Motions: Justice of the Peace Awards

Published Wednesday, September 5, 2018 | Share:

That this house:

  1. Recognises the valuable volunteer service that over 7,000 Justices of the Peace in the State of South Australia provide;

  2. Call on the Attorney General to formally recognise those Justices of the Peace who have undertaken the role for 15 years by the presentation of an award;

  3. Call on the Attorney General to formally recognise those Justices of the Peace who have undertaken the role for 25 years by the presentation of an additional award;

A Justice of the Peace fulfils a very important job within the community and there are many JPs who go about their duties with little fanfare or reward.

A JP is a person who has been appointed by the Attorney General to act as an independent and objective witness to documents. 

There are over 7,000 JPs in South Australia and in the electorate of Mount Gambier, we are fortunate to have 125 JPs who assist members of the public, witnessing signatures or certifying documents on their behalf. 

Many Members of Parliament have a JP service in their office, providing a valuable service to our constituents. 

My office regularly has over 200 people a month attend, seeking the services of the two staff members in my office who have chosen to become JPs.

Whilst it may seem that a JP just simply witnesses a person’s signature, there’s a bit more responsibility to the role than that.

It’s also the responsibility of a JP to ensure, to the best of their ability, that they believe that the document that the person is signing is in the correct format, also that the person understands what they are signing, and that no undue pressure has been put on a person to sign a document. 

As well as witnessing signatures, a JP certifies documents, undertakes identification checks and at times, is required to be an independent witness at a police interview or when drugs are destroyed. 

JPs can also elect to be a member of the Royal Association of Justices of South Australia and approximately 40 per cent of South Australian JPs are association members.

They do this in order to pursue specialised training which is offered by the Association and to also demonstrate a commitment to professional competency.

John Amoroso and Michael Bleby regularly provide training to the JPs throughout the Limestone Coast and I thank them for delivering this training.

I would encourage any JPs who are not members of the Royal Association of Justices of South Australia to join it and avail themselves of the training, support and services provided by that Association.

A significant number of JPs, and members of the Association, are very active, volunteering in venues across the state where members of the public can call in to have documents signed or certified. 

In Mount Gambier, there are a group of JPs who volunteer their time at the Mount Gambier Library for two hours each day from Monday to Thursday. 

One of the JPs who regularly volunteers at the library is Jim Galpin, now in his eighties, who is a well-known identity of Mount Gambier. 

Jim has been a JP for more than 30 years and goes about his duties quietly and methodically.  

Jim was rostered on last Wednesday and I took the opportunity to call in to see him. 

Jim told me sometimes people expect him to have the knowledge of a solicitor when they present him with documents.

The greatest change he has seen in his time as a JP has been the introduction of smart phones or ipads where the original of the document appears on these devices.

Now, the most common request is to certify a copy of that document on electronic devices.

For twenty years, Jim has assisted the police through his role as a JP and in 2009, he was awarded the South Australian Police Citizen of the Year, in recognition of the valuable assistance he provides to them.

At all times, Jim provides as much assistance as he can and it’s clear he finds being the role very satisfying.

Jim told me that people appreciate that he makes the time to offer assistance to them to certify documents or witness their signature.

Jim is just one of many Mount Gambier JPs who have been dedicating their time to the role for many years.

Currently, the association awards certificates to member JPs after every ten years of service but the many JPs who are not members will not get a service award until 25 years.

I believe our hardworking and active JPs should be formally recognised, whether members or not, for the selfless duties they undertake and the significant time commitment the role demands.

I call on the Attorney General to recognise all JPs who are active in the role. 

Retired Mount Gambier JP Garry Von Stanke has given a lot of thought into an appropriate form of recognition and has designed a medal featuring the scales of justice and colours significant to South Australia’s floral emblem – the Sturt Desert Pea.

To be recognised for completing 15 or 25 years of service as a JP, a set of criteria should be established that would need to be satisfied, including:

  • A JP actively volunteers and assists people in their role as a JP;

  • A JP regularly completes training to ensure they are kept abreast of any changes or updates to procedures or documents;

  • The award is supported and agreed to by the Royal Association of Justices of South Australia;

  • The award is supported by a second independent organisation who can verify that a JP actively undertakes their duties as a JP.

I see this as an opportunity for the Attorney General’s Office and the Royal Association of Justices of South Australia to work together to recognise the many JPs who provide such a valuable service to our community.

In closing, I thank the thousands of JPs throughout the state, especially those located in the Mount Gambier electorate.  I also thank the Royal Association of Justices of South Australia who provide a valuable source of assistance to our JPs.

I commend this Motion to the House.