Role and Duties of Notaries in Australia

Most notary public services, notarisation offices and digital notarisation in Australia are focused on approving and providing notary attestation to allow for documents to be used in foreign jurisdictions. 

Notary public services in Australia constitute legal acts allowing written records to be useful in legal or official contexts and purposes. 

Within Australia, common tasks and functions for notaries include:-

  • Authentication of Government, official and personal documents including contracts, or extracts derived from the government registers of Australia like the ASIC’s registries can then be used for use outside Australia.
  • Authenticating identity and witnessing signature of individual to certain documents 
  • Certification of the true copies of documents used outside Australia. 

Duties of the notary include but are not limited to:

  • Confirming the true identity of the signatory/signatories by examining the identity document carefully. Often, notaries may also seek several identification points and record the information including retaining a copy of the signature by the deponent. Special care will also be taken by notaries while dealing with digital signatures.
  • Assess whether any legal incapacity affects the signatory, including and not limited to dementia, senility, illness, intoxication or duress.
  • Ensure that the signatory understands the effect and nature of the contents of a document.  But, in this context and more significantly, notarising a document does not purport to be legal advice.  
  • While notarising documents for a company, the notary should ascertain if the signatory deposing on behalf of the company has appropriate authority to represent the company and sign on its behalf. In most situations a board resolution passed by the company will be called for by the notary to satisfy this condition. When this is not available, the ASIC database may also be used.
  • Notaries are also empowered to refuse their services if a document is suspected to be unlawful, or fraud. 

A notary is required to protect personal information in his possession from unauthorised access, disclosure, modification, loss or misuse. This will apply to all information the notary collects for verifying the deponent’s signature and retained in his possession. Such documents will also come under the purview of Privacy Act 1988.