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Common queries

The following is a list of common queries referred to the Office of Legal Services. If you have a similar question, please refer to the relevant answers below. If you require further information, please contact us at: legalservices@ecu.edu.au

  • Is ECU a corporation?
  • Are there any samples/templates of legal documents we can use?
  • Where can I find information about ECU’s insurance arrangements?
  • Who can sign agreements for the University?
  • Once I’ve signed a document, where should it be kept?
  • What are the rules/requirements for witnessing documents?
  • Are any charges made for legal advice or assistance provided by the Office of Legal Services?
  • Does the Office of Legal Services assist staff and students with personal issues?
  • How do I obtain a copy of the Edith Cowan University Act 1984?
  • What is the Common Seal and how can I get my document signed and sealed under the Common Seal?
  • What alternatives are there to contacting the Office of Legal Services?
  • When will external solicitors be used and can a Faculty/Centre seek external legal advice directly?
  • How can I get an Affidavit signed?
  • What is a Memorandum Of Understanding?
  • What do I do if I’ve been served with a Summons?
  • Where can I obtain a Statutory Declaration form?

Is ECU a corporation?

Yes, it is a body corporate established by the Edith Cowan University Act 1984 and is a legal entity in its own right. This means that it is legally permitted to enter into contracts and can be sued if it fails to meet contractual obligations.

However, it is not a corporation established by the Corporations Law. It doesn’t have an ACN or ARBN, nor does it have a Certificate of Incorporation. ECU has an Australian Business Number: 54-361-485-361.

Are there any samples/templates of legal documents we can use?

We have sample documents, known as ‘templates’ or ’precedents’ which may assist you in preparing your documentation. You can download the following templates:

Important: Templates must be used with caution as they contain the basic information required for a legally enforceable agreement. They are not a substitute for a detailed review and analysis of the proposed arrangements. In all cases, the template document will need to be:

  • populated with the appropriate operational and commercial information, e.g. names of the parties, details of fees, commencement and expiration dates etc; and
  • reviewed by the other parties involved in the transaction. Their feedback or amendments may also need to be incorporated into the document.

Sufficient thought still needs to be applied when using a template document and you should consult us with any queries.

Where can I find information about ECU’s insurance arrangements?

Details of ECU’s insurance coverage can be found on the Risk and Assurance Services Centre’s web page. The University rarely uses commercial insurers and effectively self-insures through Riskcover, the self-insurance fund of the Government of Western Australia.

When negotiating an insurance clause in a legal agreement, ECU cannot agree to include undertakings in relation to the following matters:

  • to take out specific policies of insurance;
  • to have its insurer approved by another party; or
  • to note the interest of another party on ECU’s insurance.

ECU can provide evidence of its insurance cover against all usual risks to an amount which protects those risks across the entire University operations. Specific queries about details of limits of cover, exceptions and excesses should be made to:

Overall risk issues, insurance and indemnities

Director, Risk Management and Audit Assurance
Phillip Draber
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 2495

Advice should be sought on what types of insurance (if any) the other party should have if ECU is entering into an agreement with another party.

Workers' compensation insurance queries

Safety & Employment Relations Office, Human Resources Service Centre
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 2302
Email: osh@ecu.edu.au

Who can sign agreements for the University?

For ECU to create a legally enforceable document, it must be signed in a specific manner. Some formal legal agreements may be signed by senior ECU staff members, while others must be sealed by the University. The Delegations Manual will assist you to determine the appropriate signatory for each type of document.

Important: Faculties and Schools within ECU cannot sign agreements as legal entities. Individual staff members should not sign any legal documents in their own name, unless they have the appropriate delegated authority to do so.

Once I’ve signed a document, where should it be kept?

The locations of all legal documents must be recorded and they must be stored properly because:

  • the University has legal obligations to retain documents for specific periods of time;
  • original documents will be required for future reference, including any litigation connected with the documents; and
  • the University is better positioned to meet legal and accountability requirements.

ECU’s policy is that:

  • the original document is sent to Records & Archives Management Services; and
  • a copy of the document is kept on the document owner’s file.

More information about records and record keeping procedures can be found on the Records and Archives Management Services website.

What are the rules/requirements for witnessing documents?

ECU staff members are often called upon to witness another person’s signature on a document. This may be to signify that the witness saw the person sign the document; in this case any person can be a witness.

More infrequently, there may be a need for a witness to take the person’s oath or to witness the execution of an affidavit or a statutory declaration for official or court purposes.

These documents are required to be signed in the presence of one of the people specified as witnesses under the relevant legislation. Depending on the document to be witnessed, the witness may be one or more of:

Justice of the Peace

These are lay persons appointed by the State to carry out some administrative and judicial functions. At ECU you may contact:

A Justice of the Peace is also available at the Joondalup Magistrates Court between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm weekdays.

Joondalup Courthouse

21 Reid Promenade, Joondalup 6027
Telephone: (61 8) 9400 0700
Facsimile: (61 8) 9300 2005

Commissioner of Affidavits

These are solicitors who are authorised to take oaths, which can be used in court proceedings.

Commissioners for Declarations

These are persons appointed to take ’statutory declarations’ which are documents used in administrative but not court proceedings.

Experienced Legal Practitioner

These are persons who are admitted to practice under the Legal Profession Act 2008, or its corresponding law and who have held a current practising certificate under that Act for at least 2 years.

Statutory Declarations

Any member of the academic staff, as well as a Justice of the Peace, Solicitor, Commissioner for Affidavits and Commissioner for Declarations may witness a statutory declaration.

Affidavits and Court Documents

Affidavits and documents required for court proceedings require the witness to take the person’s oath. Experienced Legal Practitioners, Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Affidavits can take these oaths. You may contact the Office of Legal Services if your document requires witnessing by an Experienced Legal Practitioner.

Are any charges made for legal advice or assistance provided by the Office of Legal Services?

The Office does not charge for legal advice or services it provides. It should be noted however that where we are required to undertake company searches/registration of business names or incur courier charges on behalf of a Faculty or Centre, then those costs will be charged back to the Faculty or Centre.

In some instances it may be necessary to engage an external legal practitioner to assist on a file. As detailed in the OLS Service Guidelines, if this is required we will discuss this with you, including the allocation of the external lawyers’ fees and charges, before proceeding to a briefing.

Does the Office of Legal Services assist staff and students with personal issues?

No. The Office works on behalf of the University and is only able to assist staff or students as necessary for them to carry out their work at ECU.

We don’t give personal legal advice to individual members of staff or to students, but can give referrals to external firms of solicitors or advice bureaus.

How do I obtain a copy of the Edith Cowan University Act 1984?

An electronic version of the Act is available from the State Law Publishers through Office of Governance Services website.

Please note that ECU does not own copyright to the Act.

What is the Common Seal and how can I get my document signed and sealed under the Common Seal?

Some documents, for example Transfers of Land, require the affixing of the Common Seal. The process for the use of the Common Seal is set out in Statute No. 2 - Common Seal.

For more information, see the Office of Governance Services website.

Documents are signed under Common Seal by any two of the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the Pro-Chancellor and an Authorised Sealing Officer. All uses of the Common Seal are recorded in a register and reported to Council at the first opportunity.

Once fully executed, all documents signed under Common Seal, must be sent to Records and Archives Management Services for safe keeping.

Obviously, the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor and Authorised Sealing Officer can only sign documents where they are fully satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. In almost all cases this means that only documents that have been approved by the Office of Legal Services will be signed and sealed.

If you require a document to be signed and sealed under Common Seal, you can download and complete a Briefing Memorandum, ensuring it is noted that:

  • the document has been reviewed and signed off by the Office of Legal Services; and
  • it has the support of the heads of school or other senior staff/stakeholders.

You should then send the Briefing Memorandum to the University Lawyer for endorsement. We will then arrange for the document to be approved and executed as necessary by the Vice-Chancellor.

What alternatives are there to contacting the Office of Legal Services?

A number of service centres have primary responsibility for certain matters and should be your initial point of contact. These centres will refer matters to the Office as required to obtain legal advice:

  • Compliance and risk matters – Risk and Assurance Services Centre
  • Industrial Relations, Occupational Health and Safety and Personnel matters – Human Resource Services
  • Insurance-related matters – Finance and Business Services Centre, Strategic Procurement
  • Property and facilities matters – Facilities and Services
  • Research grants – Office of Research and Innovation
  • Student-related matters – Student Services Centre
  • Complaints – Office of Governance Services

When will external solicitors be used and can a Faculty/Centre seek external legal advice directly?

The Office of Legal Services should be involved in any contact with external legal practitioners to do work on behalf of the University. Work should only be briefed externally in consultation with the Office when we don’t have the capacity or the necessary expertise to deal with a matter.

Prior to engaging external lawyers on your legal matters, we will arrange an estimate of costs of the matter, discuss the estimate with you and determine how these costs will be met by ECU. We will then oversee any external legal work provided to ECU.

How can I get an Affidavit signed?

Affidavits or documents required for court proceedings require the witness to swear or attest to the truth of the contents before a Justice of the Peace, a Commissioner for Affidavits, or a suitably experienced legal practitioner.

At ECU you may contact:

A Justice of the Peace is also available at the Joondalup Magistrates Court between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm weekdays.

Joondalup Courthouse

21 Reid Promenade, Joondalup 6027
Telephone: (61 8) 9400 0700
Facsimile: (61 8) 9300 2005

A listing of Justices of the Peace may also be found on the Department of the Attorney General website.

What is a Memorandum of Understanding?

A Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) is used:

  • to demonstrate that parties are entering into a relationship that is likely to result in a collaborative arrangement; or
  • to establish principles or strategies for dealing with common issues.

An MOU may lead to a legally binding agreement between the same parties if the relationship results in specific collaborative projects or other activities involving undertakings by both parties. In this regard, MOUs can be useful as a starting point for contract negotiations.

An MOU is not a suitable format for legally binding relationships. These include arrangements that involve:

  • the payment of fees;
  • employment or engagement of staff;
  • intellectual property rights;
  • confidentiality;
  • indemnities; or
  • other matters involving undertakings by the parties.

For further information, including a template for MOUs, download the following document:

What do I do if I’ve been served with a Summons?

You may be approached to accept service of a subpoena or witness summons relating to ECU affairs.

Subpoenas and witness summonses:

  • may require University staff to appear as witnesses or to provide documents in court cases;
  • may be addressed to the Vice-Chancellor or an individual staff member;
  • may be served on a senior member of staff or the individual named in the document;
  • are usually delivered in person and you may be asked to sign for the document. (This is only a receipt and does not, in itself, mean you have to go to court.)

You must immediately contact the Office of Legal Services and pass the document to our General Counsel, or another member of staff.

We will ensure that the document is forwarded to the appropriate officer for action and can provide information regarding the process of responding to the summons if required.

Where can I obtain a Statutory Declaration form?

The Commonwealth Statutory Declaration Form can be downloaded from the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department website.

The State Statutory Declaration Form can be downloaded from the Western Australian Department of the Attorney General website.

The ECU Pre-Employment Statutory Declaration Form can be downloaded from the Human Resources Service Centre website.

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