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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1417

Mr LAMB (LA TROBE, VICTORIA) - Can the Minister for Immigration inform the House what measures are being taken by the Government to overcome the drastic shortage of interpreters to assist migrants with little or no English in such matters as contracts, court cases and government welfare services? Can the Minister also inform the House what safeguards and qualifications will be expected to ensure that interpreters in official and unofficial business will always act in the best interests of the clients requiring the service?

Mr GRASSBY - The position in regard to interpreter services generally in Australia is deplorable. It has been established by task forces particularly in Sydney and Melbourne that in some cases people who have needed treatment in hospitals have not been able to receive that treatment in a proper and effective way because of a lack of interpreters. I have received a report which indicated that a man had gone to gaol because there was complete confusion both on his part and the part of his defence about what the exact position was. It has been the practice over the years for interpreters to be almost dragged in off the street to give assistance in the courts on most complex matters. This seems to me to be prejudicing justice in our country. The reports of the task forces indicate that there is a great need to upgrade the standard of interpreter services, to provide for proper training and above all to seek co-operation now in all spheres between the Australian Government and the State governments, particularly in the fields of health and justice, and this I will do. We need to ensure that health services are properly provided and that justice is done. I am not satisfied at all that justice is being done at the present time or that it has been done in the past.

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