What is a notary public in Australia?

In short, a Notary Public is a public officer who helps authenticate important legal documents used within the country or overseas. 

The notary Public is a lawyer with at least five straight years of experience, has completed the Notarial Practice Course, and currently holds an Australian practising certificate.

Of course, every jurisdiction sets its requirements that have to be met by candidates before they become qualified as Notary Public. After they meet the requirements, the countries’ institutions appoint them as notary public. 

For instance, in Australia, a notary public is appointed for life by the Supreme Court of the state or territory in question.

What does a Notary Public do?

A Notary Public provides several services:

  • Witness signatures to affidavits
  • Document notarisation
  • Signature attest
  • Prepare and certify documents (deeds, wills, powers of attorney, contracts, etc.)
  • True copies certification for use in Australia or overseas.

How Does a Notary Public Work?

Notary publicEverything has its procedure. The same applies to notarization. Notarisation is the process where a Notary Public authenticates a document. After notarization, the document has a signature and the official seal of the Notary Public.

It’s important to note that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), an Australian department authorised to issue apostille or authentication certificates, holds a database where all seals and signatures of the notaries are officially recorded.

Notarization process

Although the notarization process can vary, depending on the jurisdiction, a Notary Public has several responsibilities. Usually, before notarising a document, they must:

  • Confirm the signatory’s identity. For identity confirmation, the Notary Public carefully examines an identity document (driver’s licence, passport)
  • Ensure that the signatory understands the content and the consequences after signing and witnessing a document.
  • Confirms that the signatory doesn’t suffer legal incapacity, including congenital disability or physical or mental illness.
  • Ensure that the signatory acting on behalf of the company has the authority to sign documents.
  • A Notary Public must refuse to provide services if a document in question constitutes an unlawful act or fraud. 

Notary Public vs. Justice of the Peace

A Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace (JP) provide similar services. However, there is a key difference between them, which is very important when choosing which public officer you need at the moment.

Justice of the Peace

Justice of the Peace officers are authorised to perform various legal services within the country. They can:

  • Witness a person making a statutory declaration
  • Witness a person making an affidavit
  • Certify copies of original documents.

The key difference

Notary Public officers have more authority and responsibility than JPs. They can carry out all tasks and services as JPs, but their signatures and seals can also authenticate documents for overseas use.

So, if you need to authenticate legal documents and use them within the country, a Justice of the Peace can help you. However, in cases where you need documents to use internationally, you have to look for a Notary Public.

How to Find a Notary Public

You should know that each state or territory has its listing where you can find a Notary Public. Therefore, you can search manually through the websites of the Supreme Court of the ACT, Notaries of the New South Wales, WA Justice Department, or other territories.

You can also search through the national online directory. Or, you can find a trustworthy firm that offers these services, such as Kelly & Chapman Lawyers + Notary Public.

This law firm has been providing legal services for more than 50 years. Its services are preferred by the local communities in Melbourne’s southeast because of the company’s professionalism and convenience to its clients.

Besides the excellent lawyers, the firm has a Notary Public, Misko Vujnovic, who can help you with:

  • Affidavits
  • Apostille
  • Authentication
  • ASIC documents
  • Birth certificates
  • Certificate of good standing
  • Citizenship certificates
  • Company documents
  • Death certificates
  • DFAT
  • Divorce orders
  • Married overseas
  • Academic transcripts, enrolment letters, college certificates, and awards
  • Foreign pensions
  • Medical report.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Notary Public vs. Justice of the Peace?

While both individuals can confirm and be witnesses on legal documents of various types, you’ll need authorisation from a public justice for a document you need to use overseas.

Can a lawyer be a notary in Australia?

All lawyers can become notaries if they comply with the requirements. They must have at least five continuous years of experience, hold an Australian practising certificate, and complete the Notarial Practice Course.


I hope I’ve helped you figure out what a notary public is and the difference between a Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace. 

Whether you need in-state or overseas notarised documents, the important part is to know where to search for the right person.

As discussed in the article, you can browse the national online directory or search for a notary public on a particular state’s website. 

However, remember that notable and reliable firms, such as Kelly & Chapman Lawyers + Notary Public, are experienced companies that care for their customers. Plus, you’ll save a lot of time searching for a notary from one website to another.