Public Notary

What is a Notary?

An Australian “Notary Public”, “Public Notary”, or, simply, “Notary”, is a public officer, usually a practising lawyer, appointed for life by the Supreme Court, who is given statutory powers to witness documents, administer oaths, and perform other wide-ranging functions that are recognised internationally.

The Society of Notaries in New South Wales sums it up this way; “Notaries are appointed by the Supreme Court pursuant to the Public Notaries Act 1997 (NSW) and the Public Notaries Appointment Rules 1998. Applicants must be lawyers of at least 5 years standing who complete the prescribed Notarial Practice Course and apply [for admission] through the Legal Profession Admission Board”.

Once admitted, a Notary Public can take oaths, certify, sign and witness documents for use both inside and outside Australia.

Notaries Public usually affix their official seal onto documents along with their signatures.

What can a Notary do?

Due to the nature of notarial services and the numerous jurisdictions around the world that recognise notarial acts, it is not possible to provide a definitive list of a notary’s work. However, some of the more common functions include:

  • Certifying official, government and other documents for use overseas such as University qualifications or academic records;
  • Witnessing signatures of individuals on documents and authenticating that person’s identity;
  • Witnessing Powers of Attorney for use overseas;
  • Certifying true copies of documents for use in foreign jurisdictions;
  • For corporations and business, witnessing documents and authenticating corporate records and “certificates of good standing”;
  • Dealing with legal documentation for foreign contracts, land, property and deceased estate transactions.

What is an Apostille and why do I need one?

In some cases the document/s to be notarised may require the signature and seal of the Notary to be legalised (certified as correct) by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
This is usually done by applying for an Apostille from DFAT.

The Apostille is a statement identifying the signature of the Notary and comprises a large stamp affixed to the Notary’s signed document.

Seeing a Notary

The Society of Notaries New South Wales provides a useful guide to seeing a notary here and we encourage our clients to review that checklist before coming in for an appointment.

Before making an appointment, we ask our clients to firstly email a copy of the documents that need to be notarised so that we can review them and provide a more accurate costs estimate. Please send your documents (together with any instructions for completing the documents received from the relevant foreign country) to

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