Response to COVID-19
PROVISIONS FOR INTERPRETERS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT & JUSTICE
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
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
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.