A connected community without language barriers

Addressing Regional Challenges in Interpreting

Tasmanian NAATI Regional Advisory Committee (RAC)

Wanda Buza, Chair

The difficulty of obtaining the service of credentialed interpreters in Australian regional, rural and remote communities has been a long standing and ongoing challenge, particularly in languages spoken by new and emerging communities, as many new arrivals are still mastering their own proficiency in the English language.

While the Tasmanian Government’s Multicultural Language Service Guidelines for Tasmanian Government Agencies, require agencies to use the services of NAATI credentialed interpreters where possible in order to be confident of the skill and quality of interpreting, the guidelines of themselves cannot address problems of supply.

In introducing its current credentialing framework in 2018, NAATI took account of the challenges imposed by the constantly changing nature and diversity of new languages arising from new waves of migration, as well as the specific challenges for regional Australia with its smaller dispersed communities. Two key positive changes have been the introduction of educational prerequisites to sit credentialing tests and the introduction of an entry-level credential designed to encourage un-credentialed interpreters operating in the community to engage with NAATI through a structured and supported pathway.

With support of NAATI, Tasmania has been able to move ahead with several projects designed to increase the supply of credentialed interpreters.

A pilot Interpreter Training scholarship program was established in 2019. Advice was provided by the Tasmanian NAATI RAC that classroom-based learning combined with online learning was the preferred model to be piloted, given the funding envelope.

The Scholarship program provided $1000 per student towards the cost of undertaking the RMIT University’s Online Course for NAATI Certification. Seventeen Interpreters in new languages in demand successfully completed the course. In 2020 two further rounds were held with five graduates becoming recognised practicing interpreters and 13 interpreters qualifying to sit the NAATI language test as Certified Provisional interpreters.

The Annual Scholarship program has been jointly funded by NAATI and the Tasmanian Government.

The Tasmanian NAATI RAC looks forward to an exciting year ahead. In 2021 we will be:

  • running the 2021 Interpreter Scholarship Program;
  • piloting a new Auslan Interpreting Scholarship program;
  • supporting AUSIT development of a new training program for interpreters working in a family violence and child-abuse settings;
  • providing input into a Tasmanian Government cross- cultural competency training program and
  • reviewing the Multicultural Language Services Guidelines for Tasmanian Government Agencies.

Over the last year Auslan Interpreters have been playing a prominent role in ensuring that deaf community is receiving COVID-19 information at the same time as their hearing counterparts. Advice has been provided by the Premier’s Disability Advisory Council, of the need for more Auslan Interpreters in Tasmania. Information Sessions were held in Hobart and Launceston in late January for interpreters interested in seeking NAATI Certification in Auslan.

“Around the country, NAATI RACs have a valuable role to play in bringing the key stakeholders together to address regional challenges, and to use their combined expertise, local knowledge, and insights to address gaps in training, and develop and trial new solutions to increase accessibility to skilled credentialed interpreters in regional communities.”

The Tasmanian NAATI RAC comprises members from State and Commonwealth Government agencies, Language Services Providers, AUSIT, Expression Australia, Professionals Australia, and NAATI practitioners.

Responding to COVID-19

There is no doubt times have been challenging and Governments around Australia have been called upon to respond to the threat of COVID-19 within the community. Agencies have worked in partnership with multicultural leaders, health workers and community services to reach out to communities to share information on minimising transmission, and to assist families and individuals to access services and support.

A COVID-19 Migrant Support Network was established to support collaboration across government, alongside community organisations, service providers, and the community.

Over the last year our language service providers have been playing a critical role in enabling Tasmanian Government COVID-19 information to be translated into multiple languages. The responsive of our language service providers and NAATI credentialed translators in enabling information to be translated quickly into languages is demand has been much appreciated.

Facts sheets have been prepared on a wide range of issues including community gatherings, testing information, and hospital and aged care visits.

Where information has not been available in languages required by our new and emerging communities, the Government has and is continuing to arrange for additional language translations. Meetings have been organised with community groups and leaders using interpreters and bicultural workers to ensure up-to-date information has been and continues to be distributed through settlement service providers, other multicultural services and organisations, and language service providers.

As we move towards the COVID-19 recovery period, the Tasmanian NAATI RAC will continue to play an important role in addressing language barriers to ensure our multicultural communities stay connected, engaged and informed.

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