Justice for Non-English Speakers in Australia


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Professor Sandra Hale profile picture


Professor Sandra Hale

Professor of Interpreting & Translation,
School of Humanities & Languages,
UNSW Arts & Social Sciences


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An Overview

Australia is a diverse and multicultural nation. Since 1945, nearly seven million people have migrated to the country. Many of these migrants are from non-English speaking backgrounds and, inevitably, some will encounter the Australian justice system.

In the 1990s, while working as an English/Spanish interpreter, Professor Sandra Hale began to realise just how important quality interpreting services were in the court system. It led her to ask a series of questions that have since framed her research career.

“Inadequate interpreting can impact on the outcome of a case. This is why interpreter training is so crucial and, equally, so too is the training of judicial officers and others on how to effectively work with interpreters,” she explains.

Fast forward two decades, Professor Hale's research, in partnership with academic colleagues and justice systems across Australia, has vastly improved our understanding of interpreting in the courtroom setting and has helped transform the way interpreters work and are treated in the Australian justice system, as well as their education and training.  

Improving the Quality of Australian Interpreting Services

In a landmark publication, the 2011 ‘Hale Report’ (commissioned by the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration), Professor Hale recommended national reform to ensure the quality of interpreting services across Australia. Her report directly informed the New South Wales Bench Book, Northern Territory Supreme Court protocols, and Western Australia’s Language Services Policy. As a result of the report, the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity (JCCD) invited Hale to co-author a national protocol. The project was expanded to include a Specialist Committee comprising legal and interpreting representatives and culminated in the 2017 Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals.

The Case for Change

Impact That’s ‘Absolutely Critical’

The Hale Report has also had an impact on certification, training and working conditions across the whole interpreting profession. It was used by Professionals Australia, the union representing interpreters, to feed into The Case for Change: a report on consequences and costs of failures in the translating and interpreting industry in 2013. This report acknowledged Hale’s work as ‘absolutely critical.’

Professor Hale also led the first comprehensive review of the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). The report was completed in 2012 and NAATI is currently implementing all 17 recommendations.