A Matter of Interpretation – The Queensland Accessing Interpreters Working Group celebrates ten years

The Queensland Accessing Interpreters Working Group (QAIWG) is a coalition of non-governmental organisations formed to advocate for high quality interpreting, translating and culturally responsive services. QAIWG was formed 10 years ago in the wake of a Federal Government decision to stop funding what they decided was a state service – access to interpreters.  

The Federal Government restricted funding of the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) to federal operations only in 2005. Almost overnight, community organisations and services across Queensland found themselves with no access to fee-free services crucial for sharing understanding and information across a culturally and linguistically diverse state.  

In 2007 AMPARO Advocacy and the Immigrant Women’s Support Service raised their concerns about a lack of access to interpreters to the then Anti-discrimination Commissioner of QueenslandSusan Booth. The Commissioner expressed it was likely to be an issue of indirect and direct discrimination. 

QCOSS and the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ) met with member organisations during 2008 to workshop solutions.  

lack of access to culturally competant and qualified interpreters was identified as a serious statewide systemic issue, and there was strong interest in taking collective action to bring about positive changeQAIWG formed as a result of this meeting. 

The working group identified flaws in the way Queensland services were operating at that time, compiling research through case studies, and developed recommendations for the State Government to implement in a landmark report, A Matter of Interpretationpublished in December 2008. Another report, 'Still A Matter of Interpretation', was published in 2012.

As a result of significant efforts including meetings with senior members of government, then-Premier Anna Bligh announced that all Queensland Government Departments would provision for interpreting services – though they were still of the belief that funding for interpreters was a federal responsibility. It was a major achievement for the group. 

QAIWG have since provided significant input to the development and review of the Queensland Government’s Language Services Policy, continually working to improve the delivery of quality language services across the state. 

The group is currently lobbying the Queensland Government to ensure the smooth rollout of a new language services panel in 2019, with a specific focus on interpreter provision in the Queensland justice system. 

If you would like to know more about the work of the QAIWG, please contact Donna Baines-Faye at QCOSS - [email protected]