Australian government’s use of interpreters found lacking

An ombudsman is generally a person assigned by a government to investigate complaints by citizens against government agencies. In some cases, ombudsmen also conduct audits and investigations without being prompted by a complaint. In Australia, not only does each state have an ombudsman, but there is a national Commonwealth Ombudsman as well.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has just released a report titled “Talking in Language: Indigenous language interpreters and government communication” that evaluates the use of interpreters by government agencies for aboriginal citizens. The investigation was spurred by complaints.

Page 2 provides grounds for the evaluation, including:

  1. The Australian government must be courteous and sensitive to the public’s cultural and linguistic needs: “The Australian public service is obliged to provide services ‘fairly, effectively, impartially and courteously to the Australian public and [to be] sensitive to the diversity of the Australian public’. Similarly, the Australian Government Access and Equity Framework promotes the provision of services that are accessible to a culturally and linguistically diverse community.”
  2. The Australian government has a policy of multiculturalism: “The recently released Australian Government Multicultural Policy reinforces these requirements – Principle 2 states that the Australian Government is ‘committed to a just, inclusive and socially cohesive society where … government services are responsive to the needs of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds’.”
  3. The language needs of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders cannot be easily met: While the linguistic needs of the majority of Australia’s established migrant communities can be largely met by interpreter services, the same cannot be said for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
  4. In group situations, the presence of an English speaker is often taken to indicate no interpreter is required: “There is a tendency for agencies to accept an English speaking member or subset of members of a group as spokespeople for the whole group, instead of using appropriately qualified interpreters.”
In 2009, the Minister for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) announced with another agency a National Indigenous Languages Policy, part of which includes the development of a National Framework “…for the effective supply and use of Indigenous language interpreters and translators…”
The report provides seven recommendations (page 19-20), including:
  • Agencies should review their interpreter policies with reference to the 2009 “Use of Interpreters” report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman (until the National Framework is in place)
  • Raise awareness
  • Ensure third party service providers (i.e., private agencies) use interpreters
  • Consider training programs for interpreters
This blog post was inspired by “Ombudsman is new voice for interpreters.”
Advertisements

One Response to “Australian government’s use of interpreters found lacking”

  1. Australian government’s use of interpreters found lacking – Ethnos Project Crisis Zone Says:

    […] An ombudsman is generally a person assigned by a government to investigate complaints by citizens against government agencies. In some cases, ombudsmen also conduct audits and investigations without being prompted by a complaint. In Australia, not only does each state have an ombudsman, but there is a national Commonwealth Ombudsman as well. The Commonwealth Ombudsman has […] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: