Webinar on this topic: $10 to watch on demand webinars to learn about the new marriage law changes.

As of today remote witnessing of the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) is made permanent by Commonwealth law.

Remote witnessing of the NOIM is law

It’s finally happened! After many months and a LOT of work, remote witnessing has been made permanent by the Royal Assent of the Attorney-General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill 2023. As of today, all Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants can once again witness signatures on the Notice of Intended Marriage via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms like FaceTime, Google Meet, Skype, WebEx, and others.

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But there’s more

That’s not the only change this legislation has created.

There are other changes, some of which will significantly impact the way we work and Sarah has written about them before.

Webinar to learn about new changes to the Marriage Act

If you want to hear Sarah Aird discuss the changes to the Marriage Act including the remote witnessing, the separate meetings now required, and to explain how they’ll work in practice, come along to one of the Zoom webinar sessions the Celebrant Institute is running:

 💻 Webinar details

The webinars have been recorded and are available to watch on demand for $10 through the webinar ticket below.

  • Dates: Thursday 13th and Tuesday 18th of June 2024
  • Cost: $10

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Official note from the Marriage Celebrants Section of the Attorney-General’s Department:

Notice of amendments to the Marriage Act – Attorney-General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Act 2024

We write to you with an important update. Over the past months, the Australian Government has been progressing a bill before parliament to update, clarify, and improve the intended operation of legislation administered by the Attorney-General, including the Marriage Act 1961. The changes seek to clarify and improve the operation of the Marriage Celebrants Program and include a new requirement for celebrants to meet separately and in person to ensure safeguards for real consent to a marriage are maintained, and the ability to witness the signing of NOIMs in Australia on line.

The Attorney-General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill 2023 received Royal Assent on 11 June 2024 and becomes law on 12 June 2024.

The changes to the Marriage Act are summarised below.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email  [email protected] with the subject name ‘MARRIAGE ACT ENQUIRY’.

Yours sincerely

Marriage Law and Celebrants section

Attorney-General’s department

Summary of upcoming amendments to the Marriage Act

Remote witnessing

The Marriage Act will be amended to permanently provide couples with the option to have their Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) witnessed remotely, via audio-visual link, as well as in person.

NOTE: The requirements for authorised witnesses will remain unchanged and location-dependent. If the couple is in Australia then the person remotely witnessing the NOIM (which can include an authorised celebrant) must also be in Australia. If the couple is outside Australia, the authorised witness (which cannot be a celebrant) must also be outside Australia. To be clear, you cannot witness online a NOIM for a person or couple outside Australia.

Separate Meetings

The Marriage Act will require an authorised celebrant to meet separately and in person with each party to the marriage before the marriage is solemnised. The purpose of the meeting is to ensure that each party is freely and voluntarily consenting to the marriage.

A separate meeting needs to occur in the absence of the other party to the marriage and in a culturally safe environment – but this does not mean you need to meet alone with a party. Other persons can attend with the party’s permission.

The timing of the separate meetings is at the discretion of the celebrant and the couple. It can occur at any time up to and including the day of the marriage, providing it occurs before the marriage is solemnised. Additional guidance material will be provided to assist you to meet these requirements.

Evidence of date and place of birth

The amendments re-order the acceptable evidence of date and place of birth under paragraph 42(1)(b) of the Marriage Act. They clarify that where it is impracticable (practically impossible) for the party to the marriage to obtain a certificate or official extract of an entry in an official register and they do not have a passport, only then should they rely on a statutory declaration to declare to the best of their knowledge, their date and place of birth.

The term impracticable does not mean inconvenient. For example, it is not impracticable for a person born in Australia to apply to the state or territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages for a copy of their birth certificate, or except in special circumstances, for overseas born persons to apply to the appropriate authorities in their country of birth.

Transfer of the NOIM

The amendments also clarify the circumstances when a NOIM can be transferred to another authorised celebrant include at the request of the marrying couple. This is in addition to transfers due to the death, absence or illness of the celebrant or where it is otherwise impracticable for a celebrant to solemnise the marriage.

Other measures

Other amendments include:

  • the introduction of deputy registrars for the Marriage Celebrants Program
  • extending the timeframes for considering an application for registration as an authorised celebrant
  • providing for the refund of the application fee only if an applicant does not have the requisite qualification or skills referred to in the Marriage Act
  • clarifying that a celebrant must be physically present to solemnise a marriage, together with the parties and 2 witnesses and
  • confirming that a celebrant can only be registered or authorised under one subdivision of the Marriage Act at a time (this applies only if the person’s application is received after the commencement of Schedule 3, Part 7 ie, 28 days after the Act receives Royal Assent).


The Marriage Law and Celebrants Section is available to assist you with any questions you may have about these amendments.

If you have received this transmission in error please notify us immediately by return e-mail and delete all copies. If this e-mail or any attachments have been sent to you in error, that error does not constitute waiver of any confidentiality, privilege or copyright in respect of information in the e-mail or attachments.

Celebrant Talk Show Podcast

Links to your favourite podcast player and app are all available on the podcast website.


Welcome to the only podcast, probably in the known universe, that will utter the words today, Attorney General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill, 2023. My name is Josh Withers, joined today by Sarah Aird. You’re listening to the Celebrant Talk Show and we are here to bring what I can only consider, looking over all of our notes and all of our preparation we’ve been preparing this for quite a long time. This will be just a banger of a podcast episode, full of excitement and joy. And if you are sitting down, may I suggest holding onto your seat. If you’re not sitting down, perhaps find a seat. And if you’re driving, can I ask you to engage, adapt to the cruise control for your safety please. Sarah, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you, Josh. That was quite an introduction. This is not gonna be the only podcast to mention that there was an event.

No one else is like today. No one else is saying those words.

Today, today that is correct.

Mammia is not covering this.

Today, however, I am already pre-booked to talk about this when it goes through, so, you know, on another podcast. So there will be another podcast that discusses it, just not today, that’s fair. I’ll accept that. Yeah.

Yeah, all right. Yeah, so this is a podcast. Look, I’m just gonna put some clarification in there. We’re recording this ahead of this bill, receiving Royal Assent. We’re gonna release the podcast when the bill has received Royal Assent because we want there to be clear communication about what is and isn’t. So we’re recording this on 12th of June. And we’re talking about, as I’ve already teased the exciting title, Attorney-General’s Portfolio Miscellaneous Measures Bill 2023. In particular today, we’re talking about the tantalizing, I mean, I’m thrilling the section on it that is all about amending the marriage act, the schedule three. Sarah, can I take you through schedule three? Can I say things that are written on paper and then you reply with intelligent definitions and understandings of what those things on paper mean?

Well, before we do that, I would just like to give a very brief overview of kind of how long this has taken.

Yeah, I was going through it through my-

To where we are, because it’s quite ridiculous. This bill was first discussed with the Associations and Networks Group back in October last year. The Marriage Law and Celebrant section contacted us for a teleconference and said, look, this bill’s about to go to parliament. We just wanna check if you’ve got any dramas with it. It went to the House of Reps on the 15th of November, 2023. It was, that was the first reading debate. Second reading debate was on the 28th of November. It was then referred to the Federation Chamber who referred it to a Senate committee. That committee, we were the only celebrant association to put in a submission. That committee reported on the 1st of February this year that report went to the House of Reps on the 7th of February. The House of Reps went, yeah, okay, we’re happy. Send it to the Senate. The Senate introduced the bill on the 8th of February and then they didn’t get back to it until the 16th of May, despite me watching the Senate live for many days, because of course they knew that I was watching it live waiting for them to get to this bill. And they specifically ignored it just so that I would have to suffer through more live days of the Senate.

Just imagine all the money that Netflix lost by not having you for those hours.

So they got to it on the 16th of May and basically the Senate kind of went, oh, we’ve got a whole lot of things we’ve got to get to, let’s just do it. And then it went back to the House of Reps because there was one small amendment and it just had to be agreed to. And the House of Reps agreed to that on the 28th of May. So it has, we’ve been waiting since the 28th of May for it to get Royal Assent. That process can take 24 hours as it did when marriage equality was passed. Royal Assent was granted in less than 24 hours after it was passed by both houses. Or it can take several weeks, which is what we’re seeing now. So we’re just waiting. Josh and I literally just Googled where is the Governor General right now? Why is he not signing bills? (laughs)

I think he’s in England. From the best I can see on his Instagram today, it looks like he’s in England, or he’s at least in the European continent.

So who knows? But the day after the bill is granted Royal Assent, that’s when it will come into force and we have to start doing the things that are in the bill. So this podcast episode that we’re recording on the 12th of June will be released on the, as soon as we are aware that it has been granted Royal Assent and we have dates for it being in force. So, I mean, that could be tomorrow or it could be in two or three weeks. Who fricking knows? Nobody.

Yeah, just a little bit of a peek behind the curtains. So today on the 12th of June, I’ve just flown, well, yesterday I flew from Fiji to Sydney. I had a wedding in Fiji and now I’m off to Sicily. No direct flights, Sarah, if you’re wondering, none. It’s a multitude of flights from Fiji to Sicily and that involves me being in Sydney for the day. But with all of this, with all the planning around, letting everyone know about the marriage law changes, we’ve scheduled up, we’ve drafted, we’ve got all these things waiting in the ranks because it’s, what’s gonna happen, this is just Murphy’s Law, is that the second I get on a plane, that’s when it will happen. And so after Sarah will get on there and release everything, but we’ve got a webinar planned to let everyone kind of go a little bit deeper on some of the understandings and blog posts and emails. If you don’t get our monthly email, and also there’s sometimes middle of the month emails if there’s something really big, go to mail.celebrant.institute to subscribe, that’s free. And the big kind of, I suppose, public information regarding this, we’re gonna publish all on our website, celebrate.institute, free for everyone to view. And if there’s deeper kind of, I guess, analysis or help that we can put in there, that’ll be made available to members and membership starts at $12 a month. And look, while I’m talking as well, you’ll probably find when you go to celebrate.institute, we’ve also launched a webinar on myth-busting Instagram. So if that’s something you’re interested in, check that out. But I think, is that all the housekeeping we need to get through before we start?

Well and truly.

All right, cool. Oh, it’s one more thing, be good to your mother. Okay, schedule three. Schedule three, Amendment of the Marriage Act in 1961, part Unu number one, deputy registrars of marriage celebrants. Is all of this boring and it’s just, is about marriage, the marriage law and celebrant section of the AGD?

Yeah, look a little bit. I think it’s quite useful for people to be aware of because, so basically what’s happening is that a deputy registrar position is being created. So what that means is that right now, there’s a legislative position, which is the registrar of marriage celebrants. And that person has a lot of responsibility. So some of those responsibilities are now going to be able to be delegated to deputy registrars. That’s the headline, yeah.

So number two, it goes on to talk about that. I’m gonna keep on scrolling ’cause I don’t wanna spend all day boring people to death. We get to section four, we’re still omitting things. Okay, subsection five. What is omit three months, substitute six months.

Okay, right, yes. Yeah, you’re not looking at the headings, you’re looking at the actual changes to the act. It’s all good though.

I totally understand. Timeframes for considering application for registration as an author of celebrant. So we’re gonna omit three months, substitute six months. What does that mean?

So currently the legislation says that when you apply to become a celebrant, the marriage law and celebrant section has to make a decision within three months. If they haven’t made a decision within three months, your application is deemed to have been rejected. They are changing that to six months, not because they plan to extend the period of assessment to six months for everybody, but for some special circumstances where by no fault of their own, a celebrant application takes longer than three months. So they don’t have to start again, we’re changing it to six months.

Okay, part three, refund or registration application fee.

So this is when you apply to become a celebrant, you have to pay a fee. Currently it’s $400. It has been $600 in the past, but right now it’s $400. There are approximately half a dozen applications a year by people who are not able to become celebrants because they don’t, usually because they don’t hold the qualification. So they’ve managed to fill in an application form and go through the whole process and pay the fee, but they don’t actually have a cert four or any of the other qualifications. So they can’t be a celebrant. Generally it’s because they’ve got mental health issues or something else. And so at the moment, there’s no way for their fee to be refunded, even though they don’t meet the basic requirements and the marriage law and celebrant section feels bad about that. So now they’ll be able to refund those fees for people whose applications don’t meet those very basic requirements.

Now that’s a quattro, a celebrant to be physically present at marriage. Do we have to turn up? Is this a thing?

I know. (laughing)

No one told me.

This is just making it super clear that when we say that a marriage must be solemnised in the presence of an authorised celebrant and two witnesses, that means physical presence. Because the word physical doesn’t currently appear in the act. A lot of people have said, “Oh, but you could be electronic presence.” No, you can’t. So the word physical is being put in the act. So that a marriage must be solanized in the physical presence of an authorised celebrant and two witnesses.

And side note on that, we’ve just got current little things that we’re talking about about, like what does marriage look like in say 2050? I don’t know, years from now, does it happen online? So that’s a conversation very, very stupidly early, very small, and it’s amongst other things. But yeah, that’s just conversations we have at the celebrant associations and networks meetings in Canberra. That we have. Number five, identity requirements.

This one’s a bit sort of arbitrary. It kind of, it’s just kind of, oh, it’s changing the order of the evidence of date and place of birth in the act. Because at the moment it says that you can produce a birth certificate, or you can produce a stat deck if they can’t get a birth certificate, or they can produce a passport. So it’s just going to strengthen that to say, or like to clarify that it’s like the passport thing is above the stat deck thing. So you can produce a stat deck if you can’t get a birth certificate, and if you don’t have a passport. It’s just changing the order a little bit. It doesn’t actually change the way we do our work. So don’t worry too much about it. It’s not a total, much of an issue for us. Still the same rules apply. You have to either see a birth certificate or a passport for evidence of date and place of birth. If they can’t get a birth certificate and they don’t have a passport, you can get stat deck instead. Yes.

Part six. This is the big one. I’m going to split this in half, two halves, because one of those two halves taught in my opinion. And I’m going to read part six, section 35, paragraph 42, part 2C. So when talking about the notice of intended marriage with the law, the bill is going to amend in the marriage act that will omit the, in the presence of, sign the notice of intended presence of, and substitute for under the observation, whether or not by means of a facility that enables audio and visual communication between persons in different places. And the people must be in Australia. So I was kind of getting a little freestyle at the end there. But part six, the first half, we’re doing audio and visual communication between persons in different places, Sarah.

So this is the big one. This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. It is remote communication. It is remote witnessing of the notice of intended marriage. This is what a lot of celebrants think this entire bill is about. They don’t realise that there’s a whole bunch of other things in there. So this is the big one. We will once again be able to witness notices, witness people signing the notice of intended marriage by Zoom, FaceTime, Skype. Is anybody still using Skype? Whatever you want. You, as long as that person is in Australia and you are in Australia. If a person is overseas, they can also use this video conferencing facility for witnessing snitches with an overseas witness.

I’m gonna jump in here. There’s two part, essentially it’s the old Noim facilities, but introducing video. So if you’re an Australian celebrant, you can only do this while you’re on Australian soil and the couple are on Australian soil. But if the couple are not on Australian soil, they can do this, but not with a celebrant.

Correct. So it’s the same witnesses. So if the couple are overseas, it’s Australian Consul or Embassy staff member or a notary public, basically. They’re the classes of people who can witness overseas and that remains the same, but they can do it by Zoom. So if, so for example, years ago, I had a couple who were living in Canada and they were a 12 hour drive away from the Australian Embassy. So they could Zoom with the Australian Embassy in Canada to now they will be able to, to witness their Noims.

Okay, a bit of a quick.

As long as the Australian Embassy in Canada is happy to do that, of course. But for us, it remains how it was. We can witness people signing their Noim if we are in Australia and they are in Australia over Zoom or FaceTime or whatever.

Okay, so a couple of questions around this. You can just do yes or no. So the couple that are getting married are Josh and Britt and Sarah is a celebrant. Okay, Sarah is in Melbourne, Josh and Britt are in Tasmania. Can we Zoom?


Josh and Britt are in Canada. Sarah’s in Melbourne. Can we Zoom?


Josh and Britt are in Canada. Sarah’s in London. Can we Zoom?


Now here’s the one I wanted to get to. Josh and Britt are in Canada and there’s the Australian Consulate in London. Can we Zoom?


So inter-country is fine.

My understanding is-

Inter-country outside of Australia.

Yes. ‘Cause it doesn’t say an overseas witness in the same country. It doesn’t say that anywhere.

You know who we’ve got to find and I don’t know who this is ’cause I, I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t gotten too involved in international. I would have had international couples. I’m just like, here’s the list, figure it out brother. I’m like, I don’t know. Like everyone’s just in different places. I’ve just never really terribly involved myself in the, oh go to this consulate or whatever. I just kind of, here’s the list. It’s your responsibility to get me one of the people on the list.


It would be great to find like, there’s a guy who’s on that list and he’s in, I don’t know, whatever, he’s in Jakarta. I don’t know where he is. And he’s just like, he’s the guy. And he’s like, it’s 50 bucks. Just witnesses everyone around the world.

Sure, yeah. I mean, that would be cool, but yeah. Yeah.

All right, okay. Go back to the law because we have gotten a little bit, well not off track, but we’re just, we’ve got the other half of our big part six. So the first part of part six is the witnessing annoyings. It remains the same. It’s just that instead of being in the presence of, you can be over audio or visual communications, which obviously is-

Well visual has to be visual.

Oh, audio and visual, sorry. I said audio.

And visual.

Yeah, not all.

And not all. And so yes, Zoom, yes, FaceTime, yes. Weabooks, Google Meets, Skype. I think you can still Skype.

Yeah, Teams, whatever.

Messenger, whatever it is. And whatever next thing comes out next year, yes to that as well. If it’s audio and visual, yes. The second part is the part that Sarah went into, went to a bit of about, who are you guys? And honestly, we should be lost. But the second section is, the title of it is section 42B. Authorized celebrant must physically meet each party to intended marriage separately. And I’ll just read the sentence beneath it. An authorized celebrant must not solemnize a marriage unless the authorized celebrant has met separately with each party before the intended marriage. The authorized celebrant and the party must be physically present at the meeting. Sarah.

This is the one that I’m actually gonna talk about in depth at the webinar because it, there’s gonna be a lot of confusion about it. And there’s likely to be a lot of questions. So I’m very happy to answer all of those questions at the webinar. Basically, we have to meet each person separately, not alone, separately from the other party, in person, before the wedding, to ensure they are consenting. This was first mooted as a measure to ensure that when we are witnessing the noim remotely, that we are still ensuring that they are giving consent. I’ve had a lot to say about that, but you can read everything I’ve said about it on the article on the Celery Institute website when I talked about the submission that we made to the Senate inquiry. So that was the purpose, but they decided just to extend it to all couples. It’s all celebrants, so it’s not just civil celebrants, it’s religious celebrants as well. Everybody must meet each party separately, in person, before the wedding. There is no requirement in the legislation for timing of that meeting, like when it occurs. There is no requirement for what happens in that meeting or how long it takes or anything like that. The requirement is that we meet them separately and the purpose is to ensure their consent. I’m very happy to talk at length about it with more instructions and thoughts and et cetera, answers to questions during the webinar.

And you’ll just, as a link out, celebrant.institute is the website and we’ll have the webinar signup links on there. Okay, part seven, single registration as an authorized celebrant. Are people double fisting celebrancy, Sarah? They totally are. So basically this is just formalising a rule that’s pretty much already in place in that you can only be registered in one category of celebrants. So if you are a category C or subdivision C civil celebrant, like Josh and I are, you can’t also at the same time be registered as a subdivision of B, state and territory officer who performs marriages at the registry office. You have to choose one or the other. There are a small handful of people who have managed to slip through the cracks over the years and are registered in two categories. Those people, their registrations won’t change. It’s, this is only going forward. It was always really like kind of an unspoken rule. It’s just never been in the legislation before. So they’re just formalising it and putting it in the legislation. I’ve got a friend who was, well, I mean, apparently still is registered as a religious minister and has the authority to marry people under his religion. And then he also became a civil marriage celebrant. And so he apparently also holds two registrations. And so this law would also speak to that as well, wouldn’t it? No, it won’t impact him at all. Oh no, no, no, but for future. For future, yes. If his situation arose tomorrow, well, not yet tomorrow. Correct, yes. Doesn’t impact people who are already holding dual registrations, but it won’t be possible in the future. And that brings us to the end of the list.

Gosh, what aThat’s it. That was tantalising, Sarah. That was amazing. We should read the law more. We should do a whole podcast where we just read the entire marriage act. That’d be great. People love it. Nope, nope, nope. So look, that’s the basic headlines. You’re very welcome to go and obviously do your own research and have a look at this. There will be comms. Hopefully the comms from the marriage law and celebrant section will have come out before you hear this podcast because they’ve got it ready to go. And as far as I’m aware, as soon as Royal Assent is granted, they’ll be pressing the send button like we will. So please read your emails from the marriage law and celebrant section. They’re really important. But if you want more information without having to figure it out yourself, feel free to come along to one of my webinars and I’ll tell you all about it. Housekeeping wants more. celebrant.institute is the website. That’s the complete domain. And people like celebrant.institute.com, no, no, just celebrant.institute. That’s where we’re gonna be leaving all the information about the marriage law changes, the webinars. Also you can register for the Instagram myth busting webinar. If you’re sick of hearing complete BS about, oh, you’re gonna go on Instagram at this time of day and you’re gonna do this. If you just wanna kind of cut through the crap and actually learn how to grow your Instagram reach and reach more couples, then please come on to that. And also just come and be in celebrant.institute.com because when you’re paid to be a member, you’re paying for things like this to happen. And we just love to help you guys. This podcast can be found at celebrant.fm. If you loved it, rate it, review it, make sure other people know about it. And Sarah, it is such a pleasure to hear your dose of time. So ladies, once more, thank you for coming.

You are welcome, thank you.