In the state of New South Wales, a Notary Public is a solicitor who has been practicing law for an unbroken period of at least five years and who holds a current practicing certificate, and who has applied and been appointed into the office of Public Notary by the Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB).

The notarial practice is governed by the Public Notaries Act 1997 (NSW) and the Public Notaries Appointment Rules 1998 (NSW). The professional standards as articulated under the provisions of the Legal Profession Uniform Law 2014 (NSW) apply to the professional conduct of notaries.

A Notary Public is therefore an officer of the law who is entitled to draft and authenticate documents that have a quasi-legal character and to do so under extraordinary solemnity. The documents are executed by the notary’s signature and personal seal. The documents, thus executed and sealed, can be used for purposes connected to the business of an overseas authority or in relation to some international transaction.

In New South Wales, as in the rest of Australia, the notarial practice may therefore involve the execution or authentication of documents or items that will be presented to public or private bodies in foreign jurisdictions. This is because the notarisation will lend probative credibility to that document or item when it is used in the foreign jurisdiction; in other words, a notarised document will be considered “good evidence” in the eyes of a foreign government or non-government authority.

Unlike some other foreign jurisdictions in which notarial seals contain state emblems and symbols, a Notary Public admitted and practicing in New South Wales will have a unique seal that is personal to him and him alone. State emblems in New South Wales and Australia are protected symbols and cannot be used in a notarial seal. The seal of a Notary Public will instead contain a graphic devise that is designed by the notary and which will be used in his notarial practice only.

Furthermore, the notarial seal used by notaries in New South Wale will be embossed and not rubber-stamped. In the event that a notarial certificate numbers more than one page or is attached to an exhibit or annexure, the pages will be sewn together by way of a ribbon, and the ends of the ribbon will be placed under the seal before it is embossed. The signature of the notary, as it appears on the certificate, will also be embossed (seee further: Examples of Notarisations and Certificates).

The placing of the Notary Public’s signature and the application of the seal to the notarial act or notarial certificate are both fundamental elements of the notarisation (see further: Characteristics and Particulars of a Notarial Act or Certificate). The manner in which the seal is applied aims to minimise the potentiality of the fraudulent manufacture (i.e. forgery) of purportedly notarised documents (see further: Notarial Seal and Notarial Register and Fraud Protection).

Notaries Public will invariably also be subject to the oversight or administration of a professional association whose responsibility it is to ensure that the notarial practice is conducted to the highest professional standards. In NSW that association is the Legal Profession Admission Board which discharges it’s duties under the relevant legislation noted above. The Society of Notaries of New South Wales Inc. is another voluntary association which can provide professional guidance and resources to notaries practicing in the state. Additional associations may also exist to allow notaries to network and share practical information as to how they can better serve the public; these may include:

  • The Australian and New Zealand College of Notaries;
  • The World Organisation of Notaries;
  • The International Union of Notaries.