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Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrant Proposal

Re: Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrant Program Proposal

Sent to Senators and Members of Parliament 
April 2019

Please find attached a proposal for a community development program whose aims include promoting respect for our diverse Australian community and tolerance for all Australian residents regardless of their racial, religious or cultural backgrounds.

Equality for Celebrants Inc is a non-profit association of civil marriage celebrants and others, who understand the importance of the role of ceremonies in our civil society, and the important role of the Commonwealth Marriage Celebrant Program. This community development program was introduced by Attorney-General Lionel Murphy in 1973 and has contributed quietly but enormously to cultural harmony in Australia.

Civil marriage celebrants have provided inclusive meaningful ceremonies where couples from different religious and cultural backgrounds have been able to marry without religion or race or nationality being a focus for conflict and family disruption as was the case in previous decades.

Therefore Equality for Celebrants Inc proposes a similar program building upon the work of the Australian Citizenship Council and The Australian Government supporting "the continuation of affirmation ceremonies for Australian citizens beyond the 50th anniversary of Australian citizenship (1999) and Centenary of Federation (2001) celebrations, noting that participation in affirmation ceremonies should be voluntary, have no legal status and be conducted with dignity and respect.” (Reference).

Our hope is that this program is timely, and if supported, would be of great benefit to our Australian families and communities. 

We are keen to discuss this proposal with you at your earliest convenience, although we appreciate your time is limited with the upcoming election.

If you require more information please contact us as below.

Coordinator
Equality for Celebrants Inc
PO Box 3113
Robertson NSW 2577
M: 0419 498 768
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
W: www.equalityforcelebrants.org   

Proposal:

For the Commonwealth Government to establish an Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrants program.

Recommendation:

  1. Hold a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s current and possible strategies to strengthen our democracy.
  2. Integrate new strategies into appropriate legislation
  3. Create a new initiative called Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrants Program
  4. Initiate a community awareness strategy about the Australia Civil Citizenship Celebrants Program

Aim:        

To promote and reinforce Australian values of respect for

  • democracy - civil rights, civil law and citizenship
  • equality - a “fair go”
  • tolerance and non-violence
  • diversity
  • community harmony

Concerns:

There are a number of important issues that better trained civil celebrants could help to ameliorate via such Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrants program and the related ceremonies and celebrations such celebrants could be involved in.  These are:

  • Religious intolerance
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Age-ism
  • Terrorism
  • Violence (domestic and other)
  • Binge drinking in teenagers and young adults

Role of Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrants:

To promote and/or facilitate and/or officiate and/or participate in:

  • Citizenship Ceremonies for overseas born people (adults and children)

  • Citizenship Affirmation ceremonies for Australian born and overseas born citizens

  • Coming of Adult Age / “Welcome to Community” ceremonies for 18 year olds.
    Note: Citizenship Day is 17 September each year which could be a time around which the local councils, with business and non-profit organisations support, could hold ceremonies for all 18 year olds who wish to participate.

  • Coming of Age ceremonies for young adults which include a component about the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizens and residents of Australia – for individuals, families and groups.

    Note:  The skill set of this group would be available for other community ceremonies, celebrations and memorials such as Australia Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, Wattle Day, Reconciliation Day, Labour days, Award Ceremonies and other community celebrations, as well as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, Bushfire memorials and other ceremonies to mark losses due to natural and other tragedies.

Requirements for the position:

  • Australian Citizenship and 18 years and over
  • Current authorisation as Commonwealth Marriage Celebrant under Subdivision C of the Australian Marriage Act 1961
    These Subdivision C marriage celebrants have agreed to uphold the civil law definition of marriage.
  • Police check for being a ‘‘fit and proper person”. All Subdivision C civil celebrants have had police checks since mid-2014.
  • Successful completion of a nationally accredited training to be able to apply for and be competent to promote, facilitate, officiate and participate in Citizenship ceremonies, Citizenship Affirmation ceremonies and ceremonies for young adults and their families
  • Commitment to deliver inclusive, respectful and tolerant ceremonies and services to all sectors of the Australian community

    Note: A nationally accredited skills set could be developed under the Commonwealth VET scheme to provide the background knowledge and skills to conduct these community-based ceremonies.

    Civil marriage celebrants already have training and /or experience in designing and delivering family-based ceremonies.

Rationale:

Australia is pre-dominantly a secular, multicultural society. Cohesiveness based upon common values and ethics is important amongst such a diverse population.

Australia has both the oldest continuous culture in the world, and yet is one of the newest nation states with a large proportion of overseas born and first generation overseas born citizens.

Australia as a whole is still developing its own unique cultural traditions - Anzac Day ceremonies are one such tradition, Australia Day another, but it lacks in social cohesiveness and the date still the subject of debate.

Unlike many other countries or cultures, Australia has no acknowledged ceremony or celebration for the entrance into adulthood, when a young person acquires the rights and responsibilities of participation in Australia’s democratic system.

Australian citizenship as such is less than 100 years old, as is the franchise for all Australian born people.

Until recently Citizenship focused only upon overseas born people and has been viewed primarily the providence of the federal immigration department, whatever its specific title in previous years.

However Citizenship for all, especially Australian born people, has moved to the fore with the issues of parliamentary participation for people with dual citizenship, to the deportation of children of Australian citizens who were overseas born when their parents were tourists, or working overseas and the deportation of New Zealand and other Commonwealth country citizens who have resided in Australia for many years, but not taken out Australian Citizenship.    

Establishing an Australian Civil Citizenship Celebrants Program using community development principles and trained civil celebrants would build upon the declaration of Citizenship Day and the promotion of Citizenship Affirmation ceremonies by the Australian Government in 2001.

“The Australian Government introduced Australian Citizenship Day in 2001 in response to a recommendation by the Australian Citizenship Council (established in 1998) in their 2000 report Australian Citizenship for a New Century.[4] The recommendation came from a proposal of the 1999 National Schools Constitutional Convention that a citizenship day be established to allow all Australians to celebrate their Australian citizenship. The Australian Citizenship Council noted that an annual citizenship day would increase community awareness of Australian citizenship while providing a focal point for citizenship-related activities and celebrations.

17 September was chosen as Australian Citizenship Day as it is the anniversary of the renaming, in 1973, of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 to the Australian Citizenship Act 1948.

The first Australian Citizenship Day was celebrated in 2001, coinciding with the Centenary of Federation.” Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Citizenship_Day

It is estimated that civil marriage celebrants have direct contact with 186,000 people (the couples they marry) and over 5 million guests at their weddings. Independent civil celebrants are increasing in popularity for conducting funeral and memorial ceremonies, where the average number of guests is also above 25 guests per ceremony.

Therefore, Australian civil celebrants are a resource the Australian government could use as one aspect of its desire to have a safer, more harmonious and productive society.

Administration:

  • Department of Home Affairs (or another suitably placed department)

Proposer:

Equality for Celebrants Inc  
C/- PO Box 3113
Robertson NSW 2577

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
W: www.equalityforcelebrants.org

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