What Is a Notary Public and What Do They Do?

A Notary Public, or Public Notary, is a public official which has been appointed by a supreme court, who’s primary purpose is to help deter fraud. They are given statutory powers to witness the signing of documents, administer oaths and perform a number of other tasks both on a national and international level.

Each Public Notary has a seal and the seal and their signature are officially recorded onto a database which is held by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This is a department of the Australian government that is authorised to issue Apostille or Authentication Certificates. They certify that the signatures, seals and stamps of Public Notaries are genuine. Every Public Notary in Sydney has their signature, seal and stamp registered with the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the Society of Notaries of NSW.

Public Notary in Sydney

So what does a Public Notary do?

A Public Notary is able to do:

  • Witness, sign and verify documents for use in Australia and internationally.
  • Certify copied documents for use in Australia and internationally
  • Administer oaths for both Australian & international documents
  • Prepare and certify powers of attorney, contracts wills and other legal documents for use in Australia and internationally
  • Attest documents and certify their due execution for use in Australia and overseas
  • Exemplify official documents for use overseas
  • Noting and protesting bills of exchange
  • Prepare ships’ protests
  • Witness signatures of affidavits, statutory declarations, powers of attorney, contracts and other documents for use in Australia and overseas

A Public Notary must confirm the true identity of the person signing the document by carefully examining their identification document. They must determine that the person signing does not suffer any legal incapacity, such as a physical or mental illness. They also must ensure that the person signing understands the contents and nature of the document being signed, and is acting on an official representative capacity.

Public notaries must refuse notary services if the document constitutes a fraud or an unlawful act.

What’s the difference between a Public Notary & a Justice of the Peace?

A Justice of the Peace in Australia provides similar services to a Public Notary, however they are not permitted to witness documents which are being used internationally. Only a Public Notary has the exclusive right to deal with international documents.

JPs are volunteers of good character standing in the community who’ve been appointed by the state, while Public Notaries are public officers of Australia.

In general, if you need to have a document authenticated for international use, you are going to have to see a Public Notary, not a Justice of the Peace.

If you need a document authenticated, whether in Australia or for international use, we at Elmassian Lawyers are Public Notaries who are able to help. Get in contact with us today!