If you have difficulty with English and need an interpreter to understand what is being said at a court hearing, you will need to arrange for any interpreter that you or your witnesses may require. A certified interpreter is required to provider interpreter services for hearings where cross examination will occur, except in exceptional circumstances where no certified interpreter is available for the language required.
The Judge or Registrar retains the discretion to determine whether an interpreter is acceptable for the circumstances for which they have been engaged.
If you cannot afford to pay for an interpreter, the court may be able to arrange an interpreter for you.
To ask for an interpreter:
- for family law matters call 1300 352 000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or by LiveChat
- for general federal law matters call or email the registry.
You should contact the Court at least two weeks before the hearing. Otherwise, the court may not be able to arrange an interpreter in time.
The basic principles of access and equity are that no court client should be disadvantaged in proceedings before the Court or in understanding the procedures and conduct of court business, because of a language barrier. The two-way process of communication and understanding between the client and the Court may require that the Court engage an interpreter or a translator.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have guidelines in place to ensure uniform access to interpreter and translator services.
In determining whether a person requires an interpreter, the court will have regard to the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals (see Standard 10 and Annexure 4)
Services available at the courts
Each registry has at least one courtroom with a hearing loop installed. Arrangements can be made to assist clients who are deaf or hearing impaired to utilise this facility where practicable. See court locations to find details of your closest registry.
Interpreter services for deaf, hearing impaired and/or speech impaired clients are available. Arrangements can be made for AUSLAN interpreters or CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) service providers to accompany clients who are deaf, hearing impaired and/or speech impaired at court events.
The National Relay Service
The National Relay Service (NRS) is a free telephone service that allows deaf, or hearing and/or speech impaired clients with a TTY machine, to make telephone calls to a Registry. Telephone: 133 677 (clients who are deaf or hearing impaired) or 1300 555 727 (clients who are both deaf/hearing impaired and speech impaired) www.relayservice.gov.au.
Translating and Interpreting Service
The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) is funded by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and provides a service that facilitates communication between people who do not speak English, and English speakers. TIS can provide both telephone and onsite interpreters. Telephone: 131 450.
Code of Ethics
Interpreters engaged by the courts are bound at all times to act in accordance with the standards set out in the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) Code of Ethics. AUSIT is the national professional association of interpreting and translation practitioners. General principles of the Code of Ethics include: Professional Conduct; Confidentiality; Competence; Impartiality; Accuracy; Employment; Professional Development and Professional Solidarity. Further information can be obtained from ausit.org.
Role of the interpreter
The role of the interpreter is to assist the court and is acting as an officer of the court (even if that person is engaged by a party or legal representative directly). The interpreter owes to the court paramount duties of accuracy and impartiality in the office of interpreter which overrides any duty the interpreter may have to a party to the proceeding.
Feedback and complaints
Clients are encouraged to provide feedback to the courts on the standard of interpreting and translating services provided by interpreters arranged by the courts.
Where a complaint is made concerning the calibre or use of interpreter services, the complaints officer in accordance with standard complaints handling procedures, should handle the complaint. Clients who are deaf or hearing impaired should telephone the National Relay Service on 133 677. Clients who are deaf/hearing impaired and speech impaired should telephone 1300 555 727.
Find an interpreter or translator
Online database of the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd (NAATI), listing all accredited translators and interpreters in Australia.
Phone: 1300 557 470
Translating and Interpreting Service
Interpreting service provided by the Department of Home Affairs.
Free Translating Service
The Free Translating Service is provided by the Australian Government for people settling permanently in Australia to support participation in employment, education and community engagement. Permanent residents and some temporary or provisional visa holders can have up to ten eligible documents translated, into English, within the first two years of their eligible visa grant date. Eligible documents include identity and relationship documents, facilitation documents such as driver’s licences, education documents and employment-related documents.
For more information, go to the Free Translating Service website. The website is available in English, Arabic, Farsi and Simplified Chinese.
New South Wales
Legal Aid NSW
- Fact sheets and resources searchable by language.
- Free telephone service with access to TIS.
Legal aid information in other languages
- Information about contacting NT legal aid.
Interpreting and Translating Centre
- Interpreter and translation services.
Speak to us in your language
- Phone services to speak to Victoria Legal Aid in a range of different languages.
Get help in your own language
- Written advice in a range of different languages.