(a) the nature and effect of proposed exemptions for ministers of religion, marriage celebrants and religious bodies and organisations, the extent to which those exemptions prevent encroachment upon religious freedoms, and the Commonwealth Government’s justification for the proposed exemptions
That, the Australian Parliament uphold the professional model of civil celebrancy as a role of “office or public trust under the Commonwealth” to ensure the highest standards of professional service to the Australian public, as introduced with the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill 2002 9 with the support of all major parties.
Why is this an issue?
Civil celebrants in Australian society are part of the social glue enabling people of different faiths and no specific ones to celebrate life’s important events together and to honour lives lost due to old age, illness or accidents.
Skilled professional civil celebrants are needed to guide, inform and support families through these important life transitions.
The vision of Attorney-General Darryl Williams of a self-governing profession as expressed in the Explanatory Memorandum 2002 (10) is yet to be realised. Assuming marriage celebrants are simply part of the wedding industry is to devalue their role and impede the contribution they can make to a more respectful and harmonious society.
- Given the importance of marriage to the structure of Australian society, it is important that independent civil celebrants have high entry qualifications in knowledge and skills, up-to-date professional development to address the changing needs of Australian families and the support of professional celebrant associations to ensure the highest standards of ethics and professional practice.
- 75% of marrying couples choose to have non-religious ceremonies, even though Australia is a modern multicultural society with people of many faiths
- Couples choosing independent civil celebrants (Subdivision C) deserve to have competent skilled professional civil celebrants to design and deliver their unique personalised marriage ceremonies based upon their needs and values as a couple as well as their circle of family and friends.
- Prior to 1970, with only religious or registry office weddings as alternatives, many Australian families suffered the indignity of marriages held “behind the altar”, with only one parties’ family present when inter-denominational or inter-faith marriages occurred, or no family presence if a Registry office marriage.
Often these wedding ceremonies, resulted in fractured relationships within families and between families.
- The advent of the Australian Civil Marriage Program has contributed, along with other social advances, to a reduction in these family tensions.
- Current suggestions being explored by the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section to remove Conflict of Interest and Benefit to Business provisions of the Act do not align with the professional model of civil celebrancy as a role of “office or public trust under the Commonwealth”, as enacted in the 2002 Marriage Amendment Bill.
- These Conflict of Interest and Benefit to Business provisions were enacted in the 2002 Marriage Amendment Bill to ensure Subdivision C authorised celebrants maintained the high professional standards required of Subdivision A Celebrants and expected of Subdivision B State and Territory Officers who are public servants (See Attachment 2).