The Federal Court of Australia Updates Guidelines for Working with Interpreters

The Federal Court of Australia Updates Guidelines for Working with Interpreters

The Federal Court of Australia published a Practice Note for working with interpreters effective March 24. This set of recommendations follows the publication last year by the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity of the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals, second edition.

The updated recommendations and guidelines, which apply to the use of interpreters in all civil and criminal proceedings in Australia, have been expanded to include a suggested process for working with interpreters, giving priority and preference in all situations and for all languages to those most highly qualified.

Interpreters are also required by the court to produce evidence of current interpreter certification, issued by a recognized agency such as the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI), as well as proof of all qualifications provided for in the Recommended National Standards.

The document defines “qualified interpreter” as someone with a vocational or university degree in interpreting, membership in a professional interpreter association, and experience in court interpreting. 

Interpreters as Officers of the Court

Interpreters will be considered “officers of the court” in order to emphasize their primary role and duties to the court or tribunal, regardless of who might have hired them or for whom they might interpret.

The party that engages interpreters must now provide a Code of Conduct to interpreters, and “must not proceed with the engagement of the interpreter until that party or accused has obtained from the interpreter a signed acknowledgement that the interpreter has read, understands and will abide by the Code of Conduct.”

There are two appendices (“annexures”) in the document, covering the code of conduct for interpreters in legal proceedings and the Federal Court of Australia Standards. Other updates include more detailed guidelines and recommendations for the use of audio/visual equipment and other technology in court and tribunal proceedings.

The rules and guidelines included in the Practice Note are issued directly by the Chief Justice, instead of through an amendment to the rules of the court. Under the new guidance, the courts will be able to monitor the implementation of the Recommended National Standards and decide when and how to incorporate both standards and rules. Furthermore, Section 18 confers the courts the ability to “make orders and directions” concerning interpreters.

Lastly, feedback is encouraged to continue reviewing the Recommended National Standards. Comments about difficulties in obtaining qualified interpreters, the standards themselves, interpreter qualifications, and other matters can be sent to the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT). Members can use Form 1 and non-members can use Form 2.