Changing Community Attitudes to Promote Healthy Options for Celebration

Changing Community Attitudes to Promote Healthy Options for Celebration


  • Changing community attitudes by promoting a climate of celebration, where the consumption of alcohol, other drugs and other substances such as foods with high fat, salt and refined sugars, are not the main focus of the celebration, ie, “have ceremonies in your celebrations” or “party with a purpose”.
  • Promoting a concept that healthy growth to maturity through various life stages involves the development of qualities of civility (courtesy/ respect), compassion, creativity, cooperation and justice (“a fair go”).
  • Minimizing early consumption of alcohol and other drugs and associated harm by marking 'coming of age' with formal, personalized, family or group Citizenship Ceremonies for all 18 years olds on Australian Citizenship Day (17 September), delivered by suitably trained and appointed celebrants as a community development/ community education strategy.
  • Raising awareness of all the rights, not just drinking or driving rights, and responsibilities that come with adulthood and active citizenship in an advanced democracy, including an associated process for Citizenship Celebrants to register those 18 years to vote.

·      Keep Safe - Celebrate with Ceremony


·      Celebrate:

o      Civility (being civilized, ie, cooperation, compassion, care, courtesy, chivalry)

o      Creativity (to celebrate and encourage different talents and interests)

o      Companionship (partnerships, family and friendships groups)

o      Citizenship (valuing justice –“a fair go”, free speech, diversity and community)


  • The development of a family based Citizenship Celebrant Program under the Attorney-General’s jurisdiction, similar to and coordinated with the Marriage Celebrant Program, with support funding by the Department of Health.

1.  The distribution of a Citizenship Pack for all eighteen year olds including a:
  • Certificate of Citizenship with Australian Crest
  • Voting Information Pack with Electoral Roll application
  • Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities Kit
2. The expansion of the annual Australian Citizenship Day to a citizenship day for all Australians turning 18 in that calendar year.  The day, 17th September, would be suitable to avoid exam times and maximize participation.

  • This proposal does not intend to replace the existing Citizenship ceremonies for those not already Australian citizens. However it would allow all overseas born young Australian citizens to participate in such ceremonies when they reach 18 years.
  • Australia Day has a lot of existing programs and the Citizenship ceremonies for new overseas born citizens, which could build upon the Australia Citizenship Day, but not compete with this proposal.
  • 17th September celebrates the fact that Australian citizenship was first introduced in 1949 with the enactment of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948.  See:
  • The concept of family based Citizenship Ceremonies for young adults combines “affirmation” ceremonies under the one unifying title of Citizenship ceremonies for all Australians turning 18 whether Australian or overseas born – to be organized by civil celebrants.  Until recently the emphasis has been on affirmation ceremonies for Australian born people with little publicity or recognition.
3.  The role of federally appointed Citizenship Celebrants would be to apply for and distribute the Citizenship Pack – free to 18 year olds - with a set fee to the celebrant to be paid by Government.

  • This would involve utilizing civil celebrants as a community development/education strategy to bring about a cultural change in the way celebrations are conducted in Australia - through personalized, significant family and/or local group based ceremonies.  Such ceremonies have evolved in Australia since the introduction of the Civil Marriage Celebrant Program by the Federal Government in 1973.
  • Currently there are approximately 8,000 federally appointed civil marriage celebrants providing marriage services to the Australian community.  Approximately 70% of celebrants are mature people, with backgrounds in teaching, adult education, heath services, welfare services or other community services.
  • A Citizenship Pack could use the same system (Canprint) as the current marriage certificate and forms distribution.
  • Ceremonies, involving more people than the celebrant and the applicant, could be provided on an extra fee for service basis paid by the applicant’s family or other such group and delivered preferably as personal family ceremonies, thus involving different generations, or group ceremonies involving a number of different family or other groups.
4. the expansion of the annual Australian Citizenship Day to a citizenship day for all Australians turning 18 in that calendar year.

The day, 17th September, could be suitable to avoid exam time and maximize participation.

  • This proposal does not intend to replace the existing Citizenship ceremonies administered though local government for those not already Australian citizens. However it would allowed all overseas born Australian citizens who acquired their citizenship via their parents, to participate in such ceremonies when they reach 18 years.
  • This day, or a day close to this date, could be used for family and group ceremonies. This date is between August when HSC trials are held and October when the HSC exams are held.
  • Australia Day has a lot of existing programs and the Citizenship ceremonies for new overseas born citizens, which could build upon the Australia Citizenship Day, but not compete with this, as they would primarily have different modes of celebrating citizenship. The former more at very large scale events, Australian Citizenship Day at more personal individual family or combined family / friendships groups level.
  • Australia Day has many families on holidays in January, young people left school and already turning to new social groups or traveling overseas, and Australia Day is not universally supported by Aborigines (some have termed it as ‘Invasion’ day).
  • 17 September celebrates the fact that Australian citizenship was first introduced in 1949 with the enactment of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. Before this, most Australian residents were British subjects. The Act granted aborigines the right to citizenship and voting, but the federal government did not act upon this aspect.
  • See:
  • The concept Citizenship Ceremonies for young adults in effect combines “affirmation” ceremonies under the one unifying title of Citizenship ceremonies for all Australians turning 18 whether Australian or overseas born – to be organized by civil celebrants. Until recently the emphasis has been on affirmation ceremonies for Australian born people with little publicity or recognition.

A. The primary premise of this submission is that many of the substances currently of health concern have been associated with the celebration of rites of passage throughout the life cycle of individuals and communities for thousands of years.

In Anglo-European history, substances as alcohol, refined sugars, animal fat (the “fattened calf” or pig) were
  • available in relatively limited supply or strength because of the seasonal nature of the plants (and some animals) that were used to make them, the primitive and time consuming techniques of production, and the geographic isolation of the areas where they were found and the communities that used them.
  • used for medicinal purposes to treat wounds or illnesses or harsh living and working conditions, or
  • used at times of special celebration as “treats” because their “special-ness” and within religious rituals because of their potency to alter states of consciousness.
Thus the use of these substances were ‘contained’ within specific community and / or religious practices.

Relatively recently in mankind’s history, various factors have increased the level and style of consumption of these substances, such as :
  • improved technology for increased concentration and better packaging of substances
  • improved techniques of food preservation - mass production and decreased lower prices
  • associated industrialization systems
  • globalization
  • faster transport systems and mass outlets such as supermarket chains
  • traditional family-based communities affected by changing employment opportunities
  • improved information technology and mass communication tools
  • mass marketing and corporate business practices
  • increasing challenges to religious beliefs and traditions
The combined effect has made a wide variety of foods, alcohol and other drugs, refined sugars, factory feed animals with high fat content, and other substances, much more readily available and accessible .

B. Many of the rites of passage, that were marked by ceremonies, were celebrated in times past by religious celebrants.

The move away from strict religious faiths and observances in the last century and the increase in the multi-cultural nature of Australia, means many families are left with just the "dessert" (food and drinks) and no "main course" (ceremony) in the special occasions they celebrate.
  • However, the underlying psychological (spiritual) and social needs of humans for structure (ritual) in times of change remains unchanged.
  • Likewise, the need for meaningful value systems to provide hope and security in living life in the face of death (one’s own and others).
  • What has changed is the community’s support of such traditional religious and other structures that used to provide such support.
So there is a need for: - a more inclusive ritual and ceremonial structural alternatives such as that developing in Australia through the Civil Marriage Celebrant program and - a universal value system such as provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

C. As teenagers are in a the time of experimentation with alcohol and other drugs and represent a new market for alcohol and other drug ‘suppliers’, capturing this market at this age can also mean gaining long term customers for the particular substance.

Adult drinking and drug taking habits are usually well entrenched and stable. It is unlikely that adults who are non-smokers or drinkers will experiment and change their patterns of use.
  • Mass marketing strategies by manufacturers and distributors of alcohol and other substance have developed in sophistication and effectiveness in the last fifty years.
  • Latest brain research results also show the importance of strategies aimed at delaying the commencement of experimentation and regular use of alcohol and other drugs as the human brain is still developing in late teenage years and into the early twenties.
  • Professor Hickie’s article  titled Alcohol on the Teenage Brain3, draws attention to detrimental affects of alcohol on decision making with its associated poor assessment of risk taking behaviours and the increased potential for the development of long term alcohol related problems related to the age young people commence drinking alcohol.
  • Teenagers are also facing a world of increasing instability as regards the environment, economy, employment opportunities, access to housing, social cohesiveness.
Thus strategies aimed increasingly intergenerational and peer support and strengthening family, friendship and community bonds are a high priority.

D. Changing cultural attitudes and practices are not easy – especially those that have developed over centuries and still resonate in our language and practices from times even further back (eg tying the knot a Celtic fasting wedding ritual) - but change is achievable
  • Relatively simple strategies can have broad positive impacts at the level of primary prevention. For example, random breath testing has not only changed drive-driving practices, it has also provide many people with a socially acceptable reason not to engage in heavy drinking practices.
  • In 1973, a little under only four decades ago, the Civil Marriage Celebrant Program was commenced. A world first in the authorizing of citizens on behalf of the federal government to perform civil marriage ceremonies for the Australian community. In less than 40 years, the percentage of civil marriage conducted have gone from around 10 % (registry office only) of over 60 % (registry office and independent civil celebrants).
  • More importantly independent civil celebrants have been called upon to perform other civil ceremonies. For example: civil funerals, welcomes to family (baby namings), renewal of vows, commitments, and in more recent years wedding anniversaries and birthday ceremonies.
E. Of primary importance in this celebrancy field is the evolving of uniquely “Australian” way of celebrating important personal and family events to meet community need.

The keys components are that such ceremonies are that they are increasingly:
  • creative
  • meaningful with emphasis on universal values that all societies agree are healthy
  • tailored to the needs of the individual, couple and/or family involved
  • inclusive by being sensitive to differing religious and cultural backgrounds of the participants and their guests
Therefore civil celebrants have been performing an important function in our multi-cultural society in providing inclusive ceremonies that are meaningful and memorable, not only for those that hire their services, but for the extended family and friends and other guests.

F. Therefore the premise of this submission is that the creation and appointment of Citizenship Celebrants to would be a relatively simple, economical, and effective strategy to

  • focus on the reason for celebration by the inclusion of ceremony in the celebration, rather than focusing the drinking and eating that traditionally was an associated activity
  • increase awareness of the full range rights and responsibilities of citizenship of specifically young Australians entering adulthood, and indirectly the peer group and family support system of the young adult – not just the right to drink and / or drive
  • increase the number of 18 year olds enrolled to vote, and associated awareness of basic components of Australia’s democratic structure and the civic responsibilities of all adults.
  • strengthen the 18th Birthday as a family and friendship based event as the primary coming of age provide parents and others with a much boundary between adolescence and adulthood

  • The lowering of the drinking age has:
    - blurred what was the 'clear boundary' of the 21st Birthday celebration and the entry into adulthood, and thus as being mature enough to drink responsibly
    - left parents and other community leaders without clear guidelines around which to educate on a whole range of issues that affect teenagers. And in particular, the age around which to allow teenagers access to alcohol.
  • The 18th Birthday Party has in an ad hoc way, become a defacto 21st, but without clear family and community involvement and support for this new "coming of age".
  • Teenagers are increasingly wanting to celebrate their 18th, with a party without adults involvement.
G. Effective community education strategies are not “one-off” sessions, rather a series of “sessions” over time. Likewise to change behaviours requires a number of key components:
  • Information
  • Values clarification
  • Skills
  • Support
There will be many other programs, school based, health and media based etc. that will also provide input in these areas. However, parental and family role modeling has significant impacts as do peer relationships.

Alcohol and other drug education principles support the need for social environment that are met a delicate mix of conditions.

See Appendix 1 

As noted previously approx. 70% of celebrants are mature people with backgrounds in education, health, welfare or other community services.

  • Having a “Citizenship” ceremony for all 18 year olds will give focus to and facilitate the development of “coming of teenage” ceremonies / celebrations, where the need for supportive peer relationships during the following five years in the lead-up to coming of adulthood can be reinforced.
  • In particular alcohol and other drugs are factors in young people experimenting with other legal and illegal drugs, sexual and other behaviours that could be delayed or perhaps avoided together by the later onset of drinking.
  • The use of alcohol as a factor in unwanted and unprotected sex also contributes to the rate of sexually transmitted disease and unplanned pregnancies in our community.
  • Thus contact with families and young people at the beginning of adolescence, akin to the Jewish Barmitsfa, could be strengthen in a similar way to the relationship between the Betrothal (now downgraded to an Engagement party) and Marriage as originally practiced.
  • Civil celebrants are increasing becoming ‘family’ celebrants being called upon to celebrate a baby naming, then the marriage of the parents, a baby naming for another child, a funeral for an extended family member, a wedding anniversary.
  • Including adolescent and citizenship (adulthood) ceremonies would enable civil celebrants to bring a series of ‘community education’ components to family through a whole of life approach in ceremonies.
H. Building electives for a federal government appointment as a ‘Citizenship” celebrant into the Certificate IV in Celebrancy Vet course, will strengthen community development and community ‘education’ aspects of celebrants work.
  • As the Certificate IV in Celebrancy is within the Community Services and Health sector of the national VET program, such electives would enable the best practice and research based knowledge to be included from those associated VET units best able to inform celebrants work.
  • Community development is a community interactive process over time as is community education.
  • At present there is little that counter-balances the massive community ‘education’ effects of advertising and other mass marketing strategies of companies and others that profit from the sale of alcohol and other drugs, refined sugars and other substances that affect the physical, mental and social health of Australian communities.
I. Preliminary estimates of the cost of this proposal would be average 4 million pa – only a tiny fraction of what alcohol and other drugs costs all sectors of government, industry and the community.
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ADCA, Mr David Templeman, said today the annual alcohol-related cost was $15.3 billion, and that there were more than 42 million occasions of binge drinking in our nation each year.
  • Thus the national cost of these problems, would be far higher if adding the costs of other drug related problems that involve significant proportions of the work of government services- such as police, accident and emergency departments, orthopedic and other hospital services, mental health and community health services, refuge and other accommodation services, income support and other welfare services, domestic violence and related services.
  • The estimate for this Citizenship for All Eighteen year olds program is based on approx $70 per 18 year old pa for the 3 components of the pack and a fee to the civil celebrant. The Australian Electoral Commission Statistics at 31 December 2009 has the number of 17 year olds 54,895

Utilizing and coordinating existing people, resources and structures as an extension of a current program is much more economical and has greater chance of producing widespread positive results.


  1. Alcohol and The Teenage Brain - Safest to keep them apart

    An Opinion Piec
    e prepared by Professor Ian Hickie AM MD FRANZCP FASSA NHMRC Australian Medical Research Fellow Brain & Mind Research Institute University of Sydney Brain & Mind Research Institute: University of Sydney

  2. Per capita recorded alcohol consumption (litres of pure alcohol) among adults (>=15 years ).This is a list of countries by alcohol consumption measured in litres of pure alcohol consumed per capita in a given year, according to the most recent data from the World Health Organization. Methodology used by the WHO counted use by persons 15 years of age or older.

Last modified on Friday, 09 September 2016 18:20