In 2023, Australia proudly commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Celebrant Program, a milestone that marks half a century of celebrating love, life, and significant milestones through personalised ceremonies.

50 years! Wow! That means celebrancy in Australia is the same age as comedian Dave Chapelle! And like Chapelle I reckon we look pretty good for our age.


How Far We’ve Come!

In 1902 churches and their religious ministers performed 97% of marriages.  

70 years later and it was still only 10% of marriages that were civil.  These were conducted in State Registry Offices and were short legal marriages for those who could not or preferred not to have a religious wedding. Nothing fancy.

Then came a politician unlike any other. A dude with a contagious enthusiasm and a genuine passion for empowering individuals to shape their own destinies! Much of the progression that is made in society is because of passionate, proactive people. People like Lionel Murphy.

Lionel Murphy: A Visionary Leader


The year was 1922. The birth year of Betty White, Stan Lee, Judy Garland and someone who would become a “firecracker” of an Australian politician and High Court Judge, Lionel Murphy.

As the Attorney-General in the Whitlam Government, Murphy was a trailblazer known for his fierce proactivity in pushing progressive change and a commitment to social justice. Throughout his illustrious and often controversial career (he was attacked mercilessly by opposing parties and he still causes political debate among those who lived through his time,) he spearheaded numerous legal reforms and championed causes that empowered individuals and brought about positive change in Australian society.

Lionel Murphy’s last years were filled with fighting political enemies and fighting the insidious disease that is cancer. He returned to the Court to deliver his last judgments only one day before he died. He passed away on 21 October 1986.

His mighty and powerful intellect had a major impact on Australia’s institutions and continues to influence our national life.This includes how we as Australians celebrate marriage!

The Purpose of Celebrancy: Celebrating Diversity and Personalisation

 Driven by Lionel Murphy’s vision, the introduction of the Civil Celebrant Program in 1973 marked a turning point in Australia’s approach to ceremonies. It recognized the need for ceremonies that transcended religious boundaries. Civil celebrancy allowed individuals to celebrate life’s significant milestones in ways that truly resonated with their beliefs, values, and cultural traditions.

The program aimed to foster inclusivity and ensure that all Australians could embrace their unique identities while coming together in unity.

The Impact: Celebrating Love, Life, and Meaningful Moments


As we celebrate 50 years since Lionel’s vision was implemented, we can see the obvious, indelible impact that he has had on Australian society. Celebrants, inspired by the spirit of Lionel Murphy and guided on the path paved by the very first qualified celebrant, Lois D’Arcy, have facilitated countless weddings, funerals, namings, and other significant ceremonies. Their creativity, empathy, and ability to weave personalised narratives have transformed these events into heartfelt, authentic, and memorable experiences.

From bustling cities like Sydney to remote regional areas like Uluru, celebrants have brought the gift of meaningful ceremonies to diverse communities across Australia. They have embraced the ever-evolving social and cultural landscape, ensuring that their services are accessible, inclusive, and deeply resonant. The impact of their work reaches far beyond individual ceremonies, fostering connections, healing, and celebration in the lives of countless Australians.

Looking Ahead with Gratitude

As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, let us express our gratitude to Lionel Murphy and the countless celebrants who have dedicated themselves to the Civil Celebrant Program over the past 50 years. The commitment, empathy, and professionalism of Australian celebrants across this great country has enriched the lives of countless Aussies.

As we embark on the next chapter of celebrancy in Australia, and imagine what the next 50 years will hold, let us honour the past, embrace the present, and look forward to a future filled with love, unity, and diverse celebrations.

From 1973 Until Now?


We mentioned earlier that before the introduction of a civil celebrancy program only 10% of marriages were performed civilly, by someone other than a minister of religion. As of 2020, that percentage has grown to 80! From 3% in 1902 (and without frills or large celebrations) to 80% in 2020!

That’s a massive change in large part because of one, dynamic man.

Cheers to you Lionel Murphy and happy birthday to Australian celebrancy!

This blog was brought to you by Rose Training Australia
Written by Nate Hamon

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