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AUSIT - avoiding professional isolation

By Eirlys Chessa

When I migrated to Australia from Italy, in 1988, I already had 10 years of experience in translating and interpreting. Most of my experience had been acquired on the job in Italy, as it used to be in those days.

Like many migrants, I relied on the information obtained from my relatives and from the Government institutions I dealt with on a daily basis. It was in fact my first visits to a hospital and to Centrelink that led to my being advised to continue my line of work in Australia.

I joined AUSIT in 1991 for a couple of years, serving as membership secretary in the ACT, then left when TIS National closed its Canberra offices and I took a break from freelance work.

I returned to AUSIT in 2014 after helping to establish the Translating and Interpreting Group in APESMA (now Professionals Australia) in 2012, and have advocated for these two associations joining forces ever since.

Why? Because over the last few years, as a recruiter and support person for my colleagues, I have increasingly become aware of the negative effects on my colleagues’ performance due to professional isolation. In part, this isolation appears due to the lack of interest in, and/or information about, the availability and benefits of peer and employer support.

Professional associations can really help us to develop our support networks and develop our own professional knowledge and awareness of the issues concerning our profession. All this makes us more informed and more effective in managing our business and assisting the people who most need our help.

These people may include speakers of languages other than English (LOTE) who experience difficulty in day-to-day dealings with public services and authorities or, at the higher end of the translating and interpreting industry,  businesses and governments needing to communicate with each other, in order to prepare a better future for us all.

If we, as professionals, are able to communicate with each other and learn from each other, we are also less likely to be taken advantage of by unethical clients and language service providers.

This can mean that we can then reach out to our colleagues at all levels and in all nations, creating awareness of the importance of protecting ourselves from vicarious trauma and the risks associated with exposing ourselves to unnecessary emotional and physical stress-related illnesses.

We need to look after ourselves above all others, or we lose our effectiveness in our professional capacity. This applies, of course, to all professionals. Unfortunately, particularly in Australia, many interpreters and translators do not see themselves as professionals partially because of how the industry itself came into being. 

Our industry grew on an ad-hoc basis to cope with successive waves of migration causing a constant fluctuation in  supply and demand. In fact, the history of translating and interpreting in Australia is a fascinating subject of which many lack awareness.

This lack of awareness also contributes to the frequent misconceptions about what it means to be a language professional in the Australian environment. It is important, not only for interpreters and translators, but for everyone to become more aware of what has led to the current state of the profession and to work towards the necessary improvements which will benefit Australian society as a whole.

Raising awareness and facilitating professional development is what professional associations do best. Please consider joining us.

Eirlys Josephine Chessa, Grad.Dip. Trans & Interp., RMIT, is currently the Vice-President (Communications and Public Relations) of AUSIT. She obtained her first NAATI accreditation in 1990, and has been working in the public service translating and interpreting field ever since.

The Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators, AUSIT, (in parallel with ASLIA, which specifically represents Auslan interpreters) is the main professional association representing translators and interpreters in Australia in non-industrial matters.

With over 750 members nation-wide, AUSIT focuses its attention on issues of professional development, collaboration with educational institutions, liaison with other bodies (such as NAATI) and raising awareness of the profession amongst the public. You can learn more about AUSIT membership here