The Case for Change

In the medical/health setting, lives may be endangered, families and individuals may experience severe stress and trauma, quality of life may be significantly reduced and additional unnecessary burden may be imposed on the health care system. In the legal context, the effects can be miscarriages of justice, aborted trials, wrongful arrests and convictions, inappropriate sentencing, misunderstood bail conditions, inappropriate jail terms, misinterpreted community orders and/or charges which can compromise the system’s integrity and result in additional workload for an already overloaded court and legal system. In the context of the delivery of Australian government services and programs, the consequences of failure can range from wrongly suspended payments, to incorrect debts being raised against individuals, to failure to access government programs due to lack of understanding of the program itself or the documentation that underpins it.

In the immigration setting, protection visas and refugee applications may be wrongly granted, refused or cancelled and the integrity and fairness of the system compromised. The reasons for an irregular maritime arrival may be misunderstood, the information presented to Refugee Review Tribunal and Migration Review Tribunal hearings may be inaccurate or distorted and even foundation documents such as the rights and responsibilities agreement provided on arrival misinterpreted. The failures in process, protocols and policy set out in this document show that the way provision of translating and interpreting services is currently handled can result in significant costs in human/ social terms across the health, legal, government and immigration settings.

 What becomes clear is that the quality of translating and interpreting services is not only an issue of access and equity - but one of risk. This paper reveals an extraordinary level of unmanaged risk and exposure to serious litigation across multiple settings when the system fails - the evidence confirms that there is a clear and urgent need for change.

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