Interpreters key to good Government-Indigenous relationships
The wider use of Indigenous language interpreters would help to break down communication barriers and build stronger relationships between many Indigenous Australians, governments and service providers, according to a new Commonwealth Ombudsman report.
Releasing the report today, Acting Ombudsman Alison Larkins said that government agencies—and their contracted service providers—needed to:
- increase their awareness of the need for Indigenous language interpreters
- train staff to work with interpreters and develop comprehensive policies on their use
- build their engagement with interpreter services and include the costs associated with training interpreters into new policy initiatives
- remove the barriers to recruiting interpreters.
‘Improving the use of interpreters is critical to achieving a better relationship between governments and Indigenous Australians,’ Ms Larkins said.
‘The implications for Indigenous people of not having access to interpreters when needed are significant and may have adverse consequences. Consider for a moment the enormity of not being able to understand your tenancy agreement, contribute to important decisions about programs in your community or take up opportunities to which you are entitled.
‘My office readily concedes that there is a shortage of Indigenous language interpreters and that it can be difficult to retain their services, but government agencies have an obligation to establish policies and provide services that meet the needs of all Australians.’
Ms Larkins was particularly concerned about the investigation finding that even when interpreters were available, they often weren’t used.
‘Until agencies, service providers and Indigenous Australians are able to effectively communicate with each other, many Indigenous Australians whose first language is not English, and who in many respects are already seriously disadvantaged, will be at risk of further hardship.’
To this end, Ms Larkins said she was encouraged by the work being done by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on a National Framework for the use and supply of Indigenous interpreters.
Media contact: Fiona Skivington 0423 845 160
Follow the Ombudsman on twitter – http://twitter.com/CwealthOmb
Date of release: 19 April 2011