National Human Rights Consultation Secretariat
Attorney-General's Department
Central Office
Robert Garran Offices
National Circuit

14th June 2009

ATCN submissions to the Human Rights Consultation - Raising community awareness of human rights issues at a domestic level.

Dear Human Rights Consultative Committee,

Please find attached our three submissions.


A platypus is an animal created by a committee" is a common joke about committee work and achievements. Well it may look strange, but platypus lives, eats, sleeps, reproduces, works anhd has fun. It is perfectly adapted to its environment.

Committees can and do make significant contributions to people lives. The Human Rights Consultative Committee will certainly do so.

Civil marriage celebrants have also been compared to platypuses – being a combination of government appointment and independent home based service provider.


There are a number of common threads that could be woven together to raise the cultural awareness of human rights issues at a domestic level in Australia.

Research indicates that human behaviour is the outcome of a complex balance between nature and nurture, problems related to human behaviour requiring different strategies for primary prevention, early intervention and treatment.

The four factors required for behaviour human change are:

  • Information
  • Attitude / Value clarification
  • Skills
  • Social Support (at individual, group, community, society and cultural levels)
These submissions relate primarily to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
adopted and proclaimed as “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by the the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948.

Whilst there is a general awareness of this Declaration of Human Rights, like the National Anthem, the words are largely not known nor understood.

Articles 1 and 2 * of the International Declaration of Human Rights are the primary foundations stones of all human rights, and thus require a national program to raise awareness of these foundation stones.

In particular, there is the need to understand that both these rights are based on the basic principles that human beings
* are not responsible for the circumstances of their birth, nor in some areas of their lives, are they in control of the circumstances that affect their functioning.
whilst at the same time
* are responsible, wherever possible, to ensure their behaviour does not infringe upon, nor negate the rights of other human beings

For a national level awareness project, many components would be needed to educate a whole nation. Various sectors (families; schools; governments bodies, professionals,; business-related,  community groups etc) would need to play their part.

Submission 1:

Ceremony is a way of reaching a group of people, not just those individuals that are the focus of the event.

Thus it is proposed that all 18 year olds have the opportunity of the equivalent of an "Australian Citizenship" or "Coming of Adulthood" ceremony where the rights and responsibilities of those attaining full citizenship will be highlighted and given appropriate solemnity.

There is already a  program under the Federal Attorney General's jurisdiction, that has all the key components that could be modified relatively simply to include a community education role.

Thus it is also proposed to:

  • review of components of the existing Commonwealth Marriage Celebrant Program to incorporate human rights principles and better liaison with other sections of the Attorney General’s Department
and thereby

  • expand of the role of ‘civil marriage’ celebrant to incorporate other duties as a HR** community educator/ “civics ambassador”***, that would serve to promote and support courteous and respectful attitudes and behaviour at all stages of a citizen’s life.
There are currently 8000 commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants conducting 60% of marriages in Australia. Many of these celebrants now perform other rites of passage such as "Welcome to Family"(Namings), Renewal of Marriage Vows, Commitment Ceremonies for Same Sex couples, and Funerals. Every ceremony is an opportunity for acknowledging the need for  attitudes and behaviours that are courteous and respectful of others. Approx. 6000 of these celebrants are government appointed independent self-employed civil celebrants, the other 2000 being non-aligned religious celebrants. _

The Coalition of Celebrant Associations, a national peak body of 14 celebrant associations, set up as a consultative body by the Attorney General's Department supported these two motions:

1. Exploring strategies for broadening the role of civil marriage celebrants to meet related objectives under the Federal Attorney General's _sphere of responsibility.

2. The development of community based  "adult Australian Citizenship" ceremonies for all young people turning 18 ears of age.

Submission 2

It is proposed to expand of the role of suitably trained and skilled commonwealth civil celebrants to incorporate a HR community educator in a  schools based “Being a Civilised Australian” program with a focus on "comparative religion" studies as related to Human Rights issues and articulated with any existing Ethics and Citizenship education programs

As an optional role, civil celebrants could participate in this schools based education program.

Submission 3

It is proposed that there be
a revision of the lyrics of the national anthem, as being proposed by Judith Durham, so that they are inclusive of all Australians – indigenous, Australian and overseas born, and
. a more upbeat and inclusive tune to inspire and support the traditional Australia human rights, eg Jimmy Barnes “Working Class Man” as proposed and demonstrated by artist by Adam Hill. A national anthem can be a powerful tool to inspire a country’s citizens to live respectfully and in harmony with each another and with other countries. For various reasons, Australia’s national anthem is neither inclusive nor inspiring nor captures the Aussie spirit of  a “Fair Go” and “Not taking oneself too seriously”.
These recommendations are the culmination of my 20 years experience working in the health and alcohol and other drug education and 20 years experience working as a civil celebrant.

Thus there are many aspects to this proposal that have not be easy for me to articulate, or expand upon in the limit set for submissions.

Therefore I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this proposal with you, or to explain my reasoning in areas where this may not be clear.

Yours sincerely

Rona Goold B Sc (Gen Sc) Dip Ed. JP CMC
ATCN Director
Direct line: 02 4885 2393
F: 02 4885 1639_
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Australian Celebrants & Celebrations Network
Let the celebration be your gift