In the reign of Henry VIII the power to grant Faculties was assumed by the King and a Court of Faculties under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury was called into existence with the passing of the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533.
In the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) until 1984, Notaries were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury from lawyers. After the passing in the ACT of the Notaries Public Act in 1984, Notaries were appointed from lawyers of at least five years standing by the Supreme Court after proof of demand, eligibility and capacity. A Notary Public is an officer of the law. Their functions are generally to draw up and/or authenticate documents of a quasi-public character requiring unusual solemnity, and to give a certificate of due execution of such documents authenticated by their signature and seal.
A Notary Public may be engaged in mercantile affairs such as protests of bills of exchange and the Notary Public is invested with an official and international character that is recognized by the laws of all civilised nations.
On the 16th March 1995 Australia became a contracting State to the Hague Convention of 5th October 1961.
By this Act a Certificate called an ‘Apostille’ can be obtained under the Convention. This is issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and is legalization of the Notary’s Certificate. The Certificate is then accepted in a foreign country without involvement of the Embassy or Consulate of that foreign country. This streamlines what would otherwise be three steps in legalisations. For documents to be executed in a language other than English it is within the Notary’s discretion whether or not to require a certified translation into English of the document from the foreign language. A memorandum at the foot of such a document can be made stating that although signed in the Notary’s presence, the Notary is not responsible for the contents which are in a language in which the Notary is unlearned.