Not MMMarried: Ceremonies rules out of order

The Chronicle/June 11, 2003
By Krysten Booth

Magnificat Meal Movement leader Ms Debra Burslem (formerly Geileskey) has placed herself above the law marrying couples without legal authorisation.

The Chronicle has been able to confirm that Ms Burslem has conducted at least one ceremony this year. At that ceremony, Ms Burslem reportedly claimed to have conducted similar "marriages" for 30 couples since January this year.

However according to the Federal Attorney-General's Department, Ms Burslem is not listed in the directory of authorised marriage celebrants.

This publication contains a list of authorised marriage celebrants, state officers and prescribed authorities in relation to marriages in Australia.

"If a person is not authorised, he/she cannot legally perform a marriage as there are certain aspects of a ceremony in addition to documentation thatmust be performed/completed by an authorised marriage celebrant," a department spokesman said.

One bride who was contacted by The Chronicle yesterday said she had been involved with MMM for a number of years and was married under "common law."

She said she did not know if she had signed a wedding certificate which had been lodged with the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry.

The Attorney-General's Department spokesman said a non-authorised person could only perform a commitment ceremony provided these are not purported byanyone to be marriages.

"It is an offence under Section 101 of the Marriage Act for a person who is not an authorised marriage celebrant to solemnise or purport to solemnise a marriage," the spokesman said.

A guest who attended a ceremony performed by the MMM leader, said Ms Burslem referred to the would-be bride and groom as a "married couple."

The guest said the couple signed a certificate which Ms Burslem said would be kept at the church and not be lodged with any registry.

The Attorney-General's Department spokesman said the status of any "marriages" carried out by Ms Burslem was unknown. "This would depend on the facts of each case and we won't be drawn on any further comment without knowing the particular situation," he said.Ms Burslem refused to speak to The Chronicle through a spokesman last night,but offered to meet The Chronicle today.

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