The Monash Intercultural Lab has been running Introductory Interpreting courses in Shepparton for two consecutive years – funded by the Government of Victoria – in conjunction with community health educators Wise Well Women.
During the first weekend of October, a very diverse group of participants gathered at the Mooroopna Education and Activity Centre. Languages spoken by participants included Dari, Hazaragi, Arabic, Swahili, Kirundi, Dinka, Persian, Pashto, French, Luganda, Mashi, Lingala and Kikuya.
In addition to their jobs in factories, farms, schools and social services, many course participants regularly help their communities by acting as interpreters and translators. However, the lack of training opportunities in their region means that they are often not eligible for recognition as professional interpreters and translators. Government of Victoria policy strongly recommends hiring language professionals certified by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters. But the reality is that, especially for emerging language groups in the regions, these certified professionals are in short supply and the language needs of community members often go unmet.
The 2021 census found that in Greater Shepparton the number of people speaking languages other than English at home rose to 17.6 per cent (12,065 people), with 2,460 people reporting low proficiency from English. This percentage is high compared to the rest of Greater Victoria, where 7.1% of the population speaks a language other than English at home.
Members of Shepparton’s refugee and migrant communities have experienced social, economic, physical and mental health challenges.
“My community needs interpreters and translators,” said one of the participants in the research project.
“Currently, Shepparton CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) communities are re-traumatized and not enjoying the same opportunities, rights and access to services that other communities receive due to the shortage of interpreters and translators. Especially to access at NDIS, Mental Health and Domestic Violence Services.
Preliminary results from a survey included in the research revealed that community interpreters and translators strive to obtain certification, but often encounter barriers that prevent them from doing so. Specifically, a lack of information about training and professional development opportunities, lack of local training, and scarcity of online courses.
Initiatives such as the collaboration between Monash and community health educators Wise Well Women are a lifeline for refugee and migrant communities in and around Shepparton, but researchers recognize the need to make them less sporadic and more rooted in the local social fabric.
Led by the Monash Intercultural Lab and Action Lab, the new research project involves working with local bilingual workers, interpreters and translators to understand their training and professional development needs, and collaborating with them to co-design a future training program. The pilot program will engage postgraduate students in interpreting, translation and intercultural studies to mentor local bilingual workers to acquire the skills needed to be recognized as professional language practitioners. The broader goal is to create a community of practice that will mentor the next generation of interpreters and translators in their local communities.