In Australia a Justice of the Peace is a volunteer, a member of the community who plays a vital role in the administration of justice and who receives no remuneration for that.
A JP can witness signatures on statutory declarations, certify that copies of documents are a true and accurate copy of the original, can issue summonses and police search warrants. A JP is one of the short list of categories of people who can witness a bride and groom’s signatures on the Notice of Intended Marriage, the document which, in Australia, a couple is required to lodge with their marriage celebrant (wedding officiant) or clergy person a minimum of a clear month before the wedding can take place. This document serves the same purpose as the marriage license required in many other countries.
All marriage celebrants and clergy authorised to perform marriages (not all clergy are licensed to perform marriages) can also witness your signatures on the Notice. Generally speaking an Australian JP will be asked to witness the signatures where the couple is making arrangements for a destination wedding at a distance and it is therefore not possible or convenient to meet with their chosen celebrant for this purpose.
What a JP can’t do, is perform the actual marriage ceremony.
There are a number of reasons for this.
- History and tradition – marriage ceremonies historically have been performed only be people authorised under the Marriage Act, including clergy, marriage officers attached to each Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, and, since 1973, Civil Marriage Celebrants appointed by the Australian Attorney General
- In Australia marriage falls under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth because the Marriage Act is a Federal Act. Justices of the Peace, however, are appointed by each State.
Your civil marriage celebrant can witness statutory declarations relating to your marriage, and, indeed is required to witness the Declarations required to be made on the back of the official marriage certificate in which you declare that you are free to marry.