Members of the Queensland legal profession came together at Brisbane’s Banco Court on Wednesday 17 August to celebrate 100 years since the establishment of the Society of Notaries Queensland (Society).
This special ceremony was the finale of a series of centennial events held in Brisbane this week to mark the occasion, including a Government House function and a half-day symposium and luncheon at the Treasury Hotel.
The valuable contribution of notaries within the community was last night recognised as various honoured speakers, including Chief Justice Helen Bowskill, Master of the Faculties The Rt Worshipful Morag Ellis QC and Queensland Law Society President Kara Thomson, acknowledged notarial service as an important part of the legal fabric of the state.
Justice Bowskill congratulated the Society on reaching its significant milestone, and said the esteemed role of the notary public was one with “practical importance to all kinds of people”.
“The application process for notaries in Queensland is extremely rigorous … that (process) is of course appropriate – the office of the notary is a public office with a long and distinguished history involving great responsibility and trust.
“With the increasing awareness of what I would generically call cyber fraud, the ability to rely on formal documents authenticated by a notary carrying with it as it does a level of trust and confidence because of the rigour of the appointment, should take on greater significance.”
These appointments are made by the Court of Faculties under the Archbishop of Canterbury, Queensland being the only jurisdiction in Australia which maintains this traditional connection to the United Kingdom. The Master of the Faculties Morag Ellis QC is responsible for granting faculties for admission.
In her virtual address, Ms Ellis extended her appreciation to the Society, Justice Bowskill and Queensland Law Society for their assistance in assessing the applications. She also delved into the history of notaries, the role they play internationally, current challenges being faced and other issues impacting their work.
“The very nature of notarial work means that Queensland notaries face challenges posed by an increasingly complex, rapidly developing and in some respects hostile international environment,” she said. “Issues such as cyber security, identification fraud, cryptocurrency, digitisation, remote witnessing and international sanctions are ones which notaries across all jurisdictions face, and Queensland is no exception.
“Remote notarisation is an important contemporary issue which is exercising notaries in the UK and Europe, and I know that it is also subject of interest to you in Queensland.
“If the profession is to move with the times and embrace remote notarisation and greater use of the internet, then it is vital that safeguards against fraud, and the potential exploitation of vulnerable people are developed. These have to be appropriate to the jurisdiction in which notaries are working, but there are ideas and principles which can easily be shared through international dialogue.”
She also said she had approved the admission of 12 new Queensland notaries since coming into office in June 2020, but noted the number of notaries in the state had fallen over the last two decades to an average of four or five appointments per year.
QLS President Kara Thomson said the need for notarial representation would continue to increase in coming years, and that the role of the notary public was “one of the highest recognitions” the solicitors’ branch of the legal profession had for its senior members.
“There are about 145 notaries for the five million people in Queensland, and that’s one notary for every 34,500 people approximately – that’s not enough, particularly noting our vast reach in Queensland,” Ms Thomson said.
“As we traverse an economy that is more international than local, and as more of us look beyond our borders for a place to call home, the demand that a notary has and will face in the coming years is nothing short of intense.
“Appointment as a notary public signals for a solicitor, recognition of the utmost professional respectability, carrying with it the unreserved respect of your colleagues of long experience. On behalf of the Queensland Law Society, and the Society of Notaries Queensland, I am here today to place a call to arms.
“We want to see more solicitors become public notaries. Why? The work complements that of the commitment you make as a solicitor, but on an international scale. If you have been considering becoming a notary, the time is now … you are needed in Queensland.”
Society of Notaries President Margot de Groot also addressed attendees on the night, along with former President Neil McPherson and Society Secretary James Madden. The event was attended by members of government and the Bar, the judiciary, the consulate corps, the solicitors’ branch, educators, current notaries and practitioners seeking appointment, as well as other members of the legal profession.