How to become a celebrant

Here’s the information from the Attorney General’s Department as at 3 May 2006

Marriage Celebrant Program

The Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for the administration of the Marriage Act 1961. The Marriage Celebrants Program was established in 1973. It enables the appointment of suitably qualified people to perform marriages and provides couples with a meaningful alternative to Registry Office and mainstream church weddings. The Department also authorises marriage celebrants who do not belong to a recognised denomination.

The Government undertook an extensive four year review of the Marriage Celebrants Program commencing in 1996. The review carefully considered the opinions and experiences of marriage celebrants, celebrant organisations and the marrying couples who use celebrant services. The review identified a number of deficiencies in the program requiring reform.

A package of reforms was developed that aim to raise the professional standards in celebrancy services provided by marriage celebrants appointed under the program. The reforms will broaden and enhance the role of celebrants to include the provision of information on pre-marriage and other relationship services. This aims to ensure celebrants play an important role in developing longer lasting family relationships and stronger communities within Australia.

The then Attorney-General, the Hon Daryl Williams AM QC MP, announced that the changes by the way of amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 would commence on 1 September 2003. These changes were contained in the Marriage Amendment Act 2002 passed by the Parliament on 23 September 2002.

Aspiring celebrants will need to have completed an approved, competency-based training course or have been independently assessed against the competencies in order to be eligible to apply.

Contact Details:

Marriage Celebrant Section
Family Law Branch
Attorney-General’s Department
National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600

Telephone: (02) 6234 4800
Facsimile: (02) 6234 4811
Email: marriagecelebrantssection@ag.gov.au

Who are Marriage Celebrants?

The term marriage celebrant is commonly used to describe all celebrants who perform marriages.

The Marriage Act 1961 provides for three different categories of people who perform marriages:

  1. Ministers of religion of recognised denominations authorised by State and Territory Registrars of Birth, Deaths and Marriages.
  2. Some State and Territory officers.
  3. Persons registered as marriage celebrants in accordance with Part IV Division 1 subdivision C of the Act.

The authorised marriage celebrant must do the following:

  • To consent to be present as the responsible authorised marriage celebrant,
  • To take a public role in the ceremony,
  • To identify themselves to the assembled parties, witnesses and guests as the celebrant authorised to solemnise the marriage,
  • To be responsible for ensuring the validity of the marriage according to law,
  • To say the words required by section 46 in the presence of the parties, the formal witnesses and the guests before the marriage is solemnised,
  • To be in close proximity (ie nearby) when the vows required by section 45(2) are exchanged because it is the exchange of vows that constitutes the marriage and the authorised celebrant should ensure that they see and hear the vows exchanged,
  • To be available to intervene (and exercise the responsibility to intervene) if events demonstrate the need for it elsewhere in the ceremony,
  • To be part of the ceremonial group or in close proximity to it, and
  • To sign the papers required by the Act.

How Marriage Celebrants are authorised

People wishing to be authorised as a marriage celebrant will need to have completed an approved, competency-based training course in order to be eligible to apply. You can view the National Training Information Service website at www.ntis.gov.au. Under ‘Training Packages’ and ‘Community Services’ you will be able to view a detailed list of the units of competency required and under ‘Training Providers’ you can view a list of registered training organisations accredited to deliver training. Universities may also offer courses in celebrancy.

Training

Accredited training providers for Unit of Competency CHCMCEL401A – Plan, conduct and review a marriage ceremony

The following list of training providers for the unit of competency CHCMCEL401A – Plan, conduct and review a marriage ceremony – is provided as a service for people seeking information. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department does not accredit training providers. The accreditation of training providers is undertaken by State and Territory educational authorities. Any issues or concerns relating to training bodies should be taken up with the training provider concerned or with the relevant State or Territory accrediting body.

Please click here for a list of training providers:

If you believe your experience or training fulfils the competency requirements in the unit of training, you may seek a written assessment by a qualified assessor. A qualified assessor is someone who holds a qualification at or above the Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment to conduct assessments for the marriage celebrancy unit. If your assessment indicates you do not meet the competencies in the training unit, you will need to complete the training before you will be able to apply.

People who are fluent in an Australian indigenous language(s) may apply under a special provision. You should contact the Marriage Celebrants Section for more information if you believe this is relevant to you.

Once an aspiring celebrant completes an approved training course or assessment, there will be an additional requirement to demonstrate to the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants that the ‘fit and proper person’ criteria set out in the Marriage Amendment Act 2002 have been met. The requirements of the ‘fit and proper person’ test are as follows.

Fit and Proper Person Test

  • whether you have a sufficient knowledge of the law relating to the solemnisation of marriages by marriage celebrants,
  • whether you are committed to advising couples of the availability of relationship support services;
  • whether you are of good standing in the community,
  • whether you have been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer, against a law of the Commonwealth,
  • whether you have an actual or potential conflict of interest between your practice, or proposed practice, as a marriage celebrants and your business interests or interests such as employment or hobbies,
  • Whether your registration as a marriage celebrant would be likely to result in your gaining a benefit in respect of another business you own, control or carry out,
  • whether you will fulfil your obligations as a marriage celebrant, and
  • any other matter the Registrar considers relevant to whether you are a fit and proper person to be a marriage celebrant.

Cap on the new appointments

Section 39E of the Marriage Act requires that the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants not register a person if doing so would breach the cap on the number of registrations that can be made in a registration year.

The cap is 10% of the total number of marriage celebrants registered by the Commonwealth. This is the maximum number that can be registered in each registration year. The registration year is 1 September 31 August each year. The cap will operate until 31 August 2008.

From 1 September 2008 any applicant who meets the mandatory training requirements and satisfies the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants that they meet the fit and proper person criteria set out in the Marriage Act will be able to be registered.

The cap on registrations represents a transitional period in the introduction of the new registration system which commenced on 1 September 2003. The transitional period was introduced in response to concerns raised by marriage celebrants appointed prior to the introduction of the new system that too many celebrants would otherwise be appointed and they would not have time to adjust to the requirements of the new system. The Government believed that it was important to respond to these concerns as many of these celebrants had been appointed for over twenty years and the Marriage Celebrant Program itself had not been fundamentally changed since it began over thirty years ago. The transitional period balances the needs of different groups.

The cap is administered on the basis of regions that are defined in the Marriage Regulations 1963. Each State (except Tasmania) is divided into a capital city region and rest-of-state region. Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory form one region apiece. The capital city region in each State is defined in the Marriage Regulations in accordance with definitions established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The rest-of-state region is the whole State outside the capital city region.

The cap is set on 31 August for the next registration year. The cap for each new registration year is not known until that time.

Once the cap is filled each registration year a waiting list of those who have been found to be suitable for registration is commenced for each region. People are transferred to the waiting list strictly in the order in which their application has been processed (the Marriage Act requires that all applications be processed in the order in which they are received). At the commencement of each registration year enough people are registered from the waiting list to fill the cap for that region. Those remaining on the waiting list will move up the list. The waiting lists for most regions are extremely long.

The appointments cap has been reached in the following areas for the assessment period 1 September 2005 to 31 August 2006. Waiting lists have commenced in each of these regions. Based on current projections applicants currently being assessed as suitable can not expect to be registered until the registration year shown below:

  • Victoria – Capital City Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • Victoria – Rest of State Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • Queensland – Capital City Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • Queensland – Rest of State Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • Tasmania (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • Australian Capital Territory (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2007)
  • New South Wales – Rest of State Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • New South Wales – Capital City Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2008)
  • Western Australia – Capital City Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2007)
  • Western Australia – Rest of State Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2006)
  • South Australia – Capital City Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2007)
  • South Australia – Rest of State Region (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2007)
  • Northern Territory. (expected registration year for applicants Sept 2007)

Expected registration times may change depending on the size of the cap in the coming years. Suitably assessed applicants will be kept updated on their new position in the waiting list each registration year until their appointment.

Suitably assessed applicants will also be contacted again before the registration year in which they may be registered. Applicants will be asked whether their circumstances have changed. Registration as a marriage celebrant is not automatic.

Restrictions on your conduct while you are on the waiting list

Once an applicant has been placed on the waiting list for registration as a marriage celebrant they are not yet a registered marriage celebrant. As a result any applicant on the waiting list is not entitled to engage in any advertising or promotion that suggests that they are available to conduct marriage ceremonies. Applicants may only solemnise marriages once they have been formally notified of the registration as a marriage celebrant.

Applicants on the waiting list are also not entitled to accept any bookings or agree to perform any marriage until after they have been notified that they have been registered as a marriage celebrant.

Appointments will continue to be made on a lifetime basis, subject to satisfying ongoing requirements. Once authorised a marriage celebrant will need to satisfy a range of obligations. These include:

  • comply with a Code of Practice covering matters such as maintaining a high standard of service in professional conduct, complying with the Marriage Act 1961, other laws and a range of requirements for the conduct of marriage ceremonies,
  • undertake professional development each year, and
  • undergo regular reviews of performance to ensure continuing compliance with obligations.

Special or one-off ceremonies, or participation in a ceremony

Applications will not be accepted for authorisation to solemnise a single ceremony, or to solemnise marriages for friends and relatives. However, persons not authorised as marriage celebrants may participate in aspects of a marriage ceremony as long as an authorised marriage celebrant is present and fulfils all legal requirements for solemnising the marriage.

Other Ceremonial Roles

From time to time persons expressing an interest in authorisation as a marriage celebrant also enquire about the authority to officiate at funerals and name-giving services. The Attorney-General’s Department has no responsibility for authorising celebrants to conduct non-marriage ceremonies such as funerals, name-giving and commitment ceremonies, and other similar ceremonies. You will need to contact the relevant State or Territory Government authorities to find out whether there are any restrictions on funeral services in your State or Territory.

You might also like to contact the Celebrant Associations in your state for information on other ceremonial roles.

Marriage Celebrant Associations

Please click here for a list of Association Details

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