Ceremonies and Celebrations Book and CD

Ceremonies and Celebrations
contains model ceremonies for Weddings, Funerals, Namings and a full range of other ceremonies. It contains editorial advice for celebrants and their clients and a wide selection of readings.

Wedding ceremonies are easily adapted to gay commitment ceremonies.
$27A plus p&p

CD of Ceremonies
Ceremonies and Celebrations
CD contains all the readings in the book with permission to use and print for individual ceremonies only.
$33.60A plus p&p

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The Beginnings of Celebrancy
Address by Lois D'Arcy
to the Christmas in July Conference
of the New South Wales and ACT branches of the Australian Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants.
July 1992L:ois D'Arcy

Present were Kath Buttriss: President NSW
Mr Roger Thompson President of the ACT branch
Mr Jeff Potts of the Attorney-General's Department

Fellow celebrants, almost nine and a half years ago (about March 1973), a quirk of fate provided me with an opportunity which has had a major effect on my life, and is the reason I stand before you today.

My becoming Australia's first civil marriage celebrant outside the public service was not due to any formal qualifications I may have possessed, nor any great achievements on my part.

I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I caught the attention of a person whom I believe it will go down in history as one of Australia's greatest sons. This person was, of course, the late Lionel Murphy. It was March 1973. Lionel was leader of the Senate and Attorney General of Australia. We both were in attendance at the Australian Labor Party conference at Surfers Paradise. Those of you who, like me, have been privileged to know Lionel, will understand how he could have, on the spur of the moment made such an approach: not that he wouldn't have thought the matter of the civil marriage celebrant program out. It was just that the decision as to who would be the guinea pig would have been made in that character to restrict impulsive way.

Tribute to Lionel Murphy
Colleagues, I regarded as a great honour to address you today at your Christmas in July Conference. I hope you will accept my speech is a tribute to Lionel Murphy, our patron, a wonderfully warm individual, foremost a lover of his fellow men, a reformer, a visionary, a lateral thinker, and most importantly, a doer.

Lionel's ability to make things happen can be illustrated in the number of ways, for example, the impressive list of his legislative achievements in the relatively short time he was Attorney General and the resulting changes for the better in the lives of many Australians.

Of the other examples, there is one on which I shall spend some time as it concerns the inception of the civil marriage celebrant programme, and in particular, my appointment as a civil marriage celebrant. It really illustrates Lionel's determination to get things done, and what a wonderful story is. It is so typically Lionel, and yet few celebrants would have heard it.

To start at the beginning, we need to go back to March 1973.
My husband, Bill, was the young, newly elected Labor member for the state seat of Albert. This ran from Surfers Paradise north to the outskirts of Brisbane. Bill is one of the few ALP members to ever represent the conservative heartland that the Gold Coast has always been. The excitement associated with the Albert by-election of 1970, when we made the history books by gaining the largest swing ever in British Commonwealth history, ensured that Bill had a very high profile not just on the Gold Coast, but also in Queensland and Australia wide. He and I worked as a team, winning the seat at the next general election in 1972, and it was a rare event that we didn't have our photograps in the Gold Coast Bulletin in almost every edition. We regularly made the state and national papers in those days also.

In that era, the ALP seemed to favour Surfers Paradise as the convention venue, at which Bill, as the only local member assumed a high profile, which we felt would assist him to hold his marginal electorate. Naturally, we were on a first name basis with all the ALP celebrities of the day.

Against this background when I look for the reasons for Lionel's decision to approach me, I can identify a number of factors:

1. The image of the Gold Coast as glamorous and unconventional, with its laissez-faire attitude to life, made it a good place to launch what might be a controversial scheme.

2. Lionel held the opinion that celebrants should come from all walks of life, different ethnic origins, both sexes, and all age groups. As the vast majority of celebrants were clergymen, here in contrast was I, a female, far younger than most of the religious celebrants, and one of the new breed of working wives and mothers, who not only lived on the Gold Coast, but also already had a high profile. To Lionel's way of thinking I must have fitted the bill. Some of you know my appointment didn't take place until 19 July, some four months later. As Lionel wasn't one to waste time you may be wondering why there was a delay.

This I will explain later as it is a story in itself. At the conference, Lionel approached me and told me of his intention to appoint civil marriage celebrants. He explained that changes were occurring in our society, for example, the rising number of divorces and remarriages. He also spoke about the growing number of ethnic Australians from non-Christian backgrounds. As a result, the percentage of civil marriages was steadily increasing. He argued that those couples whose marriages the clergy would not, or could not,perform, for example, where one or both parties were divorced, as well as those who did not want cash the traditional christian religious wedding deserved an alternative to the registries and courthouses around the country. His words would have gone something like this: I want to make it possible for them to have a dignified ceremony when and where they choose. You may recall that in those days civil ceremonies were conducted between the hours of 9 to 5 on weekdays only.

I was astounded, it never having occurred to me as an issue. As Bill is a Catholic we had been married in the Catholic Church, and no alternative had been considered.

I must have indicated that I was interested, as a day or so later, in the company of Don Dunstan, Neville Wran, Clyde Holding and Jim McClelland, Lionel broached the subject in front of Bill, or rather he announced to all that he was appointing me a civil marriage celebrant. Don, Neville, Clyde and Jim expressed approval. In contrast, Bill, who was hearing this for the first time, was rather subdued, or more correctly, quietly horrified. The conference finished and they all went home.

I must pause to relate the subplot I referred to earlier, of which I had no knowledge at the time. It involved a conspiracy entered into by two well-meaning characters, who sought to avert the political fallout, both national and local, which they envisaged as occurring if Lionel decided to go ahead and appoint me. The villains of the piece were my husband and the now well-known media personality, George Negus, who was, at that time, Lionel's press secretary. They both had their motives: George believed Lionel would become immersed in yet another controversy – this time involving attacks from the clergy. Bill envisaged losing his marginal seat, and besides, he wasn't at all keen about being labelled the parsons wife!

So the conspirators got their heads together and came up with a plan to thwart the "Eternal General", as Lionel's staff had nicknamed him. George said he would enlist the aid of the public servants in the Attorney-General's Department to stop anything from happening in Canberra, while Bill undertook that in the case of something slipping through he would try to intercept and would notify George immediately. I was to be allowed to assume that Lionel must have seen the light and changed his mind. For a few months the plan worked. However, they really underestimated Lionel!

At this point I can resume the main story just when I have issue that include nothing would eventuate, an envelope bearing the crushed the attorney general arrived. In the absence, I opened it and found a single sheet of paper containing just 2 sentences as you see their. (Exhibit slide 1).

There was no covering letter, not even a with compliments slip! As of the 19th of July 1973 I was a civil marriage celebrant. But was unsure what to do next. I presumed I would receive some communication in due course, but nothing arrived, not even a phone call.

To revert to the subplot, Bill made a hasty phone call to George (Negus), who swore that he had had cooperation from the public servants and he was able to confirm that no one in the department had been involved in, nor had any knowledge of, the letter I had received. Further enquiries brought incredulous responses from all.

Lionel Murphy's totally personal initiative
What had happened is that Lionel, eventually realising that he had been the victim of a "yes Minister" type operation, had subsequently returned to his office one evening. There he had taken a piece of paper with his letterhead, typed my authorisation, and then placed it in an envelope, which he then posted to me. What other person in such a high position would have done such a thing. No one other than Lionel Murphy!

Bill and George realised that the game was up, and resigned themselves to the reality of the situation. Bill informed a local newspaper, and within a few days I was making national headlines (Slide 2 of newspaper article headlines)

As a result of the publicity, I began to receive phone calls and letters from couples requesting my services as a marriage celebrant, and suddenly I was taking bookings!

At this point I shall interrupt the story once again to explain how I happened to have not one, but three certificates of authorisation.