Are you looking for a Justice of the Peace (JP) or Commissioner of Oath? In Australia, a Justice of the Peace can carry out the duties of a Commissioner of Oath, a position no longer used except in the Northern Territory. They can assist you in certifying copies of legal documents including birth certificates and passports to confirm your identity.

Difference Between Commissioner of Oath and Notary Public

In Australia, the certification and witnessing of documents and administration of an oath can be performed by a notary public. A Commissioner of Oath is a term only used in the Northern Territory under the Oaths, Affidavits and Declarations Act (2010). In the NT, a Commissioner of Oath performs the same duties, including administering an oath, witnessing an affidavit and attesting the execution of any document.

In 1991, the Commonwealth also stopped appointing Commissioners for Declarations (authorised representatives who could witness Commonwealth statutory declarations). While some states and territories still appoint Commissioners for Declarations, these duties can be carried out by notaries.

Engaging a Notary Public

If you are looking for a notary public, you should check that they have been admitted and appointed by a State or Territory Supreme Court. For example in Sydney, the Legal Profession Admission Board administers the appointment of Public Notaries. Notaries can administer an oath or affirmation, or take a declaration. They can also witness and attest execution of deeds or other unsworn documents. If you require verification of copies of documents, notaries can witness and verify with a notarial certificate. A notary public can also note a bill of exchange, including entering one into a register, or protesting the bill.

While most public notaries provide services in English, it is also possible to find a notary that speaks the client’s native language or request an interpreter. If choosing the latter, the interpreter will be required to take an oath. The oath states that the translator will translate to the best of their ability. The interpreter will read the witnessed document (for example, an affidavit) to the deponent, and will administer the oath.

Use of Apostille

Australia is a signatory to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. This convention removes the legal requirement of diplomatic or consular legalisation of foreign public documents. Instead, the requirement is replaced with an Apostille. Only the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can provide an Apostille.

Key Takeaways

Justices of the Peace can certify documents, witness affidavits or administer an oath. Each State or Territory has public notary registers which include notaries available to witness documents. You can contact your local council for further information, or find these details online.

Anthony Lieu
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