Understanding the role of the interpreter

As a judicial officer,
it’s your fundamental role to ensure everyone has access to
justice and procedural fairness. With hundreds of languages
being spoken across Australia, including sign languages, working effectively with interpreters is a key responsibility. This film will help you ensure that you have the best possible interpreter for each specific case. First, you should always
check an interpreter’s credentials. Ask them: What is your NAATI accreditation or certification? What are your formal qualifications in interpreting? What is your court interpreting experience? And, are you a member of AUSIT, ASLIA or any other recognised
State or Territory-based organisation, which requires adherence to
a code of ethics or standards. Next, assess their professional competency,
regardless of whether you assigned the interpreter, or they were on board already. Here’s what to consider: First, look at their technique. For example, an interpreter is less likely to be accurate if they interpret in the third person, for example ‘he said that he wanted to go’,
instead of ‘I wanted to go’. If they engage in private discussions without
asking for clarification or repetition from you, or letting you know they are asking this
of the client. If they offer lay opinions. If they do not begin interpreting following each appropriate pause to allow for interpretation, but instead attempt to summarise
long segments of speech, or if they don’t take notes
during long periods of speaking. Secondly, assess their English proficiency. The more proficient the interpreter is in
the English language, the more accurate their interpretation is likely to be, as long as they are just as proficient
in their other language. Next, consider their delivery. An interpreter should be confident enough
to stop proceedings if clarifications are needed, or if they are getting tired and need a break, using the correct protocol
to ask for the floor. When an interpreter frequently interrupts
to ask for clarification, this is often a sign that they are working hard to accurately
interpret everything that is being said. You should also gauge whether the interpreter is the most appropriate person for your specific case. A competent interpreter will take into account
cross-cultural issues and other sensitivities as well as the language and dialect
of the party or witness. For example, political, religious or other
tensions between different cultural or linguistic groups may need to be taken into account when
choosing an interpreter, to make the party or witness more comfortable. And in an Aboriginal interpreting situation,
kinship obligations or avoidance relationships may need to be taken into account
when choosing an interpreter. The gender of the interpreter can be relevant, particularly in family, domestic or sexual violence cases. In these cases there should
also be separate interpreters for each party. And finally, you should check if the interpreter
has a conflict of interest in the proceedings. If it becomes apparent at any stage of the
proceedings that the interpreter is not appropriate, as a judicial officer, it is your responsibility
to raise the matter immediately. You may need to consider an adjournment
while you find a more suitable interpreter or determine another acceptable strategy. Interpreters are essential for enabling a
party or witness with limited English proficiency to have access to justice and procedural fairness
in the court and tribunal system. Following these steps is a great start
and can help you, as a judicial officer, ensure you have the right interpreter for each case. We also recommend you refer to the
‘Recommended Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals’, for extensive information
on the role of the interpreter.

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