The Celebrants Network Inc - BLOG
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The History of TCN
What is your background in celebrancy?
I was appointed a Commonwealth Civil Marriage Celebrant at the age of 42, after working in schools and the health department in a range of roles. I was looking for a career that used my skills and talents, as well as give me the flexibility to work when I chose.
The goal was probably achievable given that a substantial number of celebrants were making a wage from the work - the statistics in 1995 indicated that celebrants averaged 64 weddings per celebrant per year, nothing like the 10-11 average now.
Although I had extensive experience from my previous careers, I had no training in business knowledge and skills. Also, as a government appointee, one could not ‘tout for business’. One could not advertise in any way that made you stand out from another celebrant, a simple White or Yellow pages line was permissible as was a single line in the Public Notices of a local paper, Nothing more.
The changes in 1995 when the fee was deregulated opened my mind to the need for “business” (or rather "practice") planning, and of course the 2003 changes brought the need to integrate good business skills into celebrancy a must.
Lesson 1: One needs to work on one’s celebrancy practice, as well as in it.
In the first decade I had joined a celebrant association, which became the AMC in later years, found Dally Messenger’s book on Ceremonies and Celebrations and started doing namings and had even done my first funeral for a colleagaue’s still born bub. Caring for elderly parents, gave me cause to start thinking about other ways to celebrate peoples’ lives, before they were dead. I did an 88th “This is Your Life” ceremony for mum at the Parramatta RSL and have continued to advocate for civil celebrants to see their role as the “Family Celebrant for All Occasions”
Lesson 2: Be a Family Celebrant for All Occasions
From 2001 to 2007 I had worked full-time as a volunteer national committee member for the AFCC, with the help of a full-time house-husband. I’d been very deeply involved in the preparation of the AFCC’s submission to government about the forthcoming 2003 changes and the associated lobbying with that, as well as trying to support new and longer term celebrants coming into that association.
During this time, in 2006, I also became involved in the reviewing of celebrancy training with the VET system. This VET experience crystallised for me the need for our civil culture to have professional civil celebrants, communicating attitudes and values that uphold human and civil rights, and that supported the personal spiritual and social growth of individuals, families and communities during the various life challenges and changes that affect us all.
Lesson 3: Have a vision of the importance and possibilities of the role of civil celebrant
What made you want to start up a celebrant association?
From my perspective, I saw the changes go from a needs-based government controlled system, to what was supposed to be a system to support the development of celebrancy as a profession. In reality, it became an "open market free for all” undermining the possibility that civil celebrancy would ever be able to develop to a profession in its own right.
There is certainly a role for competition and progress in societies. However there is also the need for stability in services that educate people and support their health and wellbeing. Rampant competition, in my opinion, seems to be a driver to sell more for less with the bottom of the barrel as the goal, not more quality in service and outcomes.
That is why I started a network - to try to bring those celebrants together who had a feeling for the possibility of a professional role for civil celebrants. The possibility that younger people could take up civil celebrancy as a career and be able to give a life-time of service to their communities as professionals in private practice, much like those who pioneered celebrancy in the 1970s.
I started off as a sole trader in 2008, but with non-profit TCN Inc established at the same time in preparation to take on the network if successful. In 2001 I transferred everything over to TCN Incorporated.
Lesson 4: Be involved and work together to bring change to the training and conditions that can improve the future of celebrancy
What were things like in the beginning?
Being the new kid on the block, there was a lot of interest in us as a new association. We also charged a very small joining fee so we had a whole lot of new celebrants in 2008.
We started with a lot of ideas and tried lots of different approaches which helped us to learn and grow. We’ve since been trying to refine and simplify things, trying in a variety of ways to get the big picture idea out to the public.
We’ve moved from using Yahoo groups into our own new and improved website with in-house forums giving us a greater capacity to store information and for members to share.
What have been the highlights of TCN as an association?
1. Developing unique marketing strategies such as Gold Rose and Party with a Purpose
2. Continuing to develop our website as a resource for the public and member celebrants whatever their speciality
3. The emerging role of the National Committee who are steadily taking over the reigns in their own right
4. Our annual conferences, OPD days and OPD Onine
5. Being involved in our first community activity with the LGBTI Mardi Gras Fair Day.
6. Looking at more ways to get out into the community
7. Focusing on trying to get the general public to use celebrants for more than just weddings.
8. Coming to grips with the fact that the Marriage Act 1961 discriminates not only against same-sex couples, but also against Commonwealth Marriage Celebrants, especially independent civil celebrants. TCN is working through CoCA to raise awareness of the need for the Marriage Act to ensure all couples, whether religious or civil, give consent and know whether their celebrant is authorised or not at their ceremony.
What benefits can members enjoy when they join TCN today?
We aim to give our members tools to build their celebrancy practices. You can have a wonderful forum with people sharing their opinions, but it doesn't help people get work. What TCN aims to do, with our members active involvement, via our website directory, our Party with a Purpose and Gold Rose initiatives is get our member's names and businesses out there. Similarly with our participation in the LGBTI Mardi Gras Fair Day - we are helping our TCN celebrants be better known in their local communities.
We are also growing day by day on different social media platforms offering our members and affliate members a place to join in the conversation and a space to share their own celebrancy practice details.
TCN is also a place to share knowledge, ask questions, seek advice and be involved with a great group of collegues from all over the country. The new website is packed full of information and useful resources from funeral poetry to ideas on how to incorporate rituals into your ceremony.
What makes TCN different from other associations?
A lot of associations offer the same benefits to their members, including insurance and OPD discounts, and we are no different in that respect. Our special marketing strategies, our active support for the civil and human rights of all people in our community and the TCN focus on the importance of ceremony and how that impacts on health and well being, stand TCN apart. We have even created an AGD approved series of OPD Days with a Difference focusing on health and well being as well as the Attorney General's compulsory section.
TCN - The Celebrants Network - we encompass all types of ceremony and offer our members support and resources to enable to them to continue to build their celebrancy practices into something that creates a buzz in their community.
Weddings are a celebration, or course - but it’s not the only celebration that celebrants can be a part of.
Click here to see all the benefits that TCN members can enjoy.
What advice would you give celebrants looking to join an association?
Firstly, I would love celebrants to join TCN ?
That said, I would suggest that they firstly look for an association that is a member of the peak body - CoCA. CoCA is a national association of celebrant associations working for the common good of all celebrants.
Be clear about what you want to achieve in your celebrancy practice. You can sit back and be handed what the association feels you need, or you can actively participate in the growth of your celebrancy practice by joining an association that is in alignment with your own philosophy and working with them to achieve common goals.
There is also nothing wrong with belonging to more than one association - to get the mix you need.
Like to JOIN TCN? Click here!
What a terrific blog! Reading about the history of our association and how it came to be was really interesting. It's also very interesting to read about Rona's background and what lead her to start up the network.