Foreward to the Second Edition

Since the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals were first published in 2017, many of the recommendations and their guiding principles have been implemented in courts and tribunals across Australia. The Standards have served as a leading and integral document in the effort to maximise all people’s access to justice in Australia, no matter their cultural and linguistic background.

The Standards were designed as a comprehensive tool outlining best practice and procedure for courts and tribunals, judicial officers, the legal profession, and interpreters when an interpreter is required during a proceeding. They have been implemented either in whole or partially as practice and procedure rules, interpreter protocols, and professional development courses and events, among others, in nearly every jurisdiction in Australia. The Standards have also been referred to in several important judgments, including of the High Court of Australia, and have assisted courts in coming to their decisions on disputes regarding interpretation and translation.

To ensure that the Standards remained relevant and up to date, the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity and the Recommended National Standards Subcommittee agreed that the document should be periodically reviewed. This review process includes consultation with the heads of jurisdiction and peak interpreter bodies on how the Standards were being implemented, and how they could be improved. One such review led to a consensus that the Standards should be updated, and a second edition published.

While the bulk of the recommendations included in the Standards remain unchanged from the first edition, this second edition includes some key revisions. The language of the document has been adjusted to be more inclusive of tribunals and the different needs of the tribunal process compared to that of courts. Specific recommendations regarding the suggested process for engaging an interpreter were amended to emphasise that in all circumstances and for all languages, the most highly certified or qualified interpreter should always be first preference. References to NAATI’s system of certification for interpreters and translators were updated to reflect the changes made to that system by NAATI in 2018, which incorporates into one document the 2019 Addendum to the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreter in Courts and Tribunals. References to interpreters as ‘officers of the court’ were, where possible, qualified to emphasise that interpreters owe paramount duties to the court or tribunal and are independent of the party who may have hired them or the party they are interpreting for. Additionally, in response to significant increases in the use of audio/visual technology in court and tribunal proceedings, several changes were made to both Optimal Standard 1 – Equipment and Annexure 6 – AVL Guidelines to provide greater detail and specificity in the recommendations therein. This provides a brief outline of the many amendments made to improve the relevance and applicability of the Recommended National Standards as a best practice resource across jurisdictions.

This Second Edition, published digitally in an interactive format, has been designed to be more accessible for readers on devices of all kinds. We hope that this Second Edition of the Standards encourages greater implementation of its principles in courts and tribunals, within what is practically possible for each court or tribunal. I encourage all courts and tribunals to continue to consider their practices and procedures with respect to interpreters in the context of the Standards, to ensure that justice is administered properly to all people who come before them, notwithstanding their cultural and linguistic background.

Chris Kourakis
Chair, Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity
Chief Justice’s Chambers