long-term marriages
  • Focus on the importance of the Marriage Ceremony as the one essential and key element of a wedding day.
It is recommended for prospective celebrants that the site provides information about:
  • The celebrants role, and especially the independent civil celebrant role.
  • The characteristics, values, skills and resources one needs to be a competent celebrant
  • The disadvantages as well as advantages of being a celebrant.
  • Financial resources needed to set up a celebrancy practice
  • Step by Step Process of how to apply
  • A listing of CoCA and Celebrant Associations
This will assist prospective celebrants to assess their motivation, general knowledge, interests, health, resources (financial and otherwise) before commencing the pre-training suitability process.

Cost Recovery

See Table Recommendation 13

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
As noted at the beginning of this document, these recommendations are made in the context of an approved training and appointment system. Celebrants would be supported by associations and/or BDM’s, and an Expert Advisory Team. Celebrant Only Fact sheets and other information would be available inside the MLCS website.

The aim of this group of recommendations is to strengthen the Ongoing Professional Development (OPD) process.

There is no change to the minimum number of hours recommended for OPD, it remains at 5 hours. This is considered appropriate, given the part-time nature of marriage work.

7.1 Flexible OPD phased-in over six years.

The purpose for this recommendation is to provide for flexibility in OPD in the next OPD period.

It is recommended that:

A minimum of six OPD providers to be appointed for the compulsory and non- compulsory OPD for the 2013-6 period, with an extension of three years, subject to satisfactory performance.
  • A minimum of six OPD providers to be appointed for the compulsory and non- compulsory OPD for the 2013-6 period, with an extension of three years, subject to satisfactory performance.
  • That all trainers of OPD compulsory or legal topics are approved trainers as outlined in section 5.4
  • By 2019 a new system of approval for OPD activities will have been phased in providing a a more transparent and flexible process be developed for the approval and review of compulsory and non-compulsory OPD topics from approved OPD providers (and post 2016 other training/education providers).
  • CoCA’s comments to be sought on all applications for OPD Topics or activities
  • All approved topics and activities to be published in the Celebrant Only section of the website.
  • One day attendance at a Celebrant Association Conference to be approved as three hours of OPD in 2013–2019, unless changed to 5 hours prior to the end of that period by the MLCS.
  • Review and general evaluation to be conducted by survey via the Celebrants Only Section of the website.
Under this new arrangement it is envisaged that:
  • The contracted OPD providers would provide OPD as an exclusive right between 2013-2016, but this would not be an exclusive right post 2016.
  • New approved activities could be added in from other educational organizations from 2016 so that by 2019 a full and flexible program of OPD approved topics of a mix of previous compulsory and non-compulsory topics would be available.
  • Any component of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy or any unit related to Celebrancy, whether ceremony, business, IT, computer related units/activities would be appropriate topics for submission for OPD approval.
  • By 2019 the Marriage Regulations should be changed to stipulate five hours of approved OPD Topics or one day (minimum 5 hours) of Celebrant Association Workshops or Conferences from the list of OPD approved topics. This would remove the compulsory/ non-compulsory categories.
The benefits to celebrants and MLCS can be stated thus:
  • Adult Learning Principles will be employed to give more choice and flexibility.
  • Educationalists will determine how celebrants will be trained, with the MLCS to approve topics in principle, given the MLCS primary role is legal and administrative  and is limited in relevant ceremonial and educative expertise.
  • An approved topic would have stated objectives, time frame, suggested activities and approved trainers, but not include information of an in-house commercial in confidence nature.
  • A wide range of education and training opportunities will become available, especially as it relates to the skills needed to operate a viable celebrancy practice offering wedding services.
  • Celebrant association membership will be strengthened.
  • Celebrants will be able to access existing education and training opportunities from existing education and other services in the community, especially to make local learning courses and programs more accessible, thus reducing travel and other costs.

7.2 Approaches to Compulsory Legal OPD

The aim of this recommendation is to improve the knowledge and skills of celebrants within the context of compliance with the compulsory legal aspects of their statutory obligations.

There are many topics of a legal nature that celebrants may need or wish to do as a refresher. Limiting topics of a legal nature to one topic only for the Compulsory does not address these needs.

It is recommended as follows:
  • That all trainers of OPD compulsory or legal topics are approved trainers as outlined in section 2.4.3 Skill Levels for Trainers of Certificate IV in Celebrancy.
  • That there be 2 hours minimum for compulsory legal topics to enable maximum cover of material and interactive learning.
  • In conjunction with this there should be flexibility for a celebrant or celebrant association to choose the legal topic they wish to pursue. This will allow celebrants/associations to pursue the area of the legal studies where they assess the most need.
  • Previous approved compulsory/ legal topics to be available as part of the compulsory and non-compulsory OPD mix.
  • Compulsory OPD topic definition to be expanded to include subjects and activities related to the role of a marriage celebrant of a non-legal nature, eg How to access the AGD’s website portal for celebrants.
  • That units provide self-assessment and interactive learning opportunities – both face to face and online
  • Celebrants to complete new units when available and not to repeat a unit under 5 years.
  • All available legal topics to be published in the Celebrant Only section of the website.
Measures recommended are to:
  • ensure Adult Learning Principles are adhered to and provide more choice
  • ensure all Marriage Celebrant legal knowledge and skills are extensive in range and of a high order
  • allows Marriage Celebrants to self-assess areas where they need more training

7.3 Approaches to Non Legal OPD

The aim of this recommendation is to improve the knowledge and skills of celebrants within the context of compliance with the non legal aspects of their statutory obligations.

It is recommended that:
  • All trainers of OPD non legal topics are approved trainers as outlined in section X Skill Levels for Trainers of Certificate IV in Celebrancy.
  • Non legal OPD be developed over time to provide an extensive list of approved topics and learning activities.
  • Any unit component of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy, core, mandatory or elective, are to be considered appropriate topics for Non legal OPD.
  • A full day attendance at a Celebrant Association Conference to be accepted as 3 hours of non legal OPD.
These recommendations will ensure and provide:
  • Adherence to Adult Learning Principles
  • More choice and flexibility for long-term and non-aligned religious celebrants
  • A wide range of education and training availability, especially as it relates to the SKILLS needed to operate a celebrancy practice providing weddings.
  • The opportunity to have local learning courses and programs accessible to reduce travel and other costs.
  • Encouragement to marriage celebrants to up-skill to the current qualification
  • Utilization of existing education and training opportunities from education and other services in the community
  • Strengthen celebrant association membership

7.4 Meeting the new requirements for appointment.

The aim of these recommendations is to encourage celebrants to meet the new requirements for appointment through the use of the Pre-appointment assessment and the Certificate IV in Celebrancy.

It is recommended that:
  • In the OPD period 2013-2019, celebrants complete the Pre-appointment assessment of both Knowledge and Skills,
  • the completion of units of study within the Certificate IV in Celebrancy to be approved as OPD.
The Knowledge and Skills assessment in both time and money is commensurate with the time and cost of 5 hours of OPD. Thus we believe that completion of this assessment will qualify as the persons 5 hour OPD in the year of completion.

We believe this will also enable all marriage celebrants to be informed about their current level of knowledge and skills as they are matched with those being required of current appointees. This may enable celebrants to plan to retire or complete further training if their knowledge and skills are assessed as not adequate.

It is firmly believed that the encouragement of celebrants to upgrade to the Certificate IV in Celebrancy qualification will be a significant means by which they can improve their knowledge and skill over time.

Therefore it is recommended that:
  • Completion of one unit of study by face-to-face or distance education be equal to 5 hours OPD.
  • Completion of two units of study by Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) be equivalent to 5 hours of OPD.
Implementation of this measure will ensure that all marriage celebrants have the current qualifications if intending to stay as a MC for more than 5 years. Most professions require existing professionals to upgrade their qualification when entry qualifications are changed.

Cost Recovery

Recommendations for these OPD recommendations would not change the existing arrangements for cost recovery of OPD which is borne by the marriage celebrants themselves.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
It is recommended that a self-funded uniform pre-appointment assessment process of knowledge and skills by interview be provided. This would ensure:
  • a uniform high standard of entry for all independent marriage celebrants
  • a qualitative baseline for trainers qualifications to provide training with the VET system, and
  • a measure against which existing celebrants could be tested as part of their OPD in a 5 year review cycle.
CoCA recommended a Pre-Appointment Assessment Process be established and presented a model for such a process at the October 2010 AGD-CoCA meeting.

It is believed that some of the benefits of this process would be to:
  • Address problems with the variable outcomes of the knowledge and skills of graduates of the VET system.
  • Strengthen the perception that the Marriage Celebrants role is an important one requiring more than just passing a course.
  • Provide an opportunity for a celebrant to become a CoCA accredited celebrant if the celebrant successfully passes this testing.
Please refer to Appendix 2 for the document presented in October 2010.

Cost Recovery

Cost recover for this recommendation would be recovered from the applicants for appointment.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
The aim of this group of recommendations is to strengthen the training process at all stages, to improve the knowledge and skills of marriage celebrants, to increase professionalism, and to minimise MLCS staff time in addressing compliance.

5.1 Different approaches to training for different roles.

The aim of this recommendation is to improve the knowledge and skills of all classes of marriage celebrants (Commonwealth & state, religious and civil) who conduct marriage ceremonies.

It is recommended that:
  • Civil marriage officers in Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (BDM) and Court Houses – complete 2 of the compulsory legal units of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy.These would be: CHCCEL402 A Maintain knowledge of the legal responsibilities of a marriage celebrant, and
    CHCCEL404A Plan a marriage ceremony in line with legal requirements.
  • Ministers of religion in recognized denominations – complete 2 of the mandatory legal units of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy. These would be: CHCCEL402A Maintain knowledge of the legal responsibilities of a marriage celebrant, and CHCCEL404A Plan a marriage ceremony in line with legal requirements
  • Independent religious celebrants – complete the 4 mandatory legal units of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy and 1 of the compulsory core units which would be CHCCEL401A Work effectively in a celebrancy role.
  • Independent Civil Celebrants – complete the Full Certificate IV in Celebrancy
All marriage celebrants are required to meet the same standards for legal registration of Marriage Notice, Verification of Identity etc.

It has been noted by state BDM’s that errors in legal paperwork are generated as much by Ministers of authorized religions as by other Coalition of Celebrant Associations groups. It would seem appropriate therefore that all celebrants complete some level of legal training.

Independent religious celebrants are more comparable with recognized Religious celebrants in that the Marriage Act grants the non-aligned religious marriage celebrant the right to conduct the form of the ceremony according to the precepts of their religious organization, thus they may not require as much training in ceremony.

Civil Marriage Officers in BDMs offer a limited range of ceremony options, thus do not need to tailor ceremonies to the specific needs of their couples. Their physical resources also limit what they are able to offer.

5.2 Upgrade training of Civil Marriage Celebrants.

It is recommended that two additional units of study be added to the core competency skills and recommend two particular electives if the trainee has no prior business experience.

The two units recommended to be added as Core Units are:
  • CUSMPF303A – Prepare for Performance. (or a similar unit that relates to voice and delivery).
  • CUFWRT301A – Write content for a range of media. The two recommended electives if the trainee has no prior business experience are:
  • BSBSMB405A – Monitor and Manage small business operations.
  • BSBSMB406A – Manage small business finances.
The Code of Conduct states that the ceremony must be heard, thus skills in vocal delivery are vital. Although this topic is touched on in the current core units, it is not considered strong enough to apply competency in ceremonial delivery. Similarly, if the celebrant is to develop a personalised ceremony for a couple, high levels of skill in writing prose and correct use of language are also paramount.

Approximately 70% of applicants do not have a business background. The celebrant needs to conduct some basic monetary exchanges for their work and to ensure this is accurate and appropriate. Course notes should recommend these two electives if the trainee has no prior business experience.

5.3 Use the services of ASQA to strengthen training in the VET system.

It is recommended that CoCA and the MLCS utilise the new national training authority, Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to strengthen the training of celebrants by the VET system. ASQA are responsible for mandating national Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) skills. MLCS and CoCA can work with ASQA to ensure:
  • National Standards for Trainer Qualifications – Experience as a celebrant a must (varies each state)
  • Time Frame – Set minimum time for the course eg VIC UNI = 800 hours
  • Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) – if not doing the course, to take it off their scope and/or check the currency
  • Competence testing to be reviewed.
According to ASQA, and under standards for National Vet Regulation (NVR), RTO’s are required to have a process and mechanism for providing students with information about the training, assessment and support services available. Support services include LLN. RTOs have a responsibility to assess a student’s level of LLN for any program in which they enrol.

Whilst literacy and numeracy (LLN) is a complex area, as the Celebrancy qualifications is at Certificate IV level, it is assumed the student has a level of literacy and numeracy to complete – and the RTO needs to assess this accordingly. RTOs need processes in place to ensure LLN is appropriate to the level of study the student is undertaking. This is an area that ASQA audits under our Standards for RTOs. The obligation is on the RTO to comply.

If a student hasn’t got the level of LLN appropriate to the Certificate IV qualification, one has to question how they are able to complete the qualifiction.
ASQA has also advised CoCA that the Certificate IV in Celebrancy needs a lot more work on specific assessment requirements and critical aspects of evidence. CoCA will commence discussions with the specific Industry Skills Council to address this issue and be recommending that the MLCS work with CoCA on the appropriate legal and other units.

5.4 Upgrade skill levels for trainers of the Certificate IV Course

The aim of this recommendation is to ensure high standards for trainers of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy course.

It is recommended that current and future trainers will need to achieve the following:

Current Trainers:
  • MLCS to conduct a knowledge and skills assessment of all current trainers to gain MLCS approval to teach the Certificate IV in Celebrancy core and mandatory units.
  • The MLCS assessment would require; a current Curriculum Vitae, proof of their status as a marriage celebrant, proof of having conducted a minimum of 10 weddings in the previous three years and proof of their qualification in Workplace Training and Assessment and the Certificate IV in Celebrancy.
  • MLCS approval to be re-assessed every five years. NB in the initial period the Pre-Appointment Assessment process could be used as part of the MLCS assessment procedures
Future Trainers:
  • Mandatory requirements for trainers will be:
    • Certificate IV in Celebrancy (including funeral units)
    • Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment
    • Experience in the elective units
    • Proof of status and experience as above.
    • Approval from MLCS as a trainer.
High trainer standards will ensure higher levels of training competency which should flow on to the quality of the training being delivered to aspiring celebrants. The current rate of three weddings in two years does not provide sufficient experience, practical knowledge and competency as a marriage celebrant, and consequently, as a celebrant trainer.

A professional ceremonialist, having a broad celebrancy skill set (as provided for in the compulsory marriage units training package material) will be able to offer a full range of ceremonies. This will also reinforce the knowledge and skills in ceremony design and delivery, working with couples and families and many other common aspects of delivering a marriage ceremony.

Cost Recovery

Applicants for approval by the MLCS to deliver the Marriage Celebrant electives of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy would be required to pay for the assessment of their skills.

5.5 Audit of Registered Training Organisations

It is recommended that Auditors of RTO’s be provided with the results of pre-appointment skills and knowledge assessments. This concept is being discussed with ASQA. General auditors do not have celebrancy knowledge.

Cost Recovery

Unless otherwise stated above, costs for this set of recommendations on Training would be recovered from the applicants and the various bodies in the state and federal system responsible for the planning, delivery and evaluation of the VET system.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS

CoCA recommends that the following 6 main principles be used by MLCS in the consideration of Conflict of Interest:

  1. A professional is expected to be impartial in advice/ service giving. Thus a celebrant needs to be at arm’s length from any related activities.
  2. The other activities of a professional can harm the public perception of the profession.
  3. Free and informed consent to choose a celebrant must not be hampered by the actions of the celebrant’s other activities.
  4. A celebrant’s other activities or roles must not impact on their ability to fully and competently prepare and deliver a marriage ceremony.
  5. The benefit from another activity must never outweigh the benefit from the celebrant role (esp. financially), tempting the celebrant to take shortcuts or to act illegally.
  6. A professional is expected to have some motive involved in their work, beyond their
    own personal needs celebrant.
CoCA considers that ensuring stricter Conflict of Interest Guidelines would increase professionalism and decrease the number of people entering celebrancy, who assume they can combine a function in an industry related to weddings with being a marriage. Please refer to Appendix 5  for further information.

Cost Recovery

If clearer and stricter guidelines were available and implemented, then the time spent by the MLCS in answering enquiries, appointing celebrants and monitoring their compliance and dealing with complaints would be minimized. Thus cost recovery expenses would impact less on celebrants and marrying couples.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS
The aim of this recommendation is to balance the intake rate with retirement, de- registration rates, regionally based community need and adequate access to work to improve and maintain skills.It is recommended that the model for limiting numbers involves:
  • similar principles for appointment and registration being applied to civil as currently apply to Recognized religious (refer Division 1 – Subdivision A section 31 of the Marriage Act 1961)
  • minimum overall average level of 24 weddings p.a per celebrant in each region, and upon the best applicant for an area by interview with a Regional Advisory Panel.
Refer Appendix 3 for information on Regional Advisory Panels.

This will ensure that:
  • marriage celebrants gain sufficient experience in conducting weddings to enhance marriage services to their couples and the sector overall.
  • The role of civil marriage celebrant is viewed as an important professional role that is conducted on behalf of the government for the community.
Refer to Appendix 1 for further rationale on the recommendations and Appendix 3 for a recommended mechanism for limiting appointments.

Cost Recovery:

It is envisaged that full cost recovery would be obtained from the pre-training and pre- appointment processes and perhaps a portion of the annual fee. The person seeking the training and subsequent appointment would pay an interview fee. MLCS would cover the cost of the interview process.

Read more … see TABLE OF CONTENTS

FURTHER EXPLANATION (Posted 5th February 2012)

The following provides further explanation relating to Recommendation 2 of the CoCA submission on the Proposed Fee to the Attorney General’s Department.

Recommendation 2 appears as above:

It is important to say at the outset that this recommendation
  • does not require any celebrant to do a specified number of weddings per year, and
  • will not affect current celebrants in a negative way, unless they do not meet the basic Compliance requirements that apply now.
In principle, this recommendation is a new variation of “capping of numbers” based upon
  • smaller regions than the 2003- 2008 period ( 5 electorates rather that a state) but bigger than pre-2003
  • higher ratio of the average number of weddings per celebrant per year than in 2010, but lower than pre-2003 years
  • higher standards of entry based upon a standard pre-appointment assessment, independent of RTOs
  • pre-appointment assessment and interview by a Regional Advisory Panel
  • the selection of the best person for the role for that region
The original Marriage Celebrant Program set the number of celebrants based upon population, but did not assess the “best” people on the list for the Electorate, rather whoever had been on the list the longest.
  • This concept is a combination of “community need” and the “selection by interview” of what normally happens in public or private organisations, when a vacancy occurs.
  • It is also based upon the reality that whilst everyone can aspire and train for a particular role in life, it cannot be guaranteed that there will be a matching position just for them when they want it. This is especially so for an important government role.
All the recommendations in the CoCA submission are designed to ensure that those who do gain an appointment, will not be constantly competing with an ongoing revolving door of new marriage celebrants, and needing to spend time and money trying to do however many weddings they wish to do, while at the same time working in  a system where the overall level of work is so low that independent marriage celebrants cannot be fairly compensated for their work.

It needs to be highlighted that this figure of 24 weddings or an average of one per fortnight is the AVERAGE numberof weddings across ALL the celebrants in a year across a REGION, NOT per celebrant.

Currently (RIS 2010) the Ratio of weddings per celebrant per year across Australia is 6.6 weddings
In 1999 the Ratio of weddings per celebrant per year across Australia was 35 weddings
In 1995 the Ratio of weddings per celebrant per year across Australia was 64 weddings

The second box in this section called Table 1 – CIVIL MARRIAGES 1999 shows the actual spread of weddings done by independent celebrants in 1999.

For the AVERAGE of 35 weddings per celebrant in 1999, there is awide spread of weddings done by independent marriage celebrants:
•     about 7% did no weddings
•     about 30% did between 1 and 10
•     about 26% did between 11 and 25
•     about 22% did between 26 and 50
•     about 12 % did between 51 and 100
•     about 2.5 % did between 101 and 150
•     about 1 % did between over 150

Therefore this recommendation is that no more appointments should be made for a particular region until the ratio  across that region is 24 or over.

It means approximately 25 % of current marriage celebrants would need to resign before any more marriage celebrants would be appointed.

And then new celebrants would be selected by interview by a Regional Panel from those on the waiting list for that region.

This recommendation would also allow the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section a number of years to concentrate onbringing in other strategies to increase professionalism.

In its initial response to the Regulation Impact Statement, CoCA stated:

“The major element contributing to ensuing difficulties within the marriage celebrant program was permitting appointment of unlimited numbers of marriage celebrants.
  • Contrary to advice received from the marriage celebrant industry at the time and this was addressed by the Attorney, at the time of introducing the radical changes (referred to as reforms), as noting celebrants’ and celebrant associations’ concern over an anticipated massive increase in numbers – (far outweighing any need for their services) given Australia’s limited and basically static number of marriages each year.
  • The then Attorney said no substantial increase in numbers was expected given higher training requirements and natural attrition. At that time (pre 2003) couples had no difficulty locating a celebrant to suit them and it was argued there were too many celebrants even then!
  • Now, with little change to numbers of marriages in Australia each year, the number of celebrants has grown to in excess of 10,000 and more continue to be appointed. Celebrant numbers prior to 2003 were around 2000 active marriage celebrants Australia wide.
  • In keeping with the needs based conditions of the marriage celebrant program no greater number of celebrants was appointed than needed by Australia’s marrying couples.
  • The Attorney-General introducing the program, the Hon Lionel Murphy stated ‘there should never be so many celebrants that they cannot acquire the skills and knowledge they and their client couples need’.”

The Coalition of Celebrant Associations experience of the application of the Dept of Finance Cost Recovery Guidelines demonstrates that:
  • they are ineffective in meeting the needs of the Stakeholders and
  • more importantly, do not ensure that Cost Recovery by the government agencies, who are required to apply these Guidelines, is actually achieved in a Cost effective and Cost efficient manner.
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