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NAATI and AUSIT: a shared history

As NAATI and AUSIT celebrate the fortieth and and thirtieth anniversaries of their inception respectively, NAATI’s Communications Manager Alessia Maruca reflects on the inherently interwoven histories of the two organisations.

The founding and development of AUSIT is intrinsically linked to NAATI’s own history and development. When NAATI was established on 14 September 1977, it was envisaged that a national professional association would assume responsibility in areas such as discipline within the profession, professional ethics, and the protection of the interests of the profession.

Prior to NAATI’s restructure into a company limited by guarantee in 1983, it was expected that this national association would eventually take over the functions (accreditation, course approval, etc.) of NAATI. However, it soon became apparent that two separate organisations would be needed in order to manage the various priorities of the wider industry.

In September 1987, a decade after its establishment, NAATI convened a national meeting. The two key outcomes were:

  • The establishment of AUSIT (including the creation of a constitution and bylaws).
  • The stipulation of NAATI Level III as a minimum qualification for admission to full AUSIT membership.

NAATI contributed financially to AUSIT during its establishment phase, and adopted the AUSIT Code of Ethics in 1988. Since then, we have enjoyed a long and positive relationship with AUSIT.

During the 1990s, NAATI introduced what are currently known as Regional Advisory Committees (RACs). The function of the RACs is to advise NAATI on the needs of local employers and on other industry issues. From the inception of these new committees, representatives from AUSIT have been appointed to and involved with them. AUSIT also contributed significantly to a 1992 review into NAATI’s ‘levels’ structure, which resulted in the names by which NAATI accreditations are still known today.

Some current statistics:

19,900 currently accredited interpreters

  • 9,700 gained their accreditation through testing
  • 10,200 gained their accreditation through NAATI-approved courses

24,600 currently accredited translators

  • 12,600 gained their accreditation through testing
  • 10,200 gained their accreditation through NAATI-approved courses

The year 2000 was a particularly exciting time, with NAATI and AUSIT working together, alongside other organisations, to run a special testing program designed to ensure the proficiency of language volunteers at the Sydney Olympic Games. Over 700 NAATI accredited volunteers were involved. 

From 1989 until 2007, NAATI—under the leadership of our longest-serving CEO to date, Sherrill Bell—developed a close working relationship with AUSIT. During that time, AUSIT and its members contributed to a number of significant NAATI reviews. These included The Cook Review, which looked into test administrative procedures, and The Slatyer Study, which sought to establish the validity and reliability of NAATI testing.

By mid-2006, both The Cook Review and The Slatyer Study were completed. They resulted in a new independent marking system for translation tests and a new format for interpreter tests, introduced in 2007 and ’08 respectively.

The harmonious relationship between NAATI and AUSIT was tested in the mid-2000s, with NAATI’s proposal of a revalidation system to which AUSIT was initially opposed.

Throughout 2006, NAATI facilitated a series of special consultations with AUSIT and major language service providers, in order to refine the proposed system. As a result of these consultations design and planning work was able to progress, and the revalidation system was launched on 1 January 2007.

Since then, AUSIT’s relationship with NAATI under succeeding CEOs—Lindsay Heywood (2007–10), John Beever (2010–15) and Mark Painting (2015–current)—has been strong. For example, NAATI continues to provide funding to AUSIT for specific projects. In more recent times, this has included funding for industry awareness initiatives and PD events, as well as sponsorship of AUSIT National AGMs and conferences.

Throughout NAATI’s 40-year history, many individual AUSIT members have contributed to NAATI’s work, in a variety of ways. We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all AUSIT members who have served as NAATI examiners, members of various NAATI committees (QAAC, TRAC, RACs, NILIAC, etc.) and NAATI directors.

Today, thanks to the work of AUSIT and its supporters, the T&I industry in Australia continues to grow and professionalise, through fostering the development of professional relationships with various industry stakeholders, and promoting standards in ethics and quality.

Alessia Maruca is NAATI’s communications manager. She is responsible for managing editorial and promotional support for all NAATI communication material, as well as coordinating communication and stakeholder strategies, digital media and other services and projects.

This article was originally published in AUSIT’s In Touch magazine, Vol 25, #2 (Winter 2017).