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Ongoing Professional development – Survey results

Marriage celebrants​
Publication date

Ongoing professional development for marriage celebrants - Survey results

Introduction and background

Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants are required to undertake listed OPD activities that take at least five hours to complete each calendar year, unless an exemption has been granted. OPD must include the completion of any compulsory activities as determined by the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants (the Registrar). The activities and the providers of the activities are listed in the Marriage (Celebrant Professional Development) Statement. The requirement to complete OPD is one of the obligations for marriage celebrants specified in paragraph 39G(1)(b) of the Marriage Act 1961.

Consultation about OPD for marriage celebrants

From 16 February to 26 March 2021, the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) held a public consultation about OPD for marriage celebrants into the future. The consultation included a discussion paper and survey which were published on the AGD website. The discussion paper drew on previous consultation processes about OPD, and identified three options for the approach to OPD for marriage celebrants into the future. The options are summarised below. While the survey is now closed, the discussion paper continues to be available on the AGD website, Consultation on the future of OPD for marriage celebrants.

The discussion paper options in brief

The discussion paper canvassed three options:

Option A – OPD would continue to be five (5) hours each calendar year, with the compulsory activity available through the celebrant portal free of charge, and elective activities to be selected from an approved and streamlined list of activities and providers.

Option B – OPD would consist of an annual compulsory activity of one (1) or two (2) hours only, available free of charge through the celebrant portal and other means such as email.

Option C – alternative methods of OPD suggested by some associations, such as: establishing a ‘points’ system for reportable, self-directed OPD, through various approved methods (courses, seminars, conferences, written resources, and mentorship programs), and supplemented by a role for AGD in conducting random audits; retaining the requirement for five hours OPD but providing for celebrants to be able to complete a broader range of OPD options (through association conference attendance); and providing for the Registrar of Marriage Celebrants to be able to deregister a celebrant for failure to pass an annual mandatory legal knowledge test and imposition of a requirement to solemnise a minimum number (12) of marriages per calendar year.

AGD thanks all celebrants, associations, networks, registered training organisations and other interested stakeholders for taking the time to consider the discussion paper and complete the survey.

Survey results

There were 2,079 responses to the survey, including 303 comments by survey participants and 14 separate emails sent to AGD providing additional feedback about OPD during the consultation period. The survey results, including key themes arising from the comments and separate emails follow.

The respondents - Question 1: Please select all the statements that apply to you.

Of the 2,079 responses to the survey, 2,073 respondents indicated they are Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants, representing more than 99 per cent of survey respondents. 

Of the 2,079 responses to the survey, 2,073 respondents indicated they are Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants, representing more than 99 per cent of survey respondents.

The options – Question 2: Of the options outlined above, I support:

Option A, which is that OPD would continue to be 5 hours each calendar year, with the compulsory activity available through the portal free of charge, and elective actives to be selected form an approved and streamlined list of activities and providers.

Option B, which is that OPD would consist of an annual compulsory activity of 1 or 2 hours only, available free of charge through the celebrant portal and other means such as email.

There were 2,042 responses to question 2. Of these, 33 per cent (672) of respondents indicated support for option A, with 67 per cent (1,370) indicating support for option B.

There were 2,042 responses to question 2. Of these, 33 per cent (672) of respondents indicated support for option A, with 67 per cent (1,370) indicating support for option B.

The options – Question 3: Option C outlines a range of alternative methods of OPD regulation that could be considered. If you wish to provide additional comments about these suggested methods, or celebrant OPD more generally, please provide them here.

In response to question 3, 303 comments were provided about the alternative OPD options presented in the discussion paper at option C and/or OPD generally.

The key themes arising from the comments are expressed below, including the percentage and number of respondents who mentioned the theme. Attachment A includes a sample of the comments provided in question 3.

Key themes
  • OPD should be reduced/altered because it is repetitive/not useful/expensive/poor quality (21.45%, n=65)
  • Oppose the suggestion celebrants should be deregistered if they solemnise fewer than 12 marriages a year (20.13%, n=61)
  • Preference for face-to-face training/conferences (for improved learning and networking opportunities) (17.16%, n=52)
  • 5 hours of OPD should be maintained (17.16%, n=52)
  • 1 or 2 hours of OPD is sufficient (16.17%, n=49)

Other comments included:

  • OPD should be flexible and/or allow for recognition of cognate training such as first aid, media, AV etc. (9.90%, n=30)
  • Maintaining consistent, high quality training for all celebrants should be the priority (7.92%, n=24)
  • Many celebrants do not fully understand the expectations in their role (7.26%, n=22)
  • Celebrants should be self-regulated by peers or associations/networks (5.28%, n=16)
  • A points system should be introduced (3.63%, n=11)
  • There should be interventions to improve the viability of celebrancy (capped numbers/lower costs) (2.97%, n=9)
  • 1 or 2 hours of OPD is insufficient (2.97%, n=9)
  • Other (which included a variety of responses from dissatisfaction with any of the options presented to broader suggestions around other aspects of celebrancy, out of scope for this survey) (2.64%, n=8)
  • Preference for OPD provided remotely/via email (including preference for RTOs) (2.31%, n=7)
  • Seniority of the celebrant or a minimum number of ceremonies performed by the celebrant per year should be linked to their registration or a scale of fees/OPD required (1.65%, n=5)
  • Celebrant association membership should be mandatory (0.99%, n=3)
  • Work samples/filmed ceremonies should be required as part of OPD (0.99%, n=3)

Key themes and other comments included in responses to question 3, Option C.

In response to question 3, 303 comments were provided about the alternative OPD options presented in the discussion paper at option C and/or OPD generally.

Note: Percentages do not tally to 100%, as some respondents mentioned multiple themes in their responses.

AGD’s position and next steps

Since 2003, marriage celebrants have been required to complete OPD requirements. Over time, and following separate consultation processes with stakeholders, AGD has implemented administrative changes to streamline the approach for the delivery of OPD, simplify the process for marriage celebrants to choose activities they consider appropriate to complete, and provide for diversity of activities for celebrants. OPD has also provided the opportunity for marriage celebrants who did not undertake pre-registration training to update their knowledge and skills.

OPD is intended to promote professionalism for marriage celebrants, it needs to be balanced with compliance costs for marriage celebrants and administration costs for AGD. The options proposed in the discussion paper, suggest possible additional opportunities to streamline OPD, reduce regulatory burden and increase program efficiency.

The purpose of this survey was to seek the views of marriage celebrants, their representatives, training providers and other interested stakeholders about OPD into the future within the context of removing inefficient aspects of the existing approach and ensuring that OPD is targeted and fit for purpose.

The responses to the survey indicated a strong preference for option B.

Next steps

The results of the OPD survey will inform AGD’s advice to Government on an approach to future OPD regulation that appropriately supports marriage celebrants to maintain current knowledge and skills, while also being efficient for AGD to administer.

The results of the OPD survey (this document) will be published on the AGD website and marriage celebrants will be informed directly by email.

A sample of the comments provided during the survey period (including via email and question 3):

"Having been a celebrant for quite a few years, I am starting to find the options for training through my OPD provider of choice to be repetitive, expensive and not particularly useful… Abolishing electives through training providers saves the celebrant money that they are currently forced to pay for training that provides little value and growth opportunity, that focusses on issues which do not affect the integrity of the profession (how many times can one learn to design an invoice or operate a social media profile?). It would also mean that celebrants’ knowledge on more important, essential topics around matters of the law, and the integrity of the profession (for example, identifying forced marriage) would be given precedence and maintained to a higher standard."
"Celebrants have too many outgoing costs. During COVID many celebrants have had weddings moved or cancelled. It would be wonderful not to get charged for OPD or the annual registration fee, especially for new celebrants who are struggling to market their services during this time. I would suggest a compulsory free video or webinar via email, where celebrants can log in and listen to real experiences that they can learn from… Real examples that will help celebrants. 2 hours is enough time for OPD."
"I am a celebrant who does not solemnise many marriages, deliberately. My goal is to solemnise marriages for friends and family in the place of a total stranger, so I have only done a few marriages to date. I look forward to the OPD every year so that I keep my skills sharp, but really only the compulsory activity. I feel that this is the *important* bit... the legal components of the marriage never get old and skills *need* to be refreshed every year so that you don't make mistakes. The financial burden of the five hours of OPD in its current form is also onerous and its removal would be a welcome move. I support Option B, which I feel should be free and up to two hours in length."
"FINALLY! Option C will help me to do the sort of OPD that I have been asking for for years. Namely, CPR training, useful on many occasions at weddings, defensive driving courses to name but two. The OPD offered this year…is again boring useless and of no interest to the vast majority of celebrants. Other training groups send through invitations for an all-day course but don't list what will be available. Hardly fair is it? I would be just as happy with option B as I am sick and tired of paying for substandard OPD through the chosen providers when money is so tight these days."
"Every Marriage celebrant must conduct every marriage, be it one or twelve marriages, with the same professionalism that is required by the Marriage Act. Imposing a requirement to solemnise twelve marriages would not alter this responsibility. This imposition would also severely affect minor stakeholders who have just as an important role in our diverse nation as larger stakeholders. This position would also be inconsistent with the Government’s intention to provide a lighter touch to Marriage Celebrants when ensuring knowledge and skills are maintained for solemnising marriages."
"Having read through the discussion paper, I am concerned about the statement that celebrants would be required to complete at least twelve ceremonies each year.  I live in an area that would be considered remote and rural - twelve ceremonies is quite unrealistic most years.  Perhaps there could be an exception made for celebrants such as myself; people living outside of larger towns should not be disadvantaged."
"Face-to-face events such as conferences and network meetings are a valuable way for celebrants to stay connected with their colleagues and share ideas and experiences. The value of these personal interactions in the professional growth of celebrants needs to be recognised and supported as we move to a more online delivery of OPD."
"Being a celebrant is generally a lonely profession and having compulsory work where we have to connect either with other celebrants or training providers creates touch points. Otherwise celebrants could go years without ever having some sense check on their conduct behaviour style and approach."
"…it is alarming considering the current level of OPD required, how many celebrants are not keeping up to date with changing information, let alone their initial training. Things like “how long before a wedding do I need to receive a NOIM” continue to be pervasive, and the number of celebrants that don’t realise the changed acceptance of electronically received information (issued almost two years ago now) is baffling. What we need as a celebrant community is MORE OPD, not LESS…"
"As much as I would like the free version, I think standards have slipped massively in recent years. The questions that are asked on forums just should not be asked, they should know this stuff! So either the compulsory activity is much stronger (and harder), or we need to maintain 5 hours. The additional hours also need to be much more focussed on legalities and professionalism than some of the weak and frankly pointless ones we have had recently!"
"…Celebrants could be required to liaise and network with other celebrants, and have recorded hours of networking meetings with them, watching each other deliver rehearsals and ceremonies and have these hours recorded. Like someone recording hours for practicing how to drive.  Celebrants could be required to submit recordings of their weddings, one a year, to be reviewed by AGD to ensure compliance legally and professionally. Celebrants could be required to submit samples of their work to AGD to be reviewed, to ensure their scripts are legally correct. So much can be done to ensure the credibility and integrity of our roles, to ensure couples are getting the highest possible level of service and the wedding industry remains professional and of the highest standard.”
"A larger variety of courses to choose from would be agreeable. Such as public speaking, calligraphy, multimedia, marketing or any courses that enhance or adds to our skill set as a celebrant."
"I am in favour of a minimum 5 hours of OPD however I would be happy with a points system of self-directed learning - including the ability to present and hear from other experienced colleagues in the profession rather than the current requirement to seek OPD through a specific provider - similar to the mandatory CLE/CPD requirements for lawyers."