Kriol interpreters (and where to find one)

Interpreters are trained in the practice of converting speech from one language to another in real time. Sometimes interpreters get called translators but in professional terminology, translators work with written language while interpreters interpret speech.

Several dozen people across Northern Australia are trained, experienced and certified Kriol-to-English interpreters. They interpret in different areas, such as courts, with police, in hospitals, at Centrelink, in community meetings, with other government agencies and more. Certification of Kriol interpreters is overseen by NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters), the body that oversees all interpreting in Australia (including sign and foreign language interpreting).

Image: NAATI

Kriol interpreters are vital in facilitating complete and accurate communication between English speakers and Kriol speakers. In many cases, their role can be critical. A 2012 report from a Federal Inquiry into Indigenous Languages called it a:

“… national disgrace that an Indigenous person can face court proceedings or a serious health issue without effective interpreting support”. (p.183 Our Land, Our Languages report, 2012)

There are two main organisations who supply Kriol interpreters: for Western Australia it’s Aboriginal Interpreting WA and for the Northern Territory it’s the Aboriginal Interpreter Service. NAATI’s website also has great links and resources as part of its Indigenous Interpreting Project.

If you deal with Kriol speakers in your work and are wondering if you should be using an interpreter, a useful guide is available through the NT Aboriginal Interpreter Service – How To Decide If You Should Work With An Interpreter. That document outlines some of the traps that English speakers can fall into that leads them to under-estimate the need for interpreters.

Key contacts for Kriol interpreting:

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