The interpreter’s role is to remove the language barrier so that the party can be made linguistically present at the proceedings and thereby be placed in the same position as an English-speaking person. This means that a party is entitled to participate in the proceedings in their own language. As such, the work of interpreters is essential to ensuring access to justice and procedural fairness for people with limited English proficiency in Australia’s courts. Further, in the case of criminal proceedings, if an accused needs an interpreter, the trial cannot proceed unless and until an interpreter is provided.

The Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity (JCCD) has developed these Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals to establish recommended standards and optimal practices for Australia. The Standards are accompanied by Model Rules and a Model Practice Note to give effect to the Standards. Implementation of these Standards is not only vital to promoting and ensuring compliance with the rules of procedural fairness. It is intended that they will promote a better working relationship between courts, the legal profession, and the interpreting profession, and will assist in ensuring that the interpreting profession in Australia can develop and thrive to the benefit of the administration of justice generally.

These Standards, their Annotations and the Legal Appendix which accompany the Standards are intended to provide guidance to courts, tribunals, judicial officers, interpreters, and members of the legal profession.

The JCCD recognises the important role that tribunals play in the civil justice system and in relation to administrative review, and that interpreters are equally relevant in the tribunal context. Unless otherwise indicated, or where context suggests otherwise, such as in relation to criminal proceedings, references to ‘courts’ is intended to include tribunals. These Standards are intended to apply to tribunals in the same or similar manner as they apply to courts.

The Standards are recommended rather than prescriptive and can be implemented progressively in line with resource capacity. It is proposed that all courts and tribunals in Australia implement these Standards, where necessary adapting them to meet the needs and legislative context of each jurisdiction. The JCCD is also working with interested parties to develop training programs to assist with the implementation of these Standards.