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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1362


Senator MULVIHILL (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration studied the plea of Mr Alan Matherson of the Ecumenical Migration Centre that the supply and availability of competent interpreters for migrant services is not geared to the ethnic groups with the greatest needs?


Senator GREENWOOD - I do not recall having read the report to which Senator Mulvihill referred, but I think that it must stem from a tragic incident which was referred to in the Coroner's Court in Melbourne on Monday of this week and about which I have some information. The Press reports have suggested that there has been - and quite clearly it is the postion - inability to communicate and out of that tragedy has arisen. I do not comment on certain aspects relating to the particular incidents, because primarily that would seem to be within the responsibility of the Minster for Labour and National Service. However, I am informed by the Minister for Immigration that there is an extensive translation and interpreter service provided by 3 official sources: firstly, by the Department of Immigration, which provides interpreters at the State branch offices; secondly by the Department of Labour and National Service employment offices in areas of high migrant density; and thirdly, by Commonwealth Hostels which have a number of non-English speaking migrants. Altogether these official sources provide some 400 qualified interpreters.

Recently the Department of Immigration expanded its translation service to form a nucleus which would be available to meet routine departmental requirements, as well as emergency situations. In addition, it is planning to introduce an on-call telephone interpreter service to provide, in the languages causing the greatest problems, a 24- hour service for urgent community needs. In addition to these, one must have regard to the fact that there is an extension of migrant education services - and interpreters are part of this extension - in the community at large in a variety of places which provide interpreters such as banks. Also, the State governments are exercising their responsibilities by providing interpreters, for example, at hospitals, pOlice courts and agencies like the Good Neighbour Council.

In 1971 the Department of Immigration completed an Australia-wide survey of interpreter needs in the community. The results of that survey are now being compiled. There are, of course, qualified social workers as well as interpreters, and these are related to the language needs of the particular group with whom these people are working. There is an extensive interpreter translation service of the character I have indicated.







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