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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 13268

Senator Greig asked the Minister for Family and Community Services, upon notice, on 30 May 2003:

With reference to statements made in the Community Affairs Legislation Committee 2003-04 Budget estimates hearings in June 2003 in relation to the provision of Auslan interpreter services to members of the deaf community, in which the Minister:

(a) indicated that funding requested by the Australian Association of the Deaf, to conduct research into the extent of unmet need, had been granted, and the tender would shortly be advertised; and (b) further indicated there was no money in the budget to provide the $767 000 interim funding requested by the Australian Federation of the Deaf:

(1) Has the tender for a scoping study to research the current supply and demand of Auslan interpreters been advertised; if not, when will it be advertised.

(2) What is the expected time frame for the scoping exercise.

(3) Will the Government commit to re-assessing the current provision of funding for Auslan interpreters on the basis of the research findings.

(4) Given that the Minister acknowledges there is enough information to `know what the problem is in general', and that this has been a growing issue for the past 7 years, why has the Government failed to act before now.

(5) Why is the Government still unwilling to commit the $767 000 interim funding required to ensure minimum access to interpreters for the deaf pending the outcome of the scoping research.

Senator Vanstone (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) has previously tendered for research consultants to be part of an evaluation panel for conducting program and policy research and evaluation services. The panel consists of individuals and organisations with a range of specialisations and expertise. FaCS will invite consultants from the panel with experience in research in the disability area or with other disadvantaged groups to submit proposals to undertake the Auslan study. The invitations will be sent out shortly.

(2) The aim is to complete the scoping study by the end of 2003.

(3) When the study is completed, the Government will consider the range of the Commonwealth assistance provided to people who use Auslan.

(4) Currently, Commonwealth, state and territory governments provide some assistance with Auslan interpreting services. If a person who is deaf wishes to access Commonwealth services, an Auslan interpreter is provided free of charge. This study of Auslan interpreting services will examine the range of assistance available across states and territories and identify any areas where further consideration of Commonwealth assistance may be warranted. The Government wants to ensure any new Commonwealth assistance for Auslan users builds on current efforts.

(5) As already stated, funding for Auslan interpreting services is a joint Commonwealth, state and territory responsibility. The $767 000 is the Australian Federation of Deaf Societies' estimate of additional funding required for Auslan interpreting services in the six states. It is not clear how much of this estimated demand relates to Commonwealth services and responsibilities and how much relates to state services and responsibilities. The Government wants to gain a good understanding of Auslan interpreting service issues across all states and territories, before considering further the range of the Commonwealth assistance provided to people who use Auslan.