Notaries have a long history of public service across the state – founded on 16 August 1922, the Society of Notaries Queensland is fast approaching its centennial.
At times colloquially referred to as an ‘international Justice of the Peace’, notaries are perhaps best known for the official seal they affix and their authority to witness and certify all manner of legal documents which are then recognised the world over.
That is to say, notarial work is varied, and with no standard documents, notaries are given exposure to areas of law they might not otherwise come across in their day-to-day practice; on any given day they could be asked to notarise affidavits regarding university results, international overseas estates, contracts, financial records or divorce papers to name but a few.
Some opt to provide legal services as a notary full-time, while others perform these duties on the side or as a secondary aspect to their main role. However they choose to approach it, it is an appointment ‘for life’ in Queensland, and a senior one at that – practitioners must first have had at least 10 years’ post admission experience before commencing the rigorous appointment process.
Society of Notaries Queensland President Margot de Groot AM – who late last year became the first woman to accede to the position in the Society’s 100-year history – also practises as a succession lawyer and Director at de Groots Wills and Estate Lawyers. Having been a notary for almost two decades, Margot considers the role a privilege and also one that carries with it a degree of sensitivity.
“It’s about being prepared to give the time,” Margot said. “Often you’re dealing with people whose first language is not English, or they’re trying to find their way through a maze of requirements that have come to them, and it’s difficult.
“You realise the implications of notarising documents that are then going to be used and relied upon overseas in other quarters, so that carries with it a considerable feeling of responsibility.
“It’s been a highlight to be part of a group of people who are the senior members of the profession, who give of their time generously and are doing it in the spirit of public service. It’s very collegiate and I value the camaraderie, I can always pick up the phone and reach out and ask a question of another notary; I’ve never had anybody not willing to share information or give me their time and advice.”
She says it’s imperative that notarial representation – Queensland’s best-serviced area being the south east – remains strong within the community going forward.
“We need to increase that availability, because everybody should have reasonable access to a notary, if required,” she said. “I know we’ve had a pause on international travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is a lot more movement, generally speaking, around the world that gives rise to documentation needing to be notarised; there is more internationalism happening, people are owning properties and having dealings with different assets overseas.”
Margot is also looking to introduce further education opportunities for notaries during her time as President, a job she says she’s “very much honoured” to fulfil.
“I’ve been the beneficiary of advice and guidance from time to time from other notaries, and I felt it was my time to contribute and do whatever I can to help the Society go forward,” she said. “I’m very keen on the development of a dedicated program for new notaries and for the ongoing education of existing notaries.
“There’s a lot more challenges for notaries to deal with in their work, and we want to continue to outfit notaries in a thorough way.”
To mark the Society’s 100th anniversary, a special series of events will be held next month.
A function at Government House to honour the work and service of notaries across the state will be hosted by the Governor of Queensland Dr Jeannette Young AC PSM on 16 August.
Other events will be held the following day (17 Aug). These include a half-day symposium at the Treasury Hotel to inform notaries of important areas of notarial practice and recent issues impacting their work. A luncheon will follow at which Professor Peter Zablud AM, author of Principles of Notarial Practice and Director of notarial studies at Victoria University, will be the guest speaker.
To top off the celebrations, a Banco Court event will be held in Brisbane’s QEII Courts of Law complex that evening where various honoured speakers including The Rt Worshipful Morag Ellis QC, Master of the Faculties, Dean of the Arches and Auditor of the Chancery Court of York, will delve into the history of notaries in Queensland, the role of notaries internationally, issues impacting notaries’ work and their role in the future.
For further event details or to register to attend the centennial celebrations, email the Society’s secretary James Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org at your earliest convenience.