Reading time: 5 minutes

If you need to sign a legally binding document, you may need to find a Justice of the Peace or a Notary Public. A Justice of the Peace (JP) or a Commissioner of Oath is someone who is qualified to witness a person make a statutory declaration or affidavit. JPs and Commissioners of Oath can also certify copies of original documents, such as birth certificates and passports. Notaries Public can perform a similar role but provide a broader range of services. This article will explain what Justices of the Peace, Commissioners of Oath and Notaries Public do and how you can find one.

What Does a Justice of the Peace Do?

Justices of the Peace are volunteers. They are appointed to their position by the governor of their state. Their primary role is to: 

  • witness statutory declarations, oaths or affidavits; and
  • certify copies of original documents. 

JPs act as an independent witness to the  execution of official or legally binding documents. If a document requires a JP to oversee its execution, this will usually be stated in the preliminary notes or near the signature panel.

As a result of their important role, JPs must be honest and impartial. Therefore, they may not: 

  • refuse their services unreasonably;
  • charge a fee; or 
  • receive a gift for their services. 

They also cannot assist with the drafting of a statutory declaration or affidavit or provide any type of legal advice whilst acting in their capacity as a JP. 

In the Northern Territory, a Commissioner of Oath performs the same duties as a Justice of the Peace. Each state has distinct rules about what JPs can do. 

For example, in New South Wales, JPs can certify copies of documents from other states and territories but cannot witness the execution of interstate documents (such as land title documents from another state or territory).

How Do I Find a Justice of the Peace?

Most states have a Justices of the Peace register.

For example, in NSW there is an online register that lists current JPs in the state.

As well as the register, libraries, councils and post offices often make JPs available at scheduled times. A list of scheduled JP services in NSW is available online.

What Is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is a public officer, such as a practising lawyer, who can: 

  • witness documents; 
  • administer oaths; and 
  • certify copies of original documents. 

Notaries Public are able to perform all the duties of a Justice of the Peace. Furthermore, while a Justice of the Peace is only recognised in Australia, a Notary Public is recognised in overseas jurisdictions. A Notary Public will also have an official seal which is recognised in Australian, foreign and international courts. Notaries Public are sometimes called international Justices of the Peace because their role predominantly involves witnessing or certifying documentation required by a client for overseas use.

This means that a Notary Public can perform a number of unique functions, including: 

  • preparing certificates of law in overseas jurisdictions; and 
  • certifying that a document is a correct copy so that it may be used overseas.

How Do I Find a Notary Public?

Notary locators are accessible online. In NSW, the Notary locator lists names of Notaries Public in many suburbs across the state. 

However, you should make sure that a Notary Public has been admitted and appointed by the Supreme Court in the relevant state or Territory.

In Sydney, for example, the Legal Profession Admission Board administers the appointment of  Notaries Public.

What Services Do Justices of the Peace and Notaries Public Offer?

The key differences between the services offered by JPs, Notaries Public and Commissioners of Oath are listed below. 

Justice of the Peace Commissioner of Oath Notary Public
Recognised throughout Australia Yes Only in NT Yes
Recognised overseas No No Yes
Certify Identity Yes Yes Yes
Certify true copies of original documents Yes Yes Yes
May have their own official seal No No Yes
Witness affidavits and statutory declarations Yes Yes Yes
Certify documents for international recognition No No Yes


You may be able to find Notaries Public and Justices of the Peace that speak other languages. However, it will sometimes be necessary to obtain the services of an interpreter or translator to assist a Notary Public or a Justice of the Peace. If you need to do so, the interpreter or translator should be properly qualified. They will need to take an oath stating that they will translate the relevant documents to the best of their ability. 

Key Takeaways

Justices of the Peace, Commissioners of Oath and Notaries Public can witness affidavits, certify documents or administer oaths. Commissioners of Oath are recognised in the Northern Territory. Justices of the Peace are available across Australia and Notaries Public are able to make internationally recognised certifications. Notaries Public are admitted lawyers and provide the broadest range of services. If you need to find a Justice of the Peace, Commissioner of Oath or Notary Public, you can search the registers available online. 


Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards