We always want to keep you in the loop as to what we’re suggesting, so here’s Sarah and my submission to the MLCS for OPD from 2021 onwards.

Current status

Commonwealth Registered Marriage Celebrants (CRMCs) are currently required to undertake five hours of approved Ongoing Professional Development (OPD) activities per calendar year, delivered by one of an approved panel of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). RTOs report completion of OPD to the Marriage Law and Celebrant Section (MLCS) on a quarterly basis; MLCS must compare these reports to the Register of Authorised Celebrants and “tick off” those who have met their requirements.

MLCS is looking to reduce their administrative burden around OPD as an ongoing efficiency measure. The current proposal is to reduce OPD to a one-hour activity per year, provided through the Marriage Celebrants Portal; compliance would be automatically registered through completing the activity in the portal. This would eliminate the work required to manage the panel of approved RTOs, approve the topics annually, and check which celebrants have met their obligations.

Our concerns

The Celebrant Institute proposes that the current minimum professional development expectations not be lowered. Setting aside any ceremonial or business skills and knowledge, the current legal knowledge and understanding of the CRMC population is not at an

acceptable level even with the current requirement of five hours of OPD per year. We have evidence of this through the questions that are asked by our members on a regular basis.

There are also concerns about the level of skill and knowledge regarding ceremony and running a small business. While MLCS does not see their role as ensuring celebrants are knowledgeable in these areas, rather to ensure marriages are performed in line with the marriage legislation, we argue that these professional standards are part of MLCS’s remit through the requirement in the Code of Practice for Marriage Celebrants that “a marriage celebrant must maintain a high standard of service in his or her professional conduct and practice” (s2, Schedule 2, Marriage Regulations 2017).

Instead, we propose that the professional development requirements be diversified so the incentive isn’t to merely meet the requirement to undertake five hours of OPD per year, but to actually improve the professional standard of celebrants so that the requirements of the marriage legislation are widely known and understood, and so that the requirements of the Code of Practice for Marriage Celebrants are not only met but exceeded.

Our proposal

The Celebrant Institute’s proposal for OPD that would meet the goal of improving the professional standard of Commonwealth Registered Marriage Celebrants is as follows:

  1. A one-hour or equivalent marriage law compulsory activity and subsequent knowledge test delivered through the MLCS Marriage Celebrants Portal. Celebrants who do not correctly complete the test are subject to professional review by MLCS; MLCS would have the discretion to deregister celebrants who do not meet the expected knowledge standards.
  2. A minimum of five hours of professional development relevant to the role of the celebrant, delivered by any third parties (RTOs, associations, BDMs, other training and development providers), selected by individual celebrants. Celebrants can choose to undertake any professional development activity they think would be useful and relevant to their role, from creative writing to presentation skills, first aid to small business skills, or anything else they choose. Celebrants would upload evidence of their activities to the Marriage Celebrants Portal, with a short explanation of how the activity is relevant to the role of an authorised marriage celebrant. The system would automatically register that a celebrant has reported and provided evidence for five hours of professional development activities, and this would be subject to random audit by MLCS. This would reduce the administrative burden on MLCS by not requiring them to manage a panel of approved RTOs, approve activities, or confirm reports of who has met their obligations.
  3. A requirement to solemnise no less than 12 marriage ceremonies per calendar year. There are many associations and celebrants calling for a reintroduction of a cap on celebrant numbers or a moratorium on new registrations. One of the major reasons cited is that with the number of celebrants currently authorised, most celebrants are not able to perform enough ceremonies per year to maintain their skills and knowledge. Therefore, we suggest that if a certain number of ceremonies is required to maintain skills and knowledge, such a requirement should be formalised. Celebrants who are unable to meet this requirement would be deregistered. Exemptions could be made available similar to those currently available for OPD.

All three of these obligations would need to be met for a celebrant to retain their registration as a CRMC, in addition to the payment of the annual registration fee.