“We’re a self-determined community-controlled Aboriginal organisation delivering interpreting services across the state,” explains Deanne Lightfoot, the CEO of Aboriginal Interpreting Western Australia. “These services are incredibly important in child protection matters – to government and community – to understand and be understood by each other.
“Aboriginal languages are strong throughout our state, [non-Indigenous] people are commonly thinking that they’re communicating [with Aboriginal people] in the same language, standard Australian English, whereas quite often the languages will be Aboriginal English or Kriol, which involve a completely different worldview and concept from the language being spoken.
Aboriginal Interpreting Western Australia is the state’s only Aboriginal language interpreting service. A member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators Inc., it provides qualified translators and interpreters in more than 40 WA Aboriginal languages.
In the linguistically diverse context of Aboriginal service delivery, effective two-way communication – and, thus, use of interpreters – is essential. Paired with the necessity of effective communication in the child protection system, and the impact that miscommunication can have on the lives of vulnerable families, it is easy to see just how important Deanne and her team’s work is.
“The WA Language Service Policy states that all Aboriginal language speakers have the right to access interpreters and it also states that those who seek to serve them have the right to access them… We have statistics and feedback from community and professionals that indicates an increased need for the engagement of interpreting services from first contract through all aspects of child protection at each step in the trail of the child and family’s involvement with service providers.
“Language and culture are intrinsically entwined and inseparable. Where child protection works with children and young people who are language speakers, developmental and care needs cannot be fully understood without the engagement of interpreters.”
How does Deanne know that her work is having a positive impact?
“It’s very empowering and productive for any language speaker to be able to communicate in their first language and it’s also empowering for people to understand and be understood in their first language.”