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Accessibility of Indigenous Language Interpreters


Academic year: 2023

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In 2011, the Commonwealth Ombudsman issued a report1 on the availability and use of Indigenous language interpreters by government agencies. The survey asked agencies to respond to open-ended questions about the availability and use of Indigenous language interpreters.

Awareness and training

PM&C has developed specific protocols21 for the use of interpreters for indigenous languages ​​that provide clear guidance on when and how to use interpreters. Where possible, thematic dictionaries should be developed in consultation with indigenous language interpreting services.

Interpreter accessibility—service gaps, usage, supply and demand

Addressing the unique challenges faced by Indigenous non-English speakers with hearing loss and living in remote areas will need to be specifically included in any future strategy to improve access to Indigenous language interpreters. PM&C also recently updated its Operational Guidelines on Indigenous Language Interpreter Services for Grant Applicants and Service Providers.36. The department's needs are not being met and there is scope to increase the use of Indigenous language interpreters.

This illustrates how the department could almost double its use of native language interpreters if they were more readily available'.40. At this time, an Indigenous language speaker must contact our Indigenous helpline and request an interpreter. Agencies must ensure that individuals have access to native language interpreters to communicate with their agency.

Arrangements must be in place to ensure that the cost of native language interpreters is not borne by the non-English speakers. Agencies should monitor and review their access to, and use of, native language interpreters on a regular basis. The use of indigenous language interpreters should be considered and incorporated into the consultation, design and implementation stages of new programs in remote areas.

Interpreter recruitment, training, accreditation and retention

North Metropolitan TAFE is also considering an additional stream for Certificate IV Current English as an Additional Language course, which it says could be suitable for some people who want to use bilingual skills in the workplace and would be more affordable than Diploma. While stakeholders agree that this course provides an excellent model to build on, TAFE SA advises that they are not currently offering training in any other state or territory because they are funded by the SA government and must pay fees for students outside SA, which is a hindrance to students. It includes up to two trips per year to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY) for face-to-face contact and rapport with students.

49 It seems likely that this was due to the English language, literacy and numeracy requirements for VET FEE-HELP students. The requirement is that students who do not have a Year 12 Certificate must demonstrate competence at or above Exit Level 3 in the Australian Core Skills Framework. The funding was provided to increase the number of accredited Indigenous language interpreters52 and examiners, increase the range of Indigenous languages ​​for accreditation purposes and improve the accessibility of resources for Indigenous language interpreters and organisations.53.

The Interpreting and Translating Center noted that, in its view, 'two of the main reasons the AIS model is so effective are investments in the Commonwealth and the work being done to simultaneously increase supply and demand'. 54 We did not examine the NT housing policy as it was outside our jurisdiction and scope, but interpreting services and others report that the fear of losing their right to housing due to income is a major problem among Indigenous language interpreters. PM&C and the Department of Education and Training (DET) should prioritize what steps can be taken to increase training opportunities and support for Indigenous interpreters.

Data and records

PM&C should also prioritize ensuring that CDP providers are familiar with and use interpreters where appropriate. It would help identify areas of need, instances of non-compliance with contractual requirements and opportunities for improvement. It is also possible that the data covers workflows that require service providers to contact usage.

The data is also helpful in monitoring certain programs where there is a possibility that people may not understand their rights and obligations under the program unless the services of an interpreter are provided. For example, site-based trials such as income management and the cashless debit card trial, as well as wider programs such as the Community Development Programme. Interactions with agencies can have significant consequences for individuals and agencies, so client records should reflect whether an interpreter was present for a particular interaction.

Agencies should ensure that they collect data and actively monitor the use (and non-use) of indigenous language interpreters, including as part of contracts with service providers.

Contracted service providers

Prior to implementation, DSS staff underwent cultural awareness training that included the use of interpreters. The use of Indigenous language interpreters by DSS to trial the cashless debit card in the Kimberley has seen a significant increase in the use of KIS this year.61. 2.100 The Department of Employment and PM&C have mirror provisions in their employment service contracts with jobactive and Community Development Program providers requiring the use of interpreters whenever necessary, including.

Jobactive providers may be reimbursed for the use of accredited indigenous language interpreters for qualified job seekers. 2.102 The use of bilingual staff and, where necessary, accredited interpreters is essential so that non-English speakers understand their rights, obligations and entitlements. 60 DSS survey response received on August 22, 2016, DSS indicated to our office that it is tracking the provider's use of interpreters.

Overall, however, the information received in the course of this study indicates that agencies are not doing enough to measure, monitor, measure the need, accessibility, quality or use of Indigenous language interpreters under service contracts. force or evaluate. While the Community Development Program and the Cashless Debit Card Trial have made clear their expectations of providers by including contractual requirements in the Funding Agreements, this alone will not necessarily lead to increased use of interpreting services and there is no data to measure the extent to which it can increase the use of bilingual employees as interpreters. This requires improved data collection, clearer contractual requirements on the use of interpreters, and more active monitoring and compliance efforts.

Accessing interpreter services


All agencies should consider the issues, observations and suggestions addressed in this report. All agencies should consider how policy settings and administrative arrangements within their portfolio agency might be developed or better oriented to address the issues raised in this report. To this end, dedicated forums and communities of practice for the improvement of native language interpreters are warranted.

DHS' strategic use of its purchasing power for this trial, if successful, opens up the opportunity for departments to collectively and strategically use their combined purchasing power to support on-demand phone services. Results of the evaluation of the DHS/AIS on-demand trial should be shared with the IDC and any other agency whose accessibility could be improved through on-demand interpreting services in the future. PM&C and the IDC should consider the results of the DHS phone trial and, if effective, how agencies can support further expansion.


Although higher usage can be expected early in the rollout of new programs, programs should be monitored to ensure ongoing access and use beyond the rollout stage. Agencies should not assume that interpreters will be available when needed and should consider the implications for time frames, contract compliance, and the need for flexibility and contingency planning. For agencies whose use of native language interpreters may be contingent on addressing broader barriers, the availability of native language interpreters should be incorporated into planning and messaging in all measures designed to address these broader barriers.

Where possible, agencies should recruit bilingual workers, pay community language fees, encourage and support further training and accreditation, and provide flexible working practices to ensure that interpreters can be released from their duties to undertake translation work. Training and policy guidance on situations where it is more appropriate to use accredited interpreters than bilingual workers should be provided to staff in agencies where bilingual personnel are employed. In the absence of agreement from all states and territories, PM&C should consider entering into bilateral agreements on a state-by-state basis.

2 All agencies should consider how their policy settings and administrative arrangements can be developed or better directed to address the issues raised in this report. 4 PM&C should continue to convene the IDC and expand its membership to ensure participation by all agencies whose policies or service delivery activities may be better directed to address the issues raised in this report and in the 2011 report speak. 5 All agencies should consider the issues, observations and suggestions discussed in this report, including the suggestions for developing best practice principles.


Implementation of the 2011 Report recommendations

The PM&C also established a cultural policy section, which oversees interpretation policy for indigenous languages, contract management and promotes the use of interpreters. A core responsibility of the section is native language interpreter policy and investment - including increasing the supply and demand for native language interpreters. DHS has implemented a number of strategies and actions to increase staff awareness of the importance of using native language interpreters.

DSS does not provide its service providers with specific training in working with indigenous language interpreters. With regard to the Cashless Debit Card Trial (CDCT), DSS engaged interpreters early in the implementation phase and included contractual requirements for some service providers to use native language interpreters. DSS's contract with the provider of the cashless debit card trial specifies the AIS as the provider of native language interpreters.

It is considering including guidelines for the use of Indigenous language interpreters in its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural. 84 The current DoEE confirms that there are now Indigenous Engagement Guidelines in place which encourage the use of Indigenous language interpreters where available and available. 250,000 to TAFE SA to deliver high quality courses to train and accredit Indigenous language translators.

Analysis of performance against recommendations

DEEWR should further explore whether its Indigenous Employment Program can be better used to help recruit and retain Indigenous language interpreters. 285,000 for local language translator services for a pilot to supply translators to the ABC to create employment opportunities and build AIS's news translation capacity.



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