Information for service providers

Culturally and linguistically diverse community members

The Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs is available to engage with representatives of communities affected to extend its support and gauge community needs. The most up-to-date information for all Queenslanders is available in a range of languages on the Queensland Government website.

Emergency relief support for people on temporary visas

Australian Red Cross has received Government funding specifically to support people who are on temporary visas with a small one-off emergency relief payment.

Emergency relief is to help people meet their basic needs, like food, medicine or shelter. Emergency relief payments are not income support. They are limited and may not meet all needs that you have.

Given the large number of people impacted by COVID-19, the support can only be offered to people in Australia with urgent needs who:

  • are not Australian citizens or permanent residents; and
  • are not eligible for State or Territory funds for temporary visa holders (except those delivered by Red Cross); and
  • have no income or savings and no access to other support.

To find out more and apply for support visit the Red Cross website.

Multicultural Affairs – Staying connected during COVID-19

To help raise issues affecting your communities during these uncertain and challenging times, please consider joining the Whatsapp group the Department of Home Affairs has created in Queensland for community leaders. If you would like to be included in this group: Add the Queensland Home Affairs number (0434 861 883) to your contacts in your phone (this is important, otherwise you will not receive messages they send). Text 0434 861 883 with the name of the community you represent. For more information, contact the Department of Multicultural Affairs [email protected]

Domestic and family violence support for temporary visa holders during COVID-19

The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women has developed a fact sheet to provide information about assistance available to support people on temporary visas experiencing domestic and family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the fact sheet.

A guide for working with interpreters for community service organisations

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a constantly changing environment relating to our health, schools, jobs, income, recreation and socializing.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds may experience a range of challenges including understanding the current health advice, directions regarding social distancing and isolation and available government support. This can leave people from CALD backgrounds in a vulnerable position and lead to a range of experiences including confusion, fear and anxiety, economic disadvantage and health risks. Given the significant risk to lives and livelihood which COVID-19 presents it is critical that everyone in our community can understand what is required of them, what support is available and how they can access services.

This guide provides a brief summary of important considerations for people working in community service organisations who are supporting people with the aid of an interpreter. There are also some links to further information and resources that may be helpful.

Please note, that this information covers spoken language interpreting and not interpreting for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Information regarding this can be found at Deaf Services Queensland.

Visit our page on Community Door for COVID-19 resources in languages other than English.

Are you set up to engage interpreters when needed?

Does your service have an account with a Language Service Provider or access to interpreters through a government funding body? It is important that all front line workers are familiar with the process of engaging interpreters for your particular service.

If you do not have an established account with a Language Service Provider (LSP) or arrangement through your funding body you will need to set up an account with one or more LSPs prior to booking an interpreter. There is a range of organisations providing over-the-phone interpreting services. For more information on these organisations you can simply search for telephone interpreter service Australia online or ask other organisations for their recommendations.

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy requires agencies and services funded by the Queensland Government to engage qualified interpreters. Your organisation should have a policy on engagement of interpreters.

Who is an interpreter and how do they deliver their services?

Qualified or professional interpreters in Australia are not only ‘good’ bilingual (or multilingual) individuals, they have demonstrated high proficiency in the languages in which they work. They have developed competent interpreting skills through completion of tertiary studies, professional development, and/or rigorous testing and experience. Qualified interpreters are trained to maintain strict ethical standards while performing their duties through consistent application of specialised ethical principles as set out by the AUSIT Code of Ethics and the ASLIA Code of Ethics. They are bound by national standards and are certified through NAATI, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters.

How do you know when you should engage an interpreter?

Sometimes this is clear, the most obvious being the client asks for an interpreter. Other times it will require a degree of judgment and consideration of a range of factors including:

  • Language competency on the day – stress and tiredness can affect people’s ability to understand you.
  • Complexity of information to be discussed – a person may have a reasonable level of conversational English but may find it difficult to understand more abstract information such as giving consent to share their information with other service providers.
  • Ability of the client to communicate their needs.
  • Impact of inaccurate interpretation on the individual and/or organisation.
  • Impact on a person’s ability to access the service.
  • If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and engage an interpreter.

It may be necessary to verbally test whether the client’s level of proficiency in English would interfere in clear and accurate communication. When verbally testing proficiency, ask one or two open-ended questions (not yes/no questions). These should not be familiar questions (where do you live?). For example, you could ask the person to explain in their own words their understanding of a statement that you make.

It may be that you need to impress upon the person the importance of engaging an interpreter even if the client does not request one.

Things to consider when booking an interpreter

  • Conversations with an interpreter will take longer than those without. Make sure you allow for additional consultation time (one and a half or double) with a client when an interpreter is involved.
  • When requesting an interpreter it is important to be specific about the language and regional dialect of the client and not make assumptions on which language or dialect would be appropriate. For example, do not assume that all people who originate from Burma can or want to speak with a Burmese interpreter.
  • You can also seek advice from community members, organisations or service providers that can help understand some of the intricacies or complexities around particular languages and cultural groups.
  • In sensitive cases, at the request of the client, it may be necessary to request an interpreter who is not of the same community (which may require requesting an interpreter by telephone).
  • Be aware the interpreter may and should decline the engagement if there is a risk of vicarious trauma, conflict of interest (close friend, family member) or​ where the terminology/issues to be discussed is beyond the interpreter’s competence.
  • Check the credentials of the interpreter provided – this can be done on the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) website, simply enter the NAATI number of the interpreter to view their credentials.

What if the client or a family member can speak some English or declines an interpreter?

Queensland Language Services guidelines state that, “The ability to converse in English does not necessarily indicate that a person comprehends the level of English spoken by doctors, nurses, magistrates, lawyers, police officers and others, or that the person understands written English. If there is any doubt about a person’s ability to communicate in or comprehend English, an interpreter should be engaged.”

  • Consider how you ask the question: “Do you need an interpreter?” versus “Would you like a professional interpreter?” or “I think we need some help to make sure we understand each other well”.
  • Mention your organisation’s policy and let them know that it is there to help the client.
  • Offer to re-evaluate the need for an interpreter in the future.

Tips for a good interpreted session

In the current climate, most if not all of your interactions with clients will be by phone or video conference and so a three-way remote conversation will be the norm. The following should be considered when setting up an interpreted session:

  • Inform the client of their rights as a service user including having access to an interpreter where necessary, that the interpreting service is provided for free, and that the interpreter is bound by a code of ethics that includes confidentiality and impartiality.
  • Brief the interpreter on the nature of the discussion to take place.
  • Ensure the interpreter is in a quiet and confidential space and is aware of the expected length of the appointment and content and ensure the interpreter feels competent and able to proceed.
  • Ensure that you and the client are also in a quiet and confidential space.
  • Speak directly to the client and direct questions and comments to the client not to the interpreter.
  • Only address the interpreter directly if needing to provide instructions and avoid interrupting the interpreter.
  • Speak in your normal tone of voice.
  • Use concise and well-constructed sentences, avoiding jargon and slang.
  • Pause once you have conveyed one or two ideas to allow the interpreter to remember and interpret everything that you have said.
  • Ensure understanding by repeating back what you have heard and asking the client to repeat back what they have heard.
  • If the client seems reluctant to speak (perhaps due to not understanding or trusting the interpreter) arrange another time and engage a different interpreter.
  • If by phone, make allowance for possible clarification by the interpreter because he/she has no visual cues (such as body language) to assist in interpreting.
  • Ensure that all required information is collected from and provided to the client while the interpreter is on the phone.
  • Allow time to debrief with the interpreter when the session is finished, particularly when the subject matter has been distressing or otherwise difficult.

Useful resources and links

Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service Working with Interpreters and Translators e-learning packages

Reporting issues

Contact NAATI

Sourcing interpreters and translators independently

Multicultural Australia

All Multicultural Australia services have moved online due to COVID-19. Multicultural Australia is funded by the Queensland government to provide free one on one student support, one on one career support, and also run English conversation classes. For more information on these services, visit the Study Queensland website.

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