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Australia’s growing linguistic diversity: a strategic approach to language services

Purple cover of reportPeople who come as part of our Refugee and Humanitarian Program and speak new and emerging languages often find that there are not enough translators and interpreters to help them access services. How can we change this so that they can get help when they need it? This issue is the topic of a recent and important report by the Federation Of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA).

Many languages, few interpreters and translators

Those who came between 2000-2014 speak over 200 languages and dialects between them.

Services for these languages may be scarce. These language services are important for making sure they can protect their rights and get health care and other government services. Well-trained interpreters are important for complex situations such as family and domestic violence.

However, there are few or no courses for interpreting and translating for some of the languages spoken by recent humanitarian entrants. As a result, providers use interpreters without qualifications, which potentially creates risks for them and their clients.

What can be done?

The report recommends a training and accreditation model based on a review of different  jurisdictions and the identification of good practice. This model would require a consistent investment over a period of time by all Australian governments to build the supply of quality interpreters in new and emerging languages.
The recommended model has two stages:

  • stage one: a VET-delivered skill set program, made up of 4 units of a diploma of interpreting
  • stage two:  a screening of participants, and testing by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters to provide accreditation.

This model requires:

  • collaboration and coordination between all Australian governments, tertiary institutions, language services providers, professional associations and the community sector, ideally through an annual permanent forum
  • data collection, to enable better planning, response and collaboration
  • the establishment of training, accreditation and professional development pathways s
  • the building of capacity of those using language services, and
  • an increase in demand of language services by providers.

This model would improve the quality and quantity of language services through effective national coordination, distributing the costs between state and federal governments, and through creating new pathways to further study of emerging languages.

Read 'Australia's growing linguistic diversity'

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