Proposed changes to volunteers’ roles

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A raft of proposed changes will better educate Justices of the Peace (JPs) but may discriminate against technology-wary, or less digitally-savvy, members.

That’s according to Northern NSW Federation of Justices of the Peace Secretary, Christine Cordingley.

Thousands of registered JPs provide a free service throughout the Hunter Region, with most accessible after hours and at weekends.

The primary roles of a JP are to serve as witnesses for people making a statutory declaration or affidavit, as well as certify that a copy of an original document is true and accurate.

From April, the Department of Justice plans to introduce several reforms.

Under the proposed changes, JPs will need to complete a knowledge test prior to reappointment, while a new online system is set to launch for all applicants and members.

Mrs Cordingley, who operates out of the Northern NSW office in Glendale, believes the review is one way for the department to cut down on the number of JPs across the state.

However, she adds going fully online will hamper those who have not kept up-to-date with technology.

“Currently, there is something like 94,000 JPs registered in NSW,” she says.

“In some cases, this may be the answer, as the JP has not undergone any training or signed any documentation since being appointed.
“In other cases, the person may be active in the community, well educated in their duties, but just do not want to be involved with technology.”

Potential amendments to legislation also include the use of ‘JP (retired)’ for any community-based JP who retires from office after their 65th birthday with at least 10 years’ consecutive service; and a change to the Justices of the Peace Act 2002 to remove a need for applicants to be nominated by their local MP.

It will also allow NSW JPs to witness interstate and overseas documents in some instances, such as where another Australian jurisdiction has empowered them to do so, or if foreign authorities accept a form witnessed by a NSW JP.

Mrs Cordingley claims the ability to execute interstate documents will relieve some confusion that exists if appropriate guidelines are implemented and training is provided.

“This will also relieve some of the frustration and anxiety of those people wanting interstate documents witnessed and the added cost of having to see a solicitor or notary public, which is the situation at the moment if these documents cannot be handled any other way,” she says.

Visit jp.nsw.gov.au for more information on the proposed changes.

You can also contact Mrs Cordingley on 4965 8719 or email [email protected] if you’re interested in joining the federation.

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