Respond to Covid 19

Response to COVID-19


Spoken Language Interpreters

We write to you on behalf of members of AUSIT, the Australian Institute of Interpreters, ASLIA, the Australian Sign Language Interpreters' Association and Translators and Interpreters Australia, a division of Professionals Australia, regarding the engagement of interpreters during the current extraordinary circumstances precipitated by the COVID‐19 pandemic.

We also want to express our concern at the increased use of telephone interpreting in court and tribunal hearings, which we have seen arise even before extraordinary steps had to be taken to deal with the current pandemic. Given the very low rates that interpreters are paid when working in this mode, we assume that the increased shift to phone interpreting has taken place to reduce costs.

The Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals argue against the use of telephone interpreting for anything other than short sessions:

Telephone interpreting should only be used with appropriate equipment, and for short proceedings or meetings (JCCD, 2017: p.37).

The Standards recognise that audio cues on their own are insufficient input to achieve the level of accuracy demanded by court interpreting. We recognise that use of remote technologies for interpreting is an unavoidable temporary emergency measure, but this should not be an excuse to place interpreters and clients at risk. Suitable video technologies are available to provide services remotely, while still ensuring the quality required to support our judicial systems.

Given the complex and challenging situation we are facing, we suggest the following recommendations are implemented as soon as practicable:

1. That during the pandemic, for the safety of all involved, all interpreting assignments be moved to remote mode and be paid at least the same rate as face‐to‐face interpreting.

2. That telephone interpreting with a single interpreter be used for assignments of up to half an hour only.

1. That any non‐court assignment with a single interpreter exceeding 30 minutes but less than 60 minutes be conducted via video conferencing (e.g. via Zoom), with a ten minute break after 30 minutes.

2. That any court assignment exceeding 60 minutes be conducted via video conferencing, with two interpreters who work as a team, switching every 15 to 30 minutes (depending on language modality and type of assignment, to be decided by the interpreting team), and that interpreters with the highest qualifications for the required language combinations be engaged.

AUSIT has published a set of protocols for telephone interpreting assignments, which can be found here.

Auslan Interpreters

In view of distancing measures required in response to COVID‐19 we recommend all engagements move to video relay interpreting (VRI) mode wherever possible. Practice guidelines for VRI and Face to Face interpreting should continue as outlined in the ASLIA OHSpolicy

The implementation of the above measures is paramount to ensure the safety of interpreters and to protect vulnerable clients and other community members. We will be happy to discuss this matter further.

Yours sincerely