Demand for sign language interpreters

by Laura Peppas

As an Australian Sign Language interpreter, Sarah Strong has broken communication barriers for graduations, weddings and everything in between.

“I might be interpreting for a corporate meeting, then I’ll go to a specialist appointment, a parent teacher interview, or a cooking class,” Sarah says.

“They say it’s from the cradle to the grave, we’re there for all facets of deaf people’s lives – from pre-schoolers to people in their 70s or 80s – I think that’s a real privilege.”

The Canberra resident became an Australian Sign Language (Auslan) interpreter for The Deaf Society twelve years ago, after studying a Certificate II, IIII and IV in Auslan, Diploma of Auslan and a Diploma of Interpreting.

“I was actually thinking of getting into special education, but I took a year off before going to university and in that time I started learning about Auslan and I actually saw interpreters working,” Sarah says.

“I thought that looked like my kind of thing – I love working with people.”

Demand for Auslan interpreters and people with Auslan skills is expected to swell after the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) roll out this year, which will see more deaf or hard of hearing people gain access to interpreters than ever before.

“Within six months of the NDIS trial site in Hunter [NSW], The Deaf Society saw a 119 per cent increase in demand for interpreters,” says Leonie Jackson, CEO of The Deaf Society.

“We anticipate a similar outcome in the ACT as more deaf people apply for and receive NDIS packages, with full rollout expected by July 2016.”

Recognising the increasing need for Auslan-English interpreters and people with Auslan skills, The Deaf Society has recently launched accredited Auslan courses starting with a Certificate II in Auslan.

The six-month course, which starts in February, is designed to provide students with a basic ability to sign and read back signing, and facilitates an understanding of the sociocultural contexts in which the language is used.

Sarah says interpreting is a fulfilling career with “many rewards.”

“My favourite part of the role is developing relationships with the people I work with on a regular basis,” she says.

“One of the most memorable pieces of feedback came when I was interpreting for a man at a work meeting. After the meeting his colleagues said to me ‘we’ve never heard his sense of humour before, we’ve never realised how hilarious he is.’

“They hadn’t had an interpreter come in before, they’d only communicated with him using emails and text – so it was the first time they’d gotten to see that side of the colleague. A sense of humour can be lost in text-based communication, so it was fantastic that I could help uncover that part of his personality.”

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer. This article originally appeared on HerCanberra.com.au and is reproduced with permission.

Published: 15/06/2016