22 December 2016: Ombudsman report recommends measures to improve access to Indigenous language interpreters

Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave today released a report into the accessibility and use of Indigenous language interpreters following a major own motion investigation that spanned 47 government agencies.

The investigation considered the performance of government agencies against the recommendations of our Talking in Language: Indigenous language interpreters and government communication 05/2011 report.

While the Ombudsman was pleased there had been some progress since 2011, he was concerned with this report’s conclusions, that there continues to be barriers to accessing Indigenous language interpreters for communications between government and Indigenous non-English speakers. These barriers include inadequate training and awareness within agencies of the need to use interpreters, major service gaps in areas with no dedicated Indigenous language interpreter service, problems with the supply of and demand for interpreters, inadequate monitoring, enforcement and evaluation of the use of interpreters by contracted service providers.

A number of agencies reported significant scope to increase their use of Indigenous language interpreters if more interpreters were available.

“In our investigation, it became apparent that challenges to accessibility are beyond the ability of any one agency to address and a coordinated whole of government response is required,” Mr Neave said.

The Ombudsman recommended that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the states and territories work together to prioritise finalisation and adoption of a National Framework for Indigenous Interpreters and further invest in programs and trials that deliver results.

“All agencies need to consider how their policy settings and administrative arrangements might be developed or better oriented to address the issues raised in the report for the use of Indigenous language interpreters,” Mr Neave said.

The Ombudsman will make no further comment on the report.

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