What is a Justice of the Peace?

Justice of the Peace

A Justice of the Peace in Australia is a person in the community with good stature tasked with being an objective and independent witness to people’s documents commonly used for legal and official purposes. A Justice of the Peace, depending on the state, has the authority to sign and certify important documents such as affidavits, warrants, powers of attorney, waiver rights, divorce documents, copies of original documents, etc.

While the roles of Justices of the Peace vary depending on jurisdictions, they have general duties such as witnessing affidavits, oaths and signatures, taking affirmations and statutory declarations, and document execution attestation. Finding a Justice of the Peace in Australia can be done by simply accessing the Australian government’s website, www.australia.gov.au , particularly under “Information and Services: Justice of the Peace”. They can be searched according to the state where they serve.

The services provided by Justices of the Peace are free regardless of territory. It is not legal for them to collect fees or gifts for the work they provide.

A person can be a Justice of the Peace if s/he meets the eligibility requirements. These will also differ depending on the jurisdiction. However, some of the general requirements are as follows:

  • Australian citizen;
  • 18 years of age or above;
  • A resident of the state where s/he will serve;
  • Would pass a National Police Check;
  • Of good character;
  • Aware of the powers and duties of justice;
  • Knowledgeable and able to identify the documents involved in his/her duty;
  • Other requirements as may be provided by the state.

Justices of the Peace should be able to provide their services independently and objectively. As such, they should have no conflict of interests in the delivery of their tasks. If potential or actual conflict is found to be present in the documents submitted by a person applying to become a Justice of the Peace, the application could be disapproved by the Attorney General, the person in charge of appointing them.

Those who want their legal or official documents witnessed or signed by a Justice of the Peace are normally required to present a proof of identification and age. There may be other requirements depending on the type of document. The age requirement for those executing the documents to be witnessed should generally be 18 years, with very few exceptions (e.g., voter’s documents, which can be done by a 17-year-old).

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