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Frequently asked questions about statutory declarations

The Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993 have been repealed

The Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018, which commenced on 18 September 2018, make the following changes:

  • includes additional occupations/persons who are authorised to witness Commonwealth statutory declarations. These new occupations include:
    • architects
    • midwives
    • migration agents registered under Division 3 of Part 3 of the Migration Act 1958
    • occupational therapists
    • financial advisers and financial planners
    • broadens the category of engineers
  • provides a notary public (however described) appointed overseas, exercising his or her functions at that place, is able to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration. This is in addition to notary publics who are appointed in Australia
  • updates references to ensure the regulations are current and fit for purpose, and
  • makes minor changes to the form to make it optional for the declarant and authorised witness to provide their email address and/or phone number to assist the receiving organisation to verify the declaration.

The regulations were updated following a review in 2017 where the department called for public submissions. For further information on the review, please refer to Review of the Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993 page.

Witnesses

Form and content of statutory declarations

Other questions relating to statutory declarations

Who can witness my signature on a statutory declaration when I am outside Australia?

A Commonwealth statutory declaration can be made outside Australia, provided that it is witnessed by a person on the list of authorised witnesses who holds an official, administrative connection to Australia, with the exception of a notary public (however described). For example, a doctor who is registered to practise medicine in Australia can witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration when they are overseas. A doctor who is registered to practise medicine in a country outsideAustralia cannot witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration.

Details of some authorised witnesses at an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate are available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. If you are unable to visit an Australian High Commission or Consulate, you may wish to contact them to find out if there is a person on the list of authorised witnesses who may be able to assist. Engaging an authorised witness overseas may attract a fee under the Consular Fees Act 1955.

Recent changes made under the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018 provide that a notary public (however described) who is appointed overseas, exercising his or her functions at that place, is authorised to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration, in addition to notary publics appointed in Australia. Notary publics therefore do not need to have a connection to Australia, unlike all other categories on the list of authorised witnesses.

What does 'having a connection to Australia' mean?

An official, administrative connection to Australia may include, but is not limited to:

  • for occupations listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2, a person who is currently licensed or registered to practise in Australia under a law of the Commonwealth, a state or territory
  • for persons listed under Part 2 of Schedule 2:
    • a person who holds Australian membership to a professional body or organisation, eg an accountant who holds Australian membership to Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
    • a person who is appointed in Australia, eg an Australian Commissioner for Affidavits and Australian Commissioner for Declarations.

Can a foreign notary public witness a statutory declaration?

A notary (also known as a notary public or public notary) takes oaths, signs and witnesses documents for use within Australia. A notary also performs similar functions in respect of international documents.

If you are outside Australia, a notary public who has been appointed in Australia under their local state or territory legislation, or a notary public (however described) who has been appointed overseas, exercising his or her functions at that place, is able to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration.

Can fees be charged for witnessing a Commonwealth statutory declaration?

Yes—there are no restrictions under Australian law preventing witnesses from charging a fee. However, Justices of the Peace are prevented from charging a fee to witness a statutory declaration under their relevant state or territory codes of conduct.

Can a person who is authorised to witness a statutory declaration also certify documents?

You should contact the organisation that requested the certified document to check who can certify it. The Statutory Declarations Act 1959 only authorises a person to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration. The Act does not also authorise that person to certify documents. It also does not provide a list of authorised witnesses for certifying documents.

In general, anyone who is shown an original document can certify that a copy of that document is a true copy. They do not have to hold any particular office or position. Sometimes a law will specify who is allowed to certify a copy of a document for certain purposes.

Can a person who is authorised to witness a statutory declaration also witness signatures on other documents?

The Attorney-General's Department does not produce guidelines on the requirements for witnessing signatures on other legal documents. Generally, however, a witness should:

  • be 18 years old or older
  • know the person whose signature they are witnessing or have taken reasonable steps to verify the person's identity
  • not be a party to the document, and
  • if the document is a trust deed, not be a beneficiary of the trust.

Usually witnesses do not have to hold any particular office or position. However, sometimes a law will specify who is permitted to witness a signature on a document for certain purposes. You may wish to check with the relevant organisation that has requested the document to see if they have requirements or criteria regarding who may witness signatures for their purposes.

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Can my family member or a person connected to the content of my statutory declaration also be a witness?

There is no prohibition against witnessing a Commonwealth statutory declaration if you have a connection with the content or declarant. However, you may wish to confirm with the organisation requesting the statutory declaration whether they will accept a statutory declaration if it has been witnessed by a family member or a person connected to its content.

Where can I find a Justice of the Peace?

Details about Justices of the Peace are available on the following state and territory government websites:

Can a prison officer witness a statutory declaration?

Ongoing APS employees of the Commonwealth and permanent employees of a state or territory, or local government, and permanent employees of Commonwealth, state or territory or local government authorities with more than five years of continuous service can witness Commonwealth statutory declarations. If a prison officer meets these criteria, then that officer can witness Commonwealth statutory declarations.

Can a nurse witness a statutory declaration?

Nurses who are currently licenced or registered under a law of an Australian state or territory to practise are included on the list of authorised witnesses for Commonwealth statutory declarations.

Can a lawyer without a practicing certificate witness a statutory declaration?

The list of authorised witnesses includes a person who is on the roll of the Supreme Court of a state or territory, or the High Court of Australia, as a legal practitioner (however described). The Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018 do not stipulate that a legal practitioner must hold a practising certificate in order to witness Commonwealth statutory declarations.

Can I witness my signature on my own statutory declaration?

The Statutory Declarations Act 1959 states that a Commonwealth statutory declaration must be in the prescribed form which is located in Schedule 1 to the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018. The prescribed form requires that a person making a statutory declaration sign the declaration in the presence of an authorised witness. A person who is authorised to witness a statutory declaration is not able to witness their own statutory declaration.

Can a person who has previously been on the list of authorised witnesses (eg a former Justice of the Peace or a retired teacher) witness a statutory declaration?

A list of authorised witnesses for Commonwealth statutory declarations can be found under Schedule 2 of the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018. The title and occupation of a person included on the list must be current. For example, while a teacher is included on the list of authorised witnesses, the teacher must be practising in order to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration under this category. A retired teacher cannot witness a statutory declaration.

What is the definition of a Commonwealth authority?

The Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018 provide that the definition of a Commonwealth authority means a Commonwealth entity within the meaning of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, or a Commonwealth company within the meaning of the Public Governance and Accountability Act 2013.

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What address do I need to provide on my statutory declaration?

An address for the purposes of a Commonwealth statutory declaration is defined in the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018 as 'the address of the person's home or another premises at which the person can be contacted', and 'to avoid doubt, does not include the person's email address'. As such, a person (declarant or witness) is able to use either a home address or a work address on the statutory declaration form, provided they are able to be contacted at that address.

Can I make a statutory declaration in a language other than English?

It is at the discretion of the organisation requesting the statutory declaration whether additional requirements apply if a language other than English is used. There are no legislative or regulatory prohibitions on translating the content of the statutory declaration and transcribing it onto the form. You should check with the organisation requesting the statutory declaration whether they will accept a statutory declaration that has been translated by a third party, and whether they have specific requirements in relation to the translation.

How do I make a statutory declaration when I am unable to sign?

A Commonwealth statutory declaration requires the signature of the person making the declaration (known as 'the declarant') in the presence of an authorised witness. In circumstances where the declarant is unable to sign the declaration, for example where a person:

  • is unable to read, or
  • has a vision impairment or is blind, or
  • is unable to physically sign the declaration

the requirement that the declarant provide their signature will be satisfied if the declarant makes a mark where a signature is required.

Where the declarant has vision impairment, is blind, or is unable to read, the authorised witness for the document must first:

  • read the declaration aloud to the person, or cause the document to be read aloud to the person in the authorised witness' presence, and
  • be satisfied that the declarant understood what was read aloud, and
  • certify on the declaration
    • that the declaration was read aloud to the person, and
    • that the authorised witness is satisfied that the person understood what was read aloud.

The authorised witness then needs to certify that the mark is that of the declarant by writing next to the mark:

'I, being the person before whom this statutory declaration is made, certify that this mark was placed by [declarant's full name] on this statutory declaration in my presence.'

What information should be included in my statutory declaration?

The Attorney-General's Department is unable to provide advice regarding the content of a statutory declaration. If you have a query relating to the information requested by another organisation, contact that organisation to clarify their requirements.

Should a statutory declaration be typed or handwritten?

A statutory declaration may be typed or handwritten, but the signature must be completed in pen and signed in the presence of an authorised witness.

If the contents of the declaration are handwritten, this should also be in pen and not pencil. There is no specific legislative provision mandating this, but if pencil is used, details including the signature can be easily erased. You may also wish to check with the organisation receiving the declaration if they have any additional requirements.

Electronic or digital signatures are not permissible.

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What requirements apply to attachments to statutory declarations?

If an attachment is included with a statutory declaration, it must be accurately referred to or cited in the statutory declaration. The person witnessing the statutory declaration should be aware of the attachments but does not need to sign or read them.

How do I amend a statutory declaration? Are there time limits?

Each amendment to a statutory declaration needs to be made in front of the same witness. The declarant and witness must initial each amendment. In some cases, a new statutory declaration signed in the presence of an authorised witness may be a less confusing option.

A Commonwealth statutory declaration remains valid for as long as its content remains true and correct. However, the receiving organisation or agency may be operating under specific laws or have an internal policy that imposes a time restriction on statutory declarations. Contact the organisation requesting the statutory declaration to clarify any time limits and requirements for adding or amending content to a completed statutory declaration.

Can I draft my own statutory declaration form or make changes to the standard form?

To be used for a Commonwealth statutory declaration, a document must be in the prescribed form. It will be in the prescribed form if it contains all of the elements of a Commonwealth statutory declaration as required under the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 and Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018. As per Schedule 1 of the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018, the form of a Commonwealth statutory declaration includes the following:

  • the name, address and occupation of the person making the declaration
  • a statement that the declarant is making a declaration under the Statutory Declarations Act 1959
  • numbered paragraphs setting out the matter(s) that the declarant is declaring in numbered paragraphs, followed by the statement that, 'I understand that a person who intentionally makes a false statement in a statutory declaration is guilty of an offence under section 11 of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959, and I believe that the statements in this declaration are true in every particular.'
  • the signature of the person making the declaration
  • the place and date (day, month, year) that the declaration was made
  • the signature, full name, qualification and address of the person before whom the declaration is made
  • the option for the declarant and authorised witness to provide their email address and/or telephone number to make it easier for the receiving organisation to validate the statutory declaration
  • notes in relation to a Commonwealth statutory declaration:
    • note 1: a person who intentionally makes a false statement in a statutory declaration is guilty of an offence, the punishment for which is imprisonment for a term of 4 years – see section 11 of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959
    • note 2: chapter 2 of the Criminal Code applies to all offences against the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 – see section 5A of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959.

What should I do if my statutory declaration goes over multiple pages?

Commonwealth statutory declarations are made in accordance with the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 and the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018, and must be made in the form prescribed by the regulations and witnessed by a person authorised by the regulations. Otherwise, the legislation does not regulate the length or content of a Commonwealth statutory declaration. There is also no requirement that a statutory declaration be single sided. In the first instance, we recommend that you contact the organisation receiving the statutory declaration to see whether it has any particular requirements regarding multi-paged Commonwealth statutory declarations. Subject to any particular requirements of the receiving organisation, we suggest that at a minimum the following steps be taken to ensure accuracy and clarity of the information provided in the statutory declaration:

  • number each page of the statutory declaration consecutively
  • initial each page and have each initial witnessed.

Where should I send my completed statutory declaration?

The Attorney General's Department does not have a role in processing statutory declarations. You should send your completed statutory declaration to the organisation that has requested the document.

Can a statutory declaration be witnessed via webcam or Skype?

A Commonwealth statutory declaration must be witnessed in person while the person making the declaration signs the document. The purpose of this is so that the person witnessing the declaration can authorise and validate the identity of the declarant.

Can I submit my statutory declaration electronically or must I provide the original hard copy?

Where there is a legislative requirement for a Commonwealth statutory declaration to be made, they must be provided and stored by the relevant agency in hard copy, due to the current exemptions to the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 and Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000. However, organisations requesting statutory declarations that are not required by legislation have discretion in relation to whether they choose to accept declarations sent electronically.

What can I do if a statutory declaration has been incorrectly witnessed?

Commonwealth statutory declarations must be in the prescribed form and must be made before a prescribed person under the Statutory Declarations Act 1959. A statutory declaration that has not been made before a prescribed person will not be a valid statutory declaration. The significance of a statutory declaration that has been changed after it has been signed and witnessed would depend on the circumstances in which the statutory declaration was being used. We recommend that you speak to the organisation that has received the incorrectly witnessed statutory declaration or seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances.

Can I make changes to a statutory declaration after it has been witnessed?

If a person wishes to amend a Commonwealth statutory declaration that has already been witnessed, each amendment needs to be made in front of the same witness, and both the declarant and witness need to initial each amendment. To avoid confusion, the person may wish to complete a new statutory declaration and have it signed in the presence of an authorised witness. We recommend that you confirm with the organisation receiving the statutory declaration whether any requirements or time limits apply for adding or amending content to a completed statutory declaration.

Can I revoke a statutory declaration?

There is no mechanism for revoking a Commonwealth statutory declaration. A Commonwealth statutory declaration remains valid only for as long as its content remains true and correct. If the matters declared in a statutory declaration change, a person may seek to make another statutory declaration and have it signed in the presence of an authorised witness.

Contact details

The Attorney-General's Department cannot provide legal advice in relation to statutory declarations. For other enquiries that are not answered on this page or on the statutory declarations page, email statdec@ag.gov.au and allow up to 28 days for a response.

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