Calling for a Moratorium on Civil Marriage Celebrant Appointments

Dear Senator Brandis,

Re the Marriage Celebrant Program:
Strong Recommendation to immediately
Declare a Moratorium on appointments

I write to you with a strong recommendation that you, like your predecessor Daryl Williams, announce a moratorium on the appointment of civil marriage celebrants.

The Numbers
In the years 1996 to 2003 this country was well served by an increasingly professional body of 1600 celebrants. The number of weddings (not pro-rata) has barely changed since 1973. And yet we now have the ludicrous situation, where there are between 10,000 and 12,000 marriage celebrants. (I would consider an ideal number would be 2000 celebrants, 2500 would be excessive.)

The harm
It is difficult to describe the harm done to the general populace and the culture generally, by having thousands of excess celebrants in a fierce cost-cutting war, which ultimately leads to very low standard ceremonies, unseemly advertising and the rest. It is as if every car could become a taxi, or having six Post Offices in the one shopping strip could be effective. The businesses and professions which work properly find a way, with government cooperation, of controlling numbers. The mess we are in reflects so badly on the government and the Attorney-General's Department.

And then there is the core of idealistic celebrants who want to to do the task well, but who can gain no real experience. Even pre-2003 celebrants are losing their skills and knowledge because they simply are not able to sufficiently practise.

I know you will find this hard to believe but the appointments keep coming ! Why ? Because your predecessors took little or no interest, or could not find the time to focus on what thinking people, aware of cultural values, consider an important responsibility of yours. In many other aspects it is difficult to conceive of a more mismanaged system then the civil marriage celebrated program.

The Setback
Before the downgrading and demeaning of celebrants in 2003, I need to tell you that we were getting somewhere — improving the understanding of our role, increasing our expertise and enriching the community with ceremonies that meant something, and which enhanced their lives.

The flawed system
Your department has all but encouraged shonky operators in a flawed Nationally Registered Training system overseen by non-celebrants, who believe that two and three day courses can prepare persons for this demanding role — with predictable consequences.

As someone involved with celebrant training since 1974 it is horrific to see my work and the work of my fellow idealists so destroyed by government mismanagement.

The Current Proposition
Currently before you is a legal proposition to make marriage celebrants yearly "sub-contractors". It a crude bureaucratic solution to solving the excessive numbers problem. There are better ways of sorting this - and the first is a moratorium on all future appointments excepting for those who have, in good faith, started study with a reputable training college.

There are many more recommendations thinking celebrants have, which we wish to draw to your attention. But I must confine my current letter to this one recommendation which will give you time to consider how to take over this program again, and manage it in the best interests of the Australian people.

Yours sincerely


Dally Messenger III
Foundation National Secretary* of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of Australia
(*at the request of Lionel Murphy).
Foundation President of the Funerals Celebrants Association of Australia (1977).
Foundation National President and Administrator of
the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants Inc 1995 (and Life Member)
Life Member of the Civil Celebrants Network Inc
Attorney-General's Department participant in establishing competency standards (1995).
Principal of the International College of Celebrancy.
( ) ( )
Convenor, Humanist Celebrant Network - but writing on my own behalf.

PS. There are two open letters written by a group of experienced celebrants to your predecessors Nicola Roxon and Mark Dreyfus QC. They can be found at:-

Books for sale from theCelebrants Centre1300 446 786 Yvonne -
Ceremonies - all
Ceremonies and Celebrations Book and CD
Celebrant Training in History
Marriage Ceremonies
It's Your Wedding by Dally Messenger