Culturally and linguistically diverse


One-in-five Queenslanders are born overseas. More than a third of Queenslanders are either born overseas or have at least one parents born overseas. Queenslanders speak more than 220 languages and approximately one in ten 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 people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds in Queensland, many still residing in remote communities retaining their own language.

Amparo Advocacy have released factsheets about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, translated into 39 languages. More information about the scheme can be found on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Website.

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

Accessing interpreters and translators

Migration continues to be one of the largest contributors to Queensland’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 migrants to Queensland.

In the 2016 Census, 557,690 Queenslanders stated that they spoke a language other than English at home. This represents 11.9 percent of the state’s population. Also, 75,532 Queenslanders (1.6 percent) stated that they do not speak English or do not speak it well.

This data confirms the continuing need for access to professional, credentialed interpreters and translators.

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy

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

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy and Guidelines mandates that Queensland Government agencies and government funded non-government service providers engage credentialed interpreters for service users with low English language proficiency.

The Queensland Government Language Services Policy aims to enhance access to interpreters and translated information for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as this enables 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 training staff in how to work with 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 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 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 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 and Vietnamese.

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 and a person may obtain one or more. The card can be freely shared among people who speak the same language indicated on the front of the card such as family members. The card can also be used at Queensland Government agencies and some local Commonwealth agencies, including Centrelink.

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.

Engaging and working with interpreters webinar

Engaging and working with interpreters effectively is essential for delivering services to people with difficulty communicating in English.

Assessing the need for an interpreter – a tip sheet to help you determine when and how to use an interpreter.

Translation: An introduction – a tip sheet for translating written information.

Translation and Interpreting Services

Free Translating Service

The Free Translating Service is provided by the Australian Government for people settling permanently in Australia. It aims 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.

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 or contact TIS National on 1300 575 847

Interpreter Services for the deaf

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.

Related Updates

Last chance: Nominate now for the Multicultural Queensland Advisory Council
Interpreter Training Boost Program
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