Culturally and linguistically diverse


One in five Queenslanders are born overseas and more than a third are either overseas born or have at least one parent born overseas. Queenslanders speak more than 220 languages and approximately one in 10 Queenslanders speaks a language other than English at home.

An older lady is sitting at outdoor table.

It is estimated that there are approximately 203,000 persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds in Queensland and many reside in remote communities retaining their own language.

Amparo Advocacy have recently released factsheets about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, translated into 39 languages.

Here are some great organisations and websites for information on CALD communities


Accessing interpreters and translators

Overseas migration continues to be the largest contributor to the state’s growing population.

According to the Australian Government’s Settlement Information report for the period of 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2017 there were 35,000 permanent settlers in Queensland.

In the 2016 Census, 528,752 Queenslanders stated that they spoke an overseas language other than English at home. This represents 11.2 per cent of the state’s population. Also, 75,532 Queenslanders (1.6 per cent of the state’s total population) do not speak English, or do not speak it well.

It is estimated that there are approximately 203,000 persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds in Queensland and many reside in remote communities retaining their own language.

This data confirms the continuing need for access to professional, credentialled interpreters and translators in Queensland.

In 2008 the Queensland Government introduced a policy requiring Queensland Government agencies which fund non-government organisations to deliver services on their behalf to make provisions in their budgets for meeting the costs of interpreter services.

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy and Guidelines released in July 2014 mandates that State Government agencies and non-government service providers funded by the State Government engage credentialed interpreters for service users who have low English language proficiency (at no cost to non-Government service providers and at no cost to service users).

QCOSS has developed a policy guideline and policy template on engaging and working with interpreters to model how organisations can manage access to interpreters for clients with difficulty communicating in English.

Engaging and working with interpreters webinar

Queensland Accessing Interpreters Working Group (QAIWG)

Engaging and working with interpreters effectively is a core aspect of delivering services for all people with difficulty communicating in English.

The Queensland Accessing Interpreters Working Group (QAIWG) is a coalition of non-governmental organisations that formed in 2008 to advocate for high quality interpreting, translating and culturally responsive services to ensure Queenslanders from non-English speaking backgrounds are not left behind.

A lack of access to culturally competent and qualified interpreters was identified as a serious statewide systemic issue, and there was a strong interest in taking collective action to bring about positive change. QAIWG formed as a result of this meeting. Find out more about QAIWG and see its latest publications on QCOSS’ website.

Language Services

Access to interpreters and translators

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy was launched in July 2011. This policy aims to enhance access to interpreters and translated information for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to enable equitable access to the full range of services. These strategies include the engagement of professional interpreters in circumstances where people experience difficulties communicating in English, the provision of multicultural information and the training of staff in how to work with interpreters.

Agencies are responsible for budgeting and paying for interpreters (including client initiated contact). Clients of Queensland Government agencies do not pay for interpreters.

Subject to Australian Government approval, some non-government, community based or non-profit organisations are eligible for free interpreting services. General practitioners and Members of Parliament are also entitled to free interpreting services. Further details about eligibility for free interpreting services can be obtained from the Department of Home Affairs website.

Queensland Government funded non-government organisations (NGOs) must be provided with adequate budget and assistance to engaged interpreter services for service delivery. The relevant funding department is responsible for informing funded NGOs of the process and arrangements for accessing interpreting services.

Interpreter access for Department of Communities NGOs to communicate with clients

Interpreter access for Queensland Health funded NGOs to communicate with clients

If you are funded by another Queensland Government department and are unsure of your process to access interpreters, contact your contract manager for more information.

Queensland interpreter card

  • The Queensland Interpreter Card can be used by any person who speaks a language other than English and needs or wishes to use an interpreter to communicate.
  • The card is free of charge.
  • A person may obtain one or more cards.
  • The card can be freely shared among people who speak the language indicated on the front of the card such as family members.
  • The card can be used at Queensland Government agencies and some local and Commonwealth agencies including Centrelink.

The National Interpreter Symbol and the Queensland Interpreter Card aim to help people with limited English proficiency access language services when using government services. The symbol should be clearly visible to identify agencies where language assistance is available. The Queensland Interpreter Card can be used to indicate when a person needs an interpreter in their language.

The Queensland Interpreter Card, featuring the National Interpreter Symbol, can assist clients to request an interpreter. Of similar size to a credit card, the card features an area to write the name of the language required. The card is distributed inside a multilingual brochure with basic information on how to use it. The brochure includes translations in Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, Serbian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Cards are distributed to Queensland government agencies, community groups, and not-for profit agencies for distribution to their non English speaking clients. To order free copies of the cards, email Multicultural Affairs Queensland or call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

Translating and Interpreting Service also produces and distributes interpreter cards. For more information phone 131 450 or visit their website.

Resources to work effectively with interpreters and translated materials

Assessing the need for an interpreter – a tip sheet to help you determine when and how to use an interpreter from the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health.

Translation: An introduction – a tip sheet for translating written information from the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health.

Employment with TIS National

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship operates the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). TIS National welcomes enquiries from Australian permanent residents and citizens who are interested in working as interpreters. TIS National is continually seeking to recruit people to provide interpreting services in various languages. For more information visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

Interpreter services for the deaf


Translation and interpreting services

Free Translating Service

The Free Translating Service is provided by the Australian Government for people settling permanently in Australia, to support participation in employment, education and community engagement. Permanent residents and select temporary or provisional visa holders can have up to ten eligible documents translated, into English, within the first two years of their eligible visa grant date. Eligible documents include identity and relationship documents, facilitation documents such as driver’s licences, education documents and employment-related documents.

For more information or to submit an application for the Free Translating Service go to the Free Translating Service website. The website is easy to use and is available in English, Arabic, Farsi and Simplified Chinese.

The Free Interpreting Service

The Australian Government’s Free Interpreting Service aims to provide equitable access to key services, for people with limited or no English language proficiency. The following groups can access the Free Interpreting Service to provide services to anyone in Australia who is eligible for Medicare:

  • Private medical practitioners
  • Pharmacies
  • Non-government organisations (who are not substantially government funded)
  • Real estate agencies
  • Local government authorities
  • Trade unions
  • Parliamentarians

To register for a client code, eligible groups can complete the online client registration form on the TIS National website or contact TIS National on 1300 575 847.


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