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Who can certify or witness?

Certified Copies, Statutory Declarations and Affidavits: What’s the difference and what types of persons are authorised to certify or witness them?

Certified Copy

A Certified Copy is a copy of a document that has been compared against the original and certified by an authorised person as being a true copy of the original document.

Certified Copy

When would you need it?

Organisations or Government agencies may sometimes ask you to provide certified copies of passports, driver’s licences, birth or marriage certificates, bank statements or academic transcripts in order to confirm your identity, financial position or credentials. This is in place of having to provide – and thus risking loss or damage to – the original.

Who can certify?

There is no law that prescribes who is authorised to certify a copy; it is open to the organisation requesting the certified copy to stipulate who it accepts as an authorised person. Such a list would typically include Justices of the Peace (“JP”), lawyers, health professionals, teachers, accountants, employees of Australia Post.

Statutory Declaration

A Statutory Declaration is a written statement in which a person declares something to be true. It must be in the form specified by the Oaths Act 1936 (SA) or Statutory Declarations Act 1959 (Cth). If you make a false statement, you can be charged with an offence under these laws.

When would you need it?

Organisations may request a statutory declaration if they require you to affirm something to be true for the purposes of satisfying a legal or policy requirement and no other evidence is available, e.g. that you were not the driver of the vehicle that incurred a speeding fine; that your original parchment has been lost or destroyed and you require a replacement.

Who can witness?

Statutory declarations for State purposes may only be witnessed by a JP, Commissioner for Taking Affidavits (any lawyer admit-ted to the Supreme Court) or Notary Public. The Commonwealth law provides for a broader range of authorised persons. The authorised person will ask you to “solemnly and sincerely declare that the contents of this declaration are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief.”

Affidavit

An Affidavit is a written statement, made on oath or affirmation, that is used as evidence in court proceedings. This is the written equivalent of an oath or affirmation a person takes when giving evidence in person in a court of law and has the same legal consequences. It is an offence of perjury to lie under oath or affirmation.

When would you need it?

When providing a statement to court, either as a party to the legal proceedings or as a witness.

Who can witness?

Only a Commissioner for Taking Affidavits or a Justice of the Peace. You have the option of either taking an oath (i.e. swearing on the Bible or holy book of your religion) or making an affirmation that the contents are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief.

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