351 Australian marriage celebrants were deregistrated this week because they “did not pay the celebrant registration charge“ and here are the three letters they received after their initial invoice:
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2018 12:07:09 +1000
Subject: Annual Celebrant Registration Charge Notice –Reminder
Dear Marriage Celebrant
Our records show that you have not paid your annual celebrant registration charge of $240 for 2018-2019. Your payment is now past the invoice due date. Please pay this invoice by 31 August 2018.
What is the consequence if I do not pay?
If you do not pay your annual celebrant registration charge by the charge payment day of 31 August 2018, then under section 39FB of the Marriage Act 1961 you will be deregistered. There is no discretion to accept payments after the charge payment day.
What if I haven’t received my invoice?
You should contact us immediately.
What if I have already paid?
If you believe you have paid the annual celebrant registration charge and have not yet received a receipt, please email us with a copy of your bank statement showing the payment being debited from your account. This information will help us identify and reconcile your payment.
It may take up to 3-5 business days to reconcile payments. If you have recently paid your invoice and have still not received a receipt within 3-5 business days you should follow up with the department.
What if I want to resign?
If you do not intend on paying the celebrant registration charge as you intend to resign before the charge payment day, you should advise the department of your intention to resign and you will be exempted from the liability to pay the charge.
The form for resigning as a marriage celebrant is available here.
Can I apply for an exemption from the charge?
Applications for exemption from the charge closed on 23 July 2018. It is no longer possible to seek an exemption from payment.
Information to assist you to make your payment is available on our website under ‘Celebrant Resources’ at www.ag.gov.au/marriage. This includes details on how to access your self‑service portal to pay your invoice.
Regards, Marriage Law and Celebrants Section
That reminder email was ignored because the celebrant thought the invoice was paid. Which led to this email:
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018
Notice in relation to deregistration
Our records indicate that you did not pay the celebrant registration charge (the charge) by the charge payment day of 31 August 2018.
If you believe you have paid the charge or that you have no liability (you are liable to pay the celebrant registration charge if you are a marriage celebrant on 1 July of the financial year, or become a celebrant later in the financial year, and have not been granted an exemption from the charge) to pay the charge please immediately contact the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section on 1800 550 343. You should be ready to provide evidence in the form of a bank statement which identifies the bank, the date the payment was made and the description used. Once evidence is received we will pursue this with our Accounts Section.
I am writing to advise that, because of your non-payment of the charge, you will be deregistered as a marriage celebrant under section 39FB of the Marriage Act 1961 (the Act).
You will be deregistered as a marriage celebrant after 2 October 2018.
Effect of deregistration
As a result of your deregistration you will not be legally authorised to solemnise any marriages. I will deregister you as a marriage celebrant by removing your details from the register of marriage celebrants, as soon as practicable after 2 October 2018. You must not solemnise any marriages on and from 3 October 2018.
If you have existing marriage bookings to solemnise marriages on or after this date, you should transfer these by transferring the Notice of Intended Marriage form, to another authorised celebrant after discussion with the couple.
It is an offence under section 101 of the Act for a person to solemnise a marriage when they are not authorised to do so. If the department becomes aware that you may have solemnised a marriage when you are not legally authorised to do so, the matter may be referred to the Australian Federal Police.
I will be notifying all state and territory registries of births, deaths and marriages (BDMs) once your deregistration has taken effect.
Right to seek a review of this decision
You have the right under section 39J of the Act to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a review of this decision. Further information about the AAT’s application process can be found on its website at www.aat.gov.au.
Enclosed with this letter is a factsheet containing further information about seeking AAT review for non‑payment of the celebrant registration charge.
As noted in the factsheet, you may wish to seek independent legal advice before approaching the AAT. The Australian Government funds a range of legal assistance services that may be able to assist you, including legal aid commissions and individual community legal centres (CLCs), which offer free and low cost legal advice. Information to assist with finding legal services is available at www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/Legalaidprogrammes/Pages/default.aspx.
Marriage stationery and records
If you have any unused marriage stationery please ensure that you dispose of it safely. Please refer to the ‘Changes to marriage forms and certificates’ factsheet for information on validity of marriage forms. Particular care must be taken with any unused Form 15 certificates of marriage (the certificate of marriage that is given to the couple on the day) in your possession. They should either be destroyed, provided or sold to another authorised marriage celebrant but must not pass into the possession of an unauthorised person.
How you choose to dispose of any unused certificates of marriage should be noted on your record of use form. If you provide or sell the certificates to another marriage celebrant, please make a note of the celebrant’s name and authorisation number as well as the number of each Form 15 certificate you provide them. If you choose to destroy the certificates please make note of the number of each Form 15 certificate and mark that certificate as destroyed.
As part of your record-keeping obligations you are required to keep any Form 15 certificate record of use form for a period of six years from the last entry on the form.
You are also required to keep any completed official certificates of marriage for a period of six years from the date of the marriage.
While I understand your deregistration may be disappointing, I encourage you to comply with these record keeping obligations.
Yours sincerely, Bridget Quayle, Registrar of Marriage Celebrants
Followed by this email:
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2018
Deregistration as a Marriage Celebrant
On 10 September 2018, I wrote to you advising of my intention to deregister you as a Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant due to non-payment of the 2018-2019 celebrant registration charge.
This letter confirms that on 3 October 2018 you were removed from the register of marriage celebrants in accordance with section 39FB of the Marriage Act 1961.
This means that you are not authorised to solemnise any marriages. If you have not already done so, you should transfer any future marriage bookings to an authorised celebrant after discussion with the couple.
Section 101 of the Marriage Act makes it an offence for a person to solemnise a marriage when they are not authorised to do so. The penalty for an offence under section 101 is a $1,050 fine or imprisonment for 6 months.
I have notified state and territory registries of births, deaths and marriages of your deregistration.
You should also refer to my previous letter and familiarise yourself with your record keeping obligations and how to appropriately dispose of unused marriage stationery.
As previously advised, you have a right to seek review of this decision with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). There are statutory time limits for applying to the AAT. The date of the decision to deregister you as a marriage celebrant was 10 September 2018. Further information about the deadlines for lodging an application can be found on the AAT website or by calling 1800 228 333.
Enclosed with this letter is a factsheet containing further information about seeking AAT review for non payment of the celebrant registration charge. You may wish to seek legal advice prior to applying for review in the AAT.
If you wish to reapply to become a Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrant, you will need to meet the current requirements for registration, including to: hold a Certificate IV in Celebrancy qualification and pay the application fee of $600. For further information about the application process please see: www.ag.gov.au/marriage.
Yours sincerely, Bridget Quayle, Registrar of Marriage Celebrants
Sarah and I discuss the 2018 deregistration event in the most recent podcast episode.
If you take issue with the lack of reminders and the abruptness of the deregistration, the only course of action you can take is to talk to your local member of parliament. This is the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants doing their job as public servants enacting the law as the Marriage Law and Celebrants Section of the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department requires them.
Don’t call or email the AGD, or a BDM, talk to your local federal MP.