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Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Page: 3281

Senator PARRY (11:15 PM) —I rise simply to comment on my colleague Senator Troeth’s contribution to the adjournment debate this evening. Senator Troeth admirably represented the views of her constituent, a pensioner who has difficulties financially with representing himself. Could I just place on the record that, as a past National President of the Australian Funeral Directors Association and also as a funeral celebrant, I have some intimate knowledge in relation to the matters that Senator Troeth raised. It is pertinent to place in Hansard that funeral celebrants can charge, by and large, the fee that they wish to charge. That fee is paid to the celebrant from the funeral director. It is not just a determined fee that a funeral director would pay necessarily from the funeral director’s receipts. Some funeral directors would encourage celebrants to negotiate directly with the family. At other times families have a funeral celebrant engaged through the funeral director.

In any event, each funeral celebrant has the right to determine a charge. In the state of Victoria, if it is the case that there is a fixed fee that is regulated, I can understand the ACCC having some concern. However, my experience has been that a funeral celebrant who is valued and highly regarded will charge a fee appropriate to their services, as do marriage celebrants, although marriage celebrants have regulation in various states that governs some of their activities.

I think it is important to note that the work of a funeral celebrant, as Senator Troeth rightly indicated, is lengthy, arduous and done under difficult circumstances. It has often been a puzzle to me and many of my previous colleagues that funeral celebrants are not regarded and not regulated in the same way as marriage celebrants, when funeral celebrants have an opportunity to affect positively, and occasionally negatively, the wellbeing and the lives of the families that they serve.

I think it is important to place on the record that funeral celebrants can charge a fee that they feel it is appropriate for them to charge. I suppose some funeral celebrants like to be linked to fees that are within the market, and that may be linked to a clergy fee or a fee for a member of a church denomination, which, as Senator Troeth rightly pointed out, has been traditionally lower than fees that have been charged by celebrants in the marketplace who are not attached to a church or any particular congregation.

I know Mr Messenger and I know many celebrants throughout Australia who charge what they feel appropriate. I just feel it is important to place on record that funeral celebrants do have an opportunity to charge a fee that they feel appropriate. I again commend my colleague Senator Troeth for raising this important matter in the Senate.