The Justice Legislation Amendment (System Enhancement and Other Matters) Act 2021 (Act) passed both houses of the Victorian Parliament on 16 March 2021, making permanent certain temporary measures enacted under prior COVID-19-related legislation.
Some of the key changes involve amendments to the Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000 (Vic) (ETA) which now allow for electronic execution and remote witnessing of certain documents.
These changes are effective on and from 26 April 2021.
Electronic execution of deeds
The Act introduces into the ETA a new section 12A which provides that deeds in Victoria may now be:
- created in electronic form; and
- signed, sealed and delivered by electronic execution.
These amendments are important as they address prior ambiguities regarding the common law position on the form and execution of deeds in Victoria.
Witnessing of documents by audio visual link
One of the other key changes arising from the Act is the insertion of a new section 12 of the ETA covering the requirement under a Victorian law for the presence of a witness, signatory or other person. This can now be met by the witness, signatory or other person being present by audio visual link. Additionally, a witness does not need to be physically within Victoria when witnessing by audio visual link (unless otherwise required by a Victorian law).
The ETA does not define ‘audio visual link’ but provides these examples:
- Observing another person by audio visual link in order to sign a document confirming that person’s identity.
- Observing, by audio visual link, another person writing that other person’s signature in order to sign a document as a witness to that other person’s signature.
As under the prior COVID-19-related legislation, the witness must write or insert a statement indicating that the document was witnessed using an audio-visual link in accordance with section 12 of the ETA.