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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12783


Mr Martin Ferguson asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, upon notice, on 21 October 1999:

(1) How many persons qualified as interpreters through TAFE and university conducted para professional or professional courses in 1997 and 1998.

(2) Are similar numbers expected to qualify if the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) is successful with its policy to abolish such courses.

(3) What alternative options will be available to ensure professional training.

(4) How many public meetings were conducted during NAATI's six month consultation period.

(5) Is it a fact that many who sought involvement were not given responses by NAATI; if so, why.

(6) What measures were undertaken to ensure independent oversight of NAATI's transparency in this matter.

(7) Were public hearings conducted; if so, how many (a) hearings occurred, (b) witnesses were interviewed and (c) submissions were received.


Mr Ruddock (Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

NAATI is a company jointly owned by the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments (except the Northern Territory) and governed by a Board of Directors. Therefore it is not subject to ministerial direction on its daily affairs. NAATI has provided answers to questions 1 + 5 and 7. I have responded to question 6.

(1) The following table summarises accreditations resulting from (a) graduations from the courses NAATI approves at a total of six institutions (4 TAFE Colleges and 2 Universities), (b) tests conducted by NAATI and (c) accreditations based on overseas qualifications.

Accreditations

By Course

By NAATI Test

By overseas assessment

Total

Para-professional

1997/98

193

197

390

1998/99

171

201

372

First Professional Level

1997/98

156

322

48

516

1998/99

114

415

25

554

Advanced Professional Level

1997/98

5

1

21

27

1998/99

5

1

12

18

(2) NAATI is considering whether to continue approval of courses at the six institutions and has yet to make a decision. It does not have the power to create or to abolish such courses and therefore has no policy in this regard. There is no requirement for institutions offering translation and interpreting courses to have NAATI approval. Graduates of institutions with NAATI approval are recommended to NAATI for accreditation on the basis of their result in a final examination set, delivered and assessed by the training institution. Graduates of institutions without NAATI approval seek accreditation through the national NAATI examination. If the NAATI approval of courses were to be discontinued, graduates could still gain accreditation through the NAATI testing system.

(3) As now, student demand will dictate the number of courses provided. The continuation of NAATI external examination for accreditation purposes will ensure a standardised benchmark for both employers and the profession. Whether or not it continues to approve some courses, NAATI has proposed that a minimum period of training becomes a pre-requisite for all candidates seeking accreditation through NAATI's national examination system. This should improve the standards of accredited interpreters and translators by providing training programs that are designed to meet the particular needs of students.

(4) None. The consultation process so far comprises:

February 1999 NAATI provided a copy of the proposal to its Members (representing State/Territory and Commonwealth Governments).

March 1999 The (NAATI) Future Directions paper, including the issue of course approval, released to AUSIT and the NAATI Regional Advisory Committees which comprise representatives of service providers, educational institutions, practitioners and the professional association. Responses sought from all parties.

May 1999 NAATI Board considered responses received, noting a diversity in views concerning the proposal on the courses approval issue. Board decided to seek further consultation.

August 1999 The Board considered further submissions by the University of Western Sydney and the Victorian Regional Advisory Committee and decided to provide one further opportunity for consultation. Specific invitations for submissions were issued to 34 training institutions, 10 service providers and, again, the 8 Regional Advisory Committees.

November 1999 NAATI has received a further 37 responses which are to be analysed and considered by the Board of Directors.

(5) Yes. NAATI did not wish to respond to individual submissions but rather to respond with a report on the collective view when all submissions had been received. NAATI made some informal responses to early submissions by telephone and during its normal consultations that form part of every Board meeting. NAATI will respond to those who contributed when all submissions have been received.

(6) As a company NAATI reports to its Members (representing State/Territory (except the Northern Territory) and the Commonwealth government) at general and extra-ordinary meetings of the company. Implementation of NAATI's initiatives and work plans are subject to the provision of financial contributions by the Commonwealth and State governments, decided at the annual Ministerial Council for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. The Council has not yet been asked to consider any specific proposal to change NAATI's course approval regime, although I am aware that options are being canvassed.

(7) Refer to (4) above.