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Interpreter Quality and Working Conditions: Comparing Australian and International Courts of Justice

NCJ Number
Judicial Officers' Bulletin Volume: 23 Issue: 9 Dated: October 2011 Pages: 75-82
Sandra Hale; Ludmila Stern
Date Published
October 2011
8 pages
This study examined the quality and working conditions of interpreters in Australian courts.
Findings from a survey show that interpreters in Australian courts are not provided with basic conditions such as regular breaks, the provision of seats and a table to lean on and take notes, and drinking water on a consistent basis. Compared to interpreters in international courts and tribunals, interpreters in Australian courts work alone, are not provided with a permanent work space needed to keep reference materials, and are made to either sit or stand next to the person for whom they are doing the interpreting. This lack of separation between the interpreter and the defendant leads to accusations of bias on the part of the interpreter towards the defendant. The survey also indicated that working conditions for interpreters are often determined by the parties for whom they must interpret, with more socially prominent defendants causing the courts to provide better working conditions for the interpreters. Recommendations for improving the working conditions of interpreters in Australian courts include the provision of breaks to reduce fatigue and improve the interpreter's performance; the provision of a table or surface to allow the interpreter to take notes, especially in the absence of interpreting equipment; and providing interpreters with background material on the case to help them prepare for successful interpreting.