Statutory declarations during COVID-19

A statutory declaration is a written statement that is declared or sworn on oath or affirmation before a person who is authorised by law to take (i.e. witness) a statutory declaration.

When a person makes a declaration, they are testifying that the contents of the statutory declaration are either:

  • true and correct
  • true to the best of the person’s knowledge—if the contents of the declaration are stated on the basis of information and belief.

In Queensland, statutory declarations normally need to be taken and signed in the physical presence of a lawyer, Justice of the Peace, Commissioner for Declarations, notary public or conveyancer (see the Oaths Act 1867 for more detail).

However, physical distancing requirements make it difficult for these documents to be made.

Thanks to a temporary regulation, you can now make a statutory declaration in the physical presence of any person who can take a Commonwealth statutory declaration. These must be signed on paper and cannot be signed electronically.

Otherwise you can make a statutory declaration over video before a special witness. You can also sign the statutory declaration electronically if it is witnessed by a special witness over video.

Special witness

Only a small group of special witnesses can witness statutory declarations by video.

They are:

  • an Australian legal practitioner
  • approved JPs or Cdecs
  • a JP or Cdec employed by a law practice that prepared the document
  • a notary public
  • a JP or Cdec employed by the Public Trustee, if the Public Trustee prepared the document.

How it works

Whether you are signing a paper or electronic document, the process to have your document witnessed by video will be similar.

The special witness will first explain the significance of the declaration you are making and ask you to make a declaration, oath or affirmation.

After making the declaration, oath or affirmation, you must show each page of the document to the witness and sign the declaration at the end.

Signing electronic documents

You can choose to sign the document electronically. This means you can, for example:

  • use an online document signing platform
  • sign using a digital signature in your PDF reader
  • paste an image of your hand-made signature into the document.

Statement of truth

Your declaration must include one of the following statements—choose the one that applies to you. The statement usually goes at the end.

Statement 1—if you know the contents of the declaration are true

The declaration was made, signed and witnessed in accordance with the Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Documents and Oaths) Regulation 2020.

The contents of the declaration are true.

I understand that a person who provides a false matter in a declaration is committing an offence.

Statement 2—if the contents of the declaration are based on information and belief

The declaration was made, signed and witnessed in accordance with the Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Documents and Oaths) Regulation 2020.

The contents are true to the best of my knowledge.

I understand that a person who provides a false matter in a declaration is committing an offence

Send to witness for their signature

Once you have signed the document in front of the special witness using video conferencing technology, you can either:

  • send them the signed document to sign
  • ask them to sign a counterpart of the statutory declaration (i.e. an identical copy of what you signed but without your signature).

The witness must then sign the document, copy or counterpart and return it to you—or you can ask them to send it straight to someone else. The witness can either sign electronically, or sign the paper version of the document.

Unlike wills and enduring documents, the witness does not need to complete a special witness certificate.

Multiple versions

Making documents this way may mean more than one version of the same document is created (unless you both sign the document electronically.

You must keep all of the following documents together:

  • your original signed document
  • any other version of the same document signed by the witness.

How to use the modified arrangements

If you wish to make a statutory declaration using the modified arrangements you can:

  • get a lawyer to prepare one for you—contact the Queensland Law Society for a list of practitioners
  • ask the Public Trustee to make one for you—contact the Public Trustee of Queensland
  • make one yourself and then contact a special witness to help you witness it.

We will provide more information about the availability of approved JPs who can witness documents using the modified arrangements soon.

More information

Learn more about these changes in the Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Documents and Oaths) Regulation 2020.S