Professionals Australia has welcomed improvements to Victorian translating and interpreting guidelines after advocating for change over the last two years.
Launched by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs Matthew Guy, the guidelines consist of two volumes, one each for interpreting and translation work. Together, they provide whole-of-government policy for the use and provision of language services.
Many Languages One Voice campaign director Bede Payne said that the new guidelines were “far from perfect, but a significant step forward”.
“The Translators and Interpreters Committee has been advocating for change in the industry for more than two years. “The Committee actively lobbied then-Minister for Health David Davis, to overrule calls from the health sector to be able to use family and friends as interpreters. The fact that the new provisions rule this out, is a significant achievement.”
“The challenge now, is to ensure that government departments using interpreting services, actually enforce these guidelines. The world’s best guidelines mean nothing, if they are ignored.
“These improvements have happened because Professionals Australia members worked hard to achieve them. If people want more change in the language services industry, it’s time they joined our effort.
Key Improvements in the New Guidelines
No Machine Translations
The guidelines rule out the use of machine translations given the risk of inaccuracy and mistranslation.While this change clearly rules out the wholesale use of machine translations, including readily available options such as Google Translates.
It also means that some agencies will need to tighten their control and quality checking when using outsourced or sub-contracted work.
Duty of Care and Acknowledgement of Risk
The guidelines officially acknowledge that the Government and its departments have a duty of care to ensure that “members of the public understand the information that is being provided to them” and that failure to satisfy this duty of care “can have legal consequences”.
Mr Payne said that this acknowledgement confirms that interpreters are actually a “risk management mechanism” and that the procurement of language services be based on access and equity and risk management not just cost.
Better Definition and Focus on Professional Interpreters
Previously guidelines contained loopholes that allowed for the use of non-accredited interpreters.
“The new guidelines close this loophole by ensuring that government departments must use Professional Interpreters, and only use Paraprofessional interpreters where a Professional Interpreter is not available.
“Rather than leave the door ajar, this change effectively rules out the use of non-accredited interpreters in language groups where testing is available.
Role of Family and Friends
The new guidelines also rule out the use of family and friends and define the role of family and friends as “supporting and advocating for the client”, and as such they are “separate from and complementary to the role of an interpreter”.
The guidelines are clear that family, friends and particularly children, “should not provide language assistance in critical situations as it will be difficult for them to remain impartial, maintain confidentiality and accurately convey information, which can compromise the duty of care to the client”.
Briefs and Debriefs
The guidelines indicate that government departments should provide for briefing and debriefing of interpreters.
Booking a practitioner
The new guidelines outline the need for agencies to collect essential information about a client. Therefore, the information should be available to interpreters wishing to prepare for a booking.
Information that should be collected includes: Name; Language/dialect; Preferred gender of the interpreter; Date and time – including time to brief the interpreter; Type of appointment (medical, legal); Address of the agency; Name and contact details of the person the interpreter needs to report to; Nature of the matter to be discussed; Anticipated length of the assignment; and the Interpreter’s name.
Promoting the availability of interpreters
The new guidelines cite that all staff of government departments and agencies “should be made aware of relevant language services policies and be adequately trained to work with interpreters”.
This requirement that staff be trained will lead to greater understanding and facilitation of interpreters in working environments.