Appendix 1: Adequacy of Regulation Impact Statement

The Office of Best Practice Department of Finance assessed the proposed change the Regulations of the Marriage Act as "to have more than a minor regulatory impact on the marriage celebrants’ industry" and 60% of the marrying public.

Reference:
Department of Finance 2nd June 2011 Marriage Celebrants Program Better Management Through Fees Regulation Impact Statement.

This means the “Professional Celebrant Fee” will have a significant impact marriage celebrants’ industry" and 60% of the marrying public.

The CCN Inc considers was inadequate for a number of reasons including misleading information or based upon faulty or discriminatory assumptions.

1. Misleading information:

1.1 This Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) claims only a 10% reduction in the number of marriage celebrants as a result of the introduction of the “Celebrant Fee”.

Analysis of the information in the RIS (ie a proposed fee of $600 pa to cost recover a $4.2 million) assumes only 7000 celebrants paying the fee.

That is a reduction of 30% not 10% of marriage CAM celebrants as claimed in the RIS, meaning either the RIS is inaccurate as to the percentage who will have to leave or assumes 20% of CAM celebrants being exempted from paying any fee at all.

1.2 How large is the problem of lack of Compliance by Commonwealth Appointed marriage celebrants?
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All the statistics show that except of a tiny minority, independent civil marriage and minority religious celebrants already subsidise the Government’s Commonwealth Marriage Program, and now these marriage celebrants and consequently their couples are being asked to pay the system an extra $ 4.2 million each year!

Reference:

https://www.accn-celebrants.com.au/whats-new/824-20111008-marriage-celebrants-statistics-foi


Table3 statutory complaintsTable2 Increase in number celebrants
2.
Faulty or discriminatory assumptions

2.1 Recognised Religious celebrants perform better than Commonwealth Appointed marriage celebrants

Religious celebrants The RIS claims the validity of marriage is threatened by a lack quality and professionalism of services provided by Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants, because many marriage celebrants:

  1. have nil or  little training in legal and compliance requirements
  2. fail  to do the specific, improved, “Ongoing Professional Development” by providers selected by an open and rigorous panel
  3. fail  to comply with Section 45 and 46 of the Marriage Act as strictly as determined by the MLCS
  4. have little marriage experience ie average 6.6 weddings pa
  5. supply poor paperwork to the state Registry Offices.

If this rationale were true, then one can seriously question the competence and compliance of all Recognised Religious marriage celebrants and thus  the validity of 30% of marriages as Recognised Religious marriage celebrants:

  • have no specific training in the Marriage Act and its Regulations required for appointment
  • are not required to do  the specific, improved, “Ongoing Professional Development” by providers selected by an open and rigorous panel
  • do not have to apply Sections 45 and 46 as required by Commonwealth Appointed celebrants
  • reportedly provide equally poor paperwork to the state Registry Offices of the Marriage Act
  • perform an average of less than 2 weddings pa [ ie approx 25,000 religious celebrants who  perform 35% of marriages ( approx 41,200)  of the   118,756 marriage in 2008]
  • are not required to adhere to a Code of Practice.

2.2 The RIS allows for the possibility that certain Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants to be exempted from the fee.

That is, that there are two distinct groups of CA marriage celebrants – 70% of which are city based civil celebrants who can afford $600 pa and a smaller group 20% of rural, remote and non-aligned religious celebrants who can not afford the fee.

A community service model does allow for fee exemptions or low fees which is the model applied to Recognised Religious Celebrants. However this is extremely unfair if a “business” model is applied to only one sector of marriage celebrants ie independent civil city based marriage celebrants, or only Commonwealth Appointed Marriage celebrants.

2.3 The celebrants who can afford to pay the fee, must be doing more weddings and thus be better celebrants.

Income information in the RIS re the fee charged for marriage services would indicate as very conservative a national average of  $500 per wedding. Based upon the RIS stated average of 6.6 weddings pa, this means a GROSS annual income of $3300 per commonwealth appointed marriage celebrant.

These figures indicate that Commonwealth Appointed Marriage Celebrants are overall operating on a “community service” model and are the group least capable of paying an annual Registration Fee. Most Recognised Religious Celebrants have a stipend and other support and Registry Office Celebrants being employed are guaranteed a full-time wage

2.4 All couples should be able to afford the cost of increased fees being passed on by the CA marriage celebrant.

Reference RIS Page 13
This option would be likely to impose some additional cost on marrying couples as celebrants would be likely to pass on the cost of the fee in the form of higher charges. The increase is likely to be small in the context of the overall cost of getting married. The costs of getting married vary widely but appear to range between $5,000 to $30,000 or more.

Reference  RIS Page 15
It is also appropriate that marrying couples who utilise the services of celebrants contribute in a reasonable way towards the proper regulation of the Program through the payment of the celebrant who solemnises their marriage.

The process of marriage should not be confused with the associated reception and honeymoon.

Originally the “wedding breakfast” was a feast provided by the wealthy parents of the bride, in a time when marriage was more the equivalent of a company merger between two family businesses in a time when the professions of law and education were in their infancy and embedded in the role of the church – a time before a separation between church and state as we know this today.

In fact, the church was not interested in the unions of commoners, priests only becoming involved around one hundred years after the beginning of civil marriage.

Marriage in Western tradition began as a civil function, with the declaration by the couple before their community of the intention to live together as man and wife.  The wedding ‘breakfast’ was a community meal not supplied by the wedding couple. The concept of an expensive “honeymoon” or any major time of holidaying impossible for commoners had little or no private wealth or resources with which to support such activities.

The cost of getting married, as indicated by the RIS, upwards of an average of $30,000 includes all the expenses associated with the reception and honeymoon.

In considering issues of discrimination, disability, age, sex and race directly impact upon a person’s ability to gain access to education and employment, and thus indirectly to the person’s earning capacity and the ability to pay for “expensive” receptions and honeymoon.

An assumption that everyone “should” be able to afford high fees for marriage services because everyone is paying high fees for these associated activities ids dales and this in practice discriminates against those people who already face hardship.

The “right to marry” has been identified in the UN Declaration of Human Rights as an area for protection and support by a civilised society.

2.5 Commonwealth Appointed Marriage Celebrant are running a business, thus should be able to afford to pay a fee.

Income information in the RIS re the fee charged for marriage services would indicate as very conservative a national average of  $500 per wedding. Based upon the RIS stated average of 6.6 weddings pa, this means a GROSS annual income of $3300 per commonwealth appointed marriage celebrant.

These figures indicate that Commonwealth Appointed Marriage Celebrants are overall operating on a “community service” model and are the group least capable of paying an annual Registration Fee.

Most Recognised Religious Celebrants have a stipend and other support and Registry Office Celebrants being employed are guaranteed a full-time wage.

3 The options considered in the RIS were the only options to be considered

The following options were considered in this RIS:

Option 1:
Maintain the status quo
Option 2: The provision of increased budget finding to properly regulate the Program
Option 3: Introduction of a Fee Scheme and Improved Regulation
Option 4: Pass responsibility for regulation of celebrants to the States and Territories
Option 5: Pay celebrants to leave the industry
Option 6: Re-imposition of a cap on the number of marriage celebrants able to be newly registered in each year.

Not considered

Option 7: Updating the Marriage Act to simplify the aspects creating the most work for the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section, and remove where-ever possible, the aspects that discriminate against independent civil and minority religious celebrant celebrants AND the couples being married by them, where compliance is required.

Option 8: Require a pre-appointment literacy, knowledge and skills assessment for every new marriage celebrant to ensure all new celebrants are well trained and suited to the role paid on a cost recovery basis by all people wanting registration as a marriage celebrant.

Option 9: Require all current celebrants to be assessed by the pre-appointment assessment process as part of the Ongoing Professional Development within the next 5 years to encourage increased skill levels..

Option 10: Strengthening Conflict of Interest Provisions to ensure all marriage celebrants are not appointed on a strictly “business model” of marriage celebrancy for independent civil marriage celebrants.

Option 11: Changing the Marriage Act to require all marriage ceremonies to be performed by civil marriage celebrants in Registry Offices, as is the situation in France, thus allowing religious celebrants to perform "Marriage Blessings" without the burden of meeting the legal requirements of notice, witnessing and registration of the marriage.

This would mean the totally dismantling the Civil Marriage Celebrant Program, based upon the concept of independent civil celebrants in private practice, initiated as a world first by Australia.

Option 12: Changing the Marriage Act to requiring all couple to apply for a “Marriage Licence” from their state’s Registry Offices, similar to th situation in NZ,  thus removing all the Lodgement of Notice requirements from all but State Registry Office celebrants. This would mean that the only tasks required of all other classes of marriage celebrants would be the witnessing and registration of the marriage

Consequences of these additional options.

Options 7, 8, 9 and 10
would either reduce the work-load of the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section and/ or fund the work involved in appointing new marriage celebrants and actually increase the professionalism of independent marriage celebrants.

Option 11 would to too difficult to negotiate with the religious community because of historical precedence and the political community because of its possible impacts at election times. It is also a strategy similar to Option 4 that was considered as not viable in the RIS.

This approach would send a negative message about the social value of all marriage celebrants, religious and civil, and the role of ceremony and community support in times of life transitions.

It would also undermine the opportunity for the government to utilize marriage celebrants and celebrants generally, both religious and civil, to assist in other government objectives as agents for community education and/ or community development.

Option 12: Likewise this would devalue the role of celebrants in the Australian community. This also would mean:

i.  a massive increase in work load of State BDMs staff to process Notices  for approx. 114,100 marriage each year (120,000 x 95%)

ii. extra cost, inconvenience and burden by forcing approx 230,000 people wanting to be married to access services via the very limited number of Registry Office outlets. 

4. The solution to handling the requests from celebrants is to increase the staffing of the MLCS

The nature of many of the 18,000 inquiries received (which demonstrate a lack of understanding by celebrants of their legal obligations) and responded to by the Department each year.

There are a number of explanations that could apply to the high level of calls and the nature of those inquiries.

  • The low entry criteria on one VET unit between 2003 and 2010. No-where near a professional standard of an academic qualification required for entry into a profession.

    This means that people without sufficient literacy, comprehension and other skills have been appointed as celebrants. This is a fault of the system, not of the individual celebrant, and not fair to introduce a fee applied to all, that does not address where the problems are being created in the first place.
  • Problems inherent in the VET system, its ability to suitably deliver and audit the RTOs delivering the course. Two major problems being

    1.  the VET course between 2003 and 2010 allowed celebrants to be  trained by people with no experience conducting marriages, and

    2. The assessment criteria for detailed auditing of the course was not done by the Skills Council, making auditing of RTOs delivering poor training harder to police. CoCA will be contacting the Skills Council to follow-up the process of addressing this major flaw.
  • The Marriage Law and Celebrant Section instruction that all queries by marriage celebrants be referred to them, even though prior to 2003, the BDMs with assistance from Marriage Celebrant associations performed this role.

    This instruction in itself increased celebrant’s anxiety about their performance and in turn increased the number of requests for reassurance from the Department

    It also undermines the need to belong to a celebrant association if the MLCS offers that service. And thus in turn the increased learning that celebrants gain by being members of a supportive network where they can ask question, even basic ones, without the anxiety that this may be used against them.
  • The AGD allowed exemptions from OPD of celebrants who had recently completed training, even though these people were most likely most in need of refresher work.

  • Increasingly narrow interpretations of Section 45 and 46 meant celebrants becoming more anxious about their work and their appointments, and thus requiring more reassurance.

5. Increased Compliance will guarantee increased professionalism

There is no guarantee that compliance with the above, as assessed by the Department in a one-off review every five years, will translate into practical application by the marriage celebrant in the on-going performance of their duties.

There are 4 main criteria for compliance.

  1. comply with administrative requirements (give change of contact details within 30days)

    This is a memory test which may highlight celebrants with dementia, celebrants who are stressed  or depressed or a less than 'professional attitude' in general. However this criteria could apply to any occupation or profession.
  2. do 5 hours Ongoing Professional Development OPD

    As 5  hours pa of  untested activity is untested, there is no guarantee that the celebrants present will increase their professional knowledge and skills. Many medium to long term celebrants already have the knowledge presented in certain OPD activities. Whilst theoretically there are many options, not all are available as face-to-face activities in the celebrant's local area.  
    Even where the topics would represent increased knowledge, actual acquisition by individual celebrant depends on their ability to understand and absorb the information, their concentration and motivation to act upon that information.

    Where increased knowledge has been achieved, this knowledge may not be acted upon for a number of reasons.

It is not possible for the limited OPD program (only 3 OPD providers) can offer the full range of educational opportunities matched to the individual learning needs of over 10,000 adults from diverse backgrounds and prior educational and training standards.

Note: The specific, improved, “Ongoing Professional Development (OPD)” by providers selected by an open and rigorous panel, has failed to improve the legal compliance standard of Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants.

  • The OPD system implemented was not that recommended by the marriage celebrant associations.
  • Nor were any representatives of Marriage Celebrant Associations or the peak body COCA (Coalition of Celebrant Associations) allowed to participate in the selection of the OPD providers
  • There is no independent evaluation of the OPD training provided by the OPD trainers or their organisation
  • No Units of the Certificate Iv in Celebrancy, either face to face, or  by Prior Learning, are available as OPD options, even though they would require more hours of work and would be assessed.

• adhere to sections 45 and 46 of the Marriage Act as strictly as the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section (MLCS) of the AGD requires.

For 30 years, independent civil and minority religious marriage celebrant's marriages were not considered to be invalid because of failure of those celebrants to adhere to a strict "Words that mean the same as" rather than "Words to that effect", as now required by the ML&CS.

  • Nor were civil marriage celebrant's marriages considered invalid, when the Attorney General gave an exemption to such celebrants from the need to use Section 45 and 46.
  • Recognised Religious marriage celebrants are given full flexibility in their interpretation of Sections 45 and 46.

Confusingly, Marriage Law and Celebrant Section (MLCS)  of the AGD state they "can not provide legal advice", yet threaten to de-registered Commonwealth appointed Marriage Celebrants if they fail to do as the MLCS dictates as regards interpretation of Sections 45 and 46.

This is discriminatory.

As noted above, adherence to the Sections 45 and 46 as required in writing to the ML&CS does not necessarily translate into all the specific marriage ceremonies as conducted by the celebrant

The 2003 changes to the Marriage Act and Regulations, brought in extra compliance criteria, including of a Code of Practice, for only Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants.

These additional of legal requirements placed upon only one group of marriage celebrants by the 2003 changes,  has increased discrimination against civil marriage celebrants and independent minority group religious celebrants, their couples and the validity of their marriages.

The Marriage Act 1961 as amended cover marriage of all Australian citizens, and thus should apply equally to all in the spirit of the law and its administration.

Thus the requirements of marriage celebrants who deliver those services to the Australia community should not discriminate between the different types of marriage celebrants.

Where flexibility in interpretation is given to one group, then this needs to apply to all. Where compliance to a Code of Practice, OPD and other factors are mandated then this should apply for all marriage celebrants.

6.  Comparison with migration agents unacceptable

Reference RIS page 15
Similar regulatory environments, such as those applicable to migration agents, impose significant fees for regulating their program. Migration agents, like marriage celebrants, are registered and centrally regulated to perform an essential role in the community. It is a role that carries significant legal responsibilities and for the performance of which they are able to charge their clients.

Migration Agents are highly trained, have full-time employment with the capacity to earn up to $10,000 per application. See table below.

The motivation of people to use the services of Migration Agents is much higher than the motivation of people to be married. Marriage has a much lower status than it did 100 years ago.

Comparing marriage celebrants roles and capacity to pay such high fees with Migrant Agents is also unacceptable.

Migration Agents fees

TABLE: From Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.  

REFERENCE
https://www.mara.gov.au/Consumer-Information/What-does-it-cost-to-use-an-Agent-/What-does-it-cost-to-use-an-Agent-/default.aspx

7. Wrong model for development of professionalism

An "open market" system, with the notion of a civil marriage celebrant as a 'small business', applied to legal role of an Appointee of the Commonwealth marriage celebrants, with a stated aim of this new system of bringing  increased "professionalism" to the "profession" of celebrancy, has failed to meet the high expectations of the changes as proposed and announced in 2002 as evidenced in the arguments mounted by the Attorney General Department..

The simplistic notion that civil marriage celebrants are primarily small businesses conducted by people who are predominantly motivated by money has been shown not to be true.

  • The outcome of the 2003 changes confirm the concerns the Celebrant Associations expressed in the pre-change Consultation Period which were largely ignored by the government at that time.
  • In many ways, such an approach can be seen to reinforce old prejudices that 'civil / secular' people's motivations are less caring and ethical than 'religious' peoples.
  • As such this approach aligns civil marriage celebrants with the wedding industry and thus with the commercial and superficial aspects of the wedding than with the underlying primary rationale for the wedding ie the marriage itself.
  • The proposal to charge such a high fee to conduct civil marriages further stigmatises and discriminates against civil marriage celebrants.
  • If it acceptable for religious celebrants to have an authorisation to enable them to celebrate marriage as one of the rites of passage they celebrate for their communities, then it should be equally acceptable for civil celebrants to have an authorisation to enable them to celebrate marriages for their communities, as one of the rites of passage they celebrate
 7.1  Low entry criteria the government mistake

The "Open Market" approach since 2003 has delivered an increase of 7183 to the 3317 marriage celebrants still remaining who were appointed under the needs based system. Only a small number (approximately 100 as assessed by the Attorney General's website) have been appointed under the new Certificate IV in Celebrancy.  Thus under the new appointment system the number of Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants has more than doubled.

Predominantly the concerns expressed by the AGD are about the 7000 Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants appointed between 2003 and 2010, who ONLY completed ONE VET UNIT for appointment.

These concerns have been made worse by

  • increasingly dictatorial and inflexible approaches by the AGD's to Section 45 and 46, to OPD, to management of requests for information
  • reluctance by the AGD to implement suggestions provided by experience marriage celebrants and the celebrant Associations.

"The level of qualification required for registration has been significantly increased from a single unit of training to a full Certificate IV in Celebrancy. The latter came into effect on 3 February 2010. The increase in the level of qualification has, to date, had some marginal effect in raising the standard of training of applicants for registration but has not sufficiently addressed the fundamental problems of ensuring celebrant have an appropriate understanding of obligations and compliance with obligations outlined above. The completion of the Certificate IV in Celebrancy is considered to be a necessary condition to ensuring the professionalism of celebrants, but it is not of itself a sufficient condition. Appropriate monitoring and enforcement of the relevant standards is also required".

7.2 The Attorney General's Department  has not acted upon advice from the Celebrant Associations from the commencement planned changes in the late 90s to 2000's.

The mistrust of advice from experienced celebrants appears to have been interpreted as a ‘conflict of interest’ on behalf of existing celebrants wanting to protect their interests is based upon a business model, and yet it was the government who assumed this new direction in the first place.

  • Marriage celebrant associations recommended a FULL Certificate IV in Marriage Celebrancy - 11 VET units.

    This comprised of 1 marriage legal unit and 10 business units and designed upon the AGD insistence that Civil Marriage Celebrants were small businesses and thus unworthy of protection, and "open market" forces would determine the quality of celebrants work.

    Also under the needs based system there had been little concern about the legal and related paperwork of Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants. In fact, the BDMs had routinely expressed the opinion that civil marriage celebrants paperwork was of a far higher standard than of the Recognised Religious Celebrants.
  • The AGD's reduced the entry point criteria to ONLY ONE VET unit, presumably on the basis that  the AGD could not require Independent religious celebrants to do business units.

    However the proposed amalgamation of separate categories of civil, non-aligned religious, and special needs based Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants was not made available by the AGD to the Industry Reference Group recommending the training to the AGD, or this could have been factored into the initial Training Recommendations.
  • The VET system itself creates many problems that minimise the ability of the system to deliver a consistent high quality standard of knowledge and skills as the result of VET training. Major problems have been: 

    - no requirement for a trainer to have experience in the field in which they are training. The completion of a Certificate IV in Workplace Training is deemed sufficient, and if experience is lacking the trainer can be "paired" with someone who has to make up the gap. There are numerous examples of trainers without marriage celebrant experience trying to teach this course

    - no requirement that the trainer have civil marriage celebrant experience to be a trainer, even though the majority of trainees will apply to conduct civil rather than religious ceremonies. Nor was there any specific level of experience required of trainers by the AGD.

    - literacy and numeracy skills requirements, though requested, were not accepted because the VET system does not want barriers to people starting VET courses

    - Whilst the Certificate IV in Celebrancy brought in in 2010, increased the number of Marriage Specific units to 4, the AGD only requires that trainers to have marriage experience of 3 weddings in two years. This is despite recommendations by celebrant associations that all trainers have a minimum of having conducted 25 weddings.

    - literacy and numeracy skills requirements, though requested, were not accepted because the VET system does not want barriers to people starting VET courses

    - Most Registered Training Organisations are commercial bodies who aim to be self-supporting whilst delivering an "acceptable" standard of training. For some, though making "profit" profit is a major or only priority.

    - For RTOs providing training in Marriage Celebrancy has been seen by some as a "cash cow", Until recently Marriage Celebrancy was viewed as a desirable role, being part-time weekend work, and (un-informed)  for most celebrants attracting a high income.

    - The fragmented nature of the VET system makes feedback and complaints extremely difficult to delver, without some independent assessment of the outcome of the course graduates by the various RTOs.

7.3 The "Open Market" approach since 2003 has delivered an increase of 7183 to the 3317 marriage celebrants still remaining who were appointed under the needs based system.

Only a small number (approximately 100 as assessed by the Attorney General's website) have been appointed under the new Certificate IV in Celebrancy.  Thus under the new appointment system the number of Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants has more than doubled.

Predominantly the concerns expressed by the AGD are about the 7000 Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants appointed between 2003 and 2010, who ONLY completed ONE VET UNIT for appointment.

These concerns have been made worse by  increasingly dictatorial and inflexible approaches by the AGD's to Section 45 and 46, to OPD, to management of requests for information

8. No overall increase in weddings nor experience

The Regulation Impact Statement states: The benefit of this option to marriage celebrants  both individually and as a sector is that the celebrants who continue will develop better experience through the opportunity to conduct more ceremonies thereby improving their level of professionalism and the overall performance and the standing of the sector. They will also receive improved standards of regulation by the Department.

(Application rate of 1800 pa - Figures provided for 2011) as the Department states appointment criteria of the new full Certificate IV in Celebrancy “has not sufficiently addressed the fundamental problems of ensuring celebrant have an appropriate understanding of obligations and compliance with obligations outlined above.” 

A 10% decrease in numbers of celebrants, being replaced by more than 10  % of new, and thus totally inexperienced, as implied by the RIS, celebrants will not

  • reduce the overall number of non-complying celebrants, nor
  • result in any significant  increase in experience.

Even if all independent religious  and civil country /remote  celebrants were removed from the equation

  • an increase of 30%  raises the number of weddings per year from 6.6 to  only 8.8 weddings per year ie. less than one per month

will not mean significantly more experience, to guarantee proper legal understanding and compliance as claimed.

In fact in 1999, the average number of weddings per celebrant was 32 weddings pa.

Even at this high rate, only 4% of celebrants were doing 2 or more weddings per week. ie able to make a weekly wage average from civil marriage celebrancy.

To achieve this ratio of weddings per celebrant would require reducing the number of civil marriage celebrants to 2,250 from the current 10.400 celebrants. ie getting rid of approx 80% of current celebrants.

Beneficiaries of Marriage Act

Reference RIS Page 12
These requirements are necessary and appropriate for the authorisation and monitoring of private citizens who perform significant legal responsibilities where failure to properly perform those responsibilities can have a significant negative impact on members of the public.

Reference RIS Page 15
Registration under the Program provides celebrants with the authority of the Government to perform a legally significant and socially important function and to charge marrying couples for the performance of this function. It is appropriate that the beneficiaries of the Program - the celebrants registered under it - provide the funding to properly regulate it.

This submission challenges the statements in the RIS that the celebrants are the beneficiaries of the Program.

  • Marriage celebrants deliver a service to the Australian public on behalf of the government.
  • Therefore the beneficiaries are the marrying couples and the Government.

The RIS shows that civil marriage celebrants at 6.6 weddings per celebrant pa are making a gross income of less that $3,300 if one over-estimated the average wedding fee charged by celebrants at $500.

In fact, one could argue that

  • currently independent marriage celebrant are providing a charity service for the public.
  • as recognised religious marriage celebrants supported by their churches or staff doing weddings in Registry Offices are employed that those two categories of celebrant are better placed financially to pay a fee it one was required.
  • Rather than being the beneficiaries of this program, Commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants under the current model of celebrancy are in fact subsidizing the Marriage Celebrant Program.

Given the importance of a stable marriage to society and the enormous costs to government when it fails, one could argue that

  • this program should always be funded by tax payers funds
  • use the best possible models to ensure choice by the public
  • uniform standards across all celebrants - civil and religious

9. Significant impact on the marrying public

$4.2 million on cost recovery basis is required to remove 10% of celebrants who do not comply with their obligations.

This means an extra  average $ 91 per wedding for each couple, who want a civil or minority religious marriage performed by an independent celebrant of their choice, is required to fully fund the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section. (at “Professional Registration Fee” of $ 600 pa for an average of 6.6 weddings)

People become independent marriage celebrants for many reasons – very few for purely economic reasons as evidenced by the number of marriage celebrants continuing in the role, despite an average of 6.6 weddings per year.

6.6 weddings pa =  an average gross income from weddings of less than $3,300 pa.

Many marriage celebrants fund their wedding work from other employment income, pensions, super or private resources.

A high “professional fee” will advantage the rich, well located, and celebrants which good marketing skills and resources – and that says nothing about their legal and ceremonial skills as a celebrant.

Such attributes (the rich, well located, and celebrants which good marketing skills and resources) are not being required of Recognised Religious Celebrants, nor of Registry Office staff performing weddings for which they too receive remuneration.

10. Fee massively disproportionate to income

The Regulation Impact Statement identifies the average number of weddings per celebrant per year, and the fees as "Anecdotal information available to the Department indicates that a fee of $250-$300 per marriage is not uncommon and that a large number of celebrants charge considerably more than that".

The "a large number of celebrants charge considerably more than that" statement is not true given the competitive nature of the marriage celebrant industry.

Even  at $ 500 per wedding the GROSS income per celebrant is $3,300 pa.

  • $ 600 per celebrant for a "Professional Celebrant" Fee is a huge 18% of Gross Income
  • Added to OPD average $200 pa, Insurance average $150  and Copyright Licence average $ 50 pa, this fee will increase celebrant's cost to act professionally to an average of $1000 per celebrant, or 28.5% of Gross income

Obviously an unacceptable and prohibitive fee for the average Marriage Celebrant.
Even professional people with full time employment such as teachers have registration fees of around $100 pa.

Conclusion:

The essence of the argument of the RIS is that the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section (MLCS)  needs more staff to deal with its Compliance requirements.

However most celebrants who have been around the last decade or more see these issues differently

There is the old story of a high cliff with no fence overlooking a magnificent valley.
Lots of people go too close and fall over the cliff.
More and more ambulance and staff are needed to pick up the injured people to take them to hospital.
Now the ambulance service wants more funding for more ambulances and staff to deal with the problem.


Is not the sensible and more cost effective thing to do - to build a fence to stop so many people falling over the cliff?

  • Improving the standards of people entering the field would reduce incoming numbers and staffing as better trained celebrants will require less work.
  • Encouraging existing celebrants to leave based on competence, not their personal wealth or other income
    For example, assessments for Compulsory OPD would allow the MCLS to give celebrants feedback and encourage them to up-skill or resign.
  • Allow more flexibility with OPD so more celebrants are encouraged to attend.
  • Requiring celebrants to have appropriate insurances and copyright licence cover.
  • Reducing the problems associated with the Marriage act itself

The recommendations by celebrants are based on celebrants working knowledge of the aspects of the Marriage Act and the Marriage Celebrant Program that cause the main problems.

Further Reading:

Is marriage celebrancy a profession?  

 

Last modified on Saturday, 28 January 2017 00:06