Indigenous language interpreting is a long-term career opportunity for speakers of Indigenous languages. Indigenous language interpreters are often employed by professionals in the legal, health, arts and government sectors to communicate effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Across Australia, there is more work for Indigenous language interpreters than there are interpreters, although this varies depending on location and languages spoken.

NAATI currently offers interpreter certification testing for Indigenous languages at the Certified Provisional Interpreter (CPI) level.

Knowing an interpreter is NAATI certified assures professionals and clients that the interpreting will be to a high standard. Many employers and service providers want to employ interpreters that are certified with NAATI.

The below outlines the steps required and support available to guide potential candidates through the process.


How Can I Become Certified?

There are four steps to becoming a NAATI certified Indigenous language interpreter.

  • Step 1 – Demonstrate to NAATI that you meet the English proficiency level for CPI interpreters.
  • Step 2 – Complete interpreter training to develop an understanding of the role of the interpreter, the code of ethics, and skills in preparing for jobs, interpreting accurately, managing discourse and applying ethics and intercultural competency on the job.
  • Step 3 – Pass both the Ethical & Intercultural Competency Tests.
  • Step 4 – Pass the CPI interpreting test.


Step 1: Demonstrate Strong English (and Language)


Interpreters need strong listening and speaking skills in English and Language to interpret accurately and quickly in different settings with different speakers.  

NAATI’s minimum level of English for CPI is a confident speaker; you can interact easily and fluently with native speakers on a range of topics, including abstract ideas. A native speaker would not slow down or change the way they speak.  

NAATI needs to see evidence of English proficiency before candidates sit any test. NAATI accepts evidence of English proficiency such as certificates and transcripts from finishing year 12, university or English proficiency test results equivalent to CEFR B2 or ISLPR level 3.

NAATI can be flexible with evidence requirements for Indigenous languages, but you must have English skills at this same level.

Click on image above for the Certification Screening Tool


Step 2: Complete Interpreter Training


NAATI needs to see evidence of a candidate’s interpreter training before they sit any test. As a guide, for international languages NAATI requires CPI candidates to have, at a minimum, a preparation course of 40 hours covering 4 AQF interpreting units. As there is not the same level of training available for Indigenous languages, NAATI can accept other forms of unaccredited training.  

This training should cover the role of the interpreter and code of ethics, how to achieve ‘accurate’ meaning-based interpreting, techniques for consecutive interpreting, how to prepare for jobs and handle difficult situations on the job. NAATI can offer training in Ethical Competency and Intercultural Competency (towards step 3). These hours will be counted, but candidates need to do extra training that covers interpreting skills and practice.

Click on image above for the Certification Screening Tool


Step 3: Pass Ethical & Intercultural Competency Tests


Before sitting the CPI test, candidates must pass both the Ethical Competency (EC) test and the Intercultural Competency (IC) test. These tests are run by NAATI. 

For the EC test, candidates need to know the AUSIT Code of Ethics and how to apply them on the job. For the IC test, candidates must have a good understanding of cultural differences and causes of miscommunication. For both tests, candidates need to answer 6 questions. To prepare for the EC and IC tests, candidates can do EC and IC training with NAATI or with their supporting agency.  

Note – if candidates complete a diploma of interpreting or the NAATI preparation skillset with a registered training organisation, the EC and IC assessments are covered in these courses; these candidates do not need to sit EC and IC tests. 

Interpreters from the Goldfields in WA successfully complete their EC and IC training. Standing (L-R): Roslyn Sullivan, Edie Ulrich, Miriam Brownley, Lillian Turner, Valeska Frazer and Sue Hanson Sitting (L-R): Kathleen Oien (NAATI trainer), Doreen Harris, Karen Cooke and Angelica McLean 


Step 4: Pass The CPI Test


When candidates have met the prerequisites and are ready to sit their CPI test, candidates or their supporting agencies can request that NAATI run a face-to-face workshop to deliver the test. The workshop includes final preparation training, a practice test with Role-players and the CPI test which is three live role-plays (two face-to-face and one over the phone). Candidates must pass all three role-plays to pass the test. If candidates pass two out of three, candidates can sit one supplementary role-play next time testing is available. NAATI has prepared online materials, available on YouTube, to assist candidates with preparing for CPI tests. Please watch these before attending a testing workshop.

Click on image above for the CPI Test Application Form
Kriol interpreter Tyron Holmes working with NAATI trainer Lauren Campbell on his way to becoming certified.


Every Three Years: Recertification

Recertification is the process by which translators and interpreters with NAATI credentials demonstrate that they remain active and committed to the translation and interpreting industry.  

To maintain NAATI certification, certified interpreters need to provide evidence every three years of on-going work practice, and Professional Development: Skills and Knowledge, Industry Engagement and Language Maintenance.


If you are interested in finding out more about becoming an Indigenous language interpreter, please contact NAATI.