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Thursday, 12 October 1972
Page: 1551

Senator WILLESEE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:

Does the Department of Immigration provide, either directly or indirectly by grants to the Slates for the purpose, interpreters to provide a service for those migrants who are hospitalised; if not, will the Minister give urgent consideration to providing interpreters in major public hospitals as a contribution to the health and well-being, both physical and mental, of those migrants who are not yet proficient in English.

Senator GREENWOOD-The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Department of Immigration does not either directly or indirectly provide funds to the States for the employment of interpreters. However, the Department has its own interpreter service in each State office, which is available for use in emergency situations arising in the community. Furthermore, the Department is in the course of developing an emergency telephone interpreter service which will be introduced initially in the Sydney and Melbourne offices to provide a service to meet emergency needs in the community.

The Department has recognised the special need for interpreters in hospitals and in particular psychiatric institutions, recognition largely arising out of departmental survey research. The special need has been discussed at meetings of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration. There has been growing recognition also of the need for interpreter services in the community generally, and to assess the actual nature of this need the Department in 1971 commenced an Australia-wide survey to enable an overall assessment to be made. The survey was directed at seeking information on both interpreting and translating needs from a selected representative sample of organisations and individuals who have dealings with migrants in the course of their day-to-day activity. The findings of the survey are at present under active consideration and areas identified by the survey as presenting special needs will receive close attention, and means will be sought to remedy the situation.

Whilst the Department of Immigration has a responsibility for providing interpreter services to meet needs arising directly from its specific functions, we do not believe that interpreter services should be solely the responsibility of government, and it is significant to note the extent to which commerce and industry is already active in this regard. However, the Department accepts a special responsibility for interpreting needs in vital areas and the action being taken to establish an 'on call' telephone interpreter service, which will operate on a 24-hour basis, should contribute substantially in assisting many organisations including hospitals which may be faced with crisis situations.

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