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Settle in Australia

Help our newest arrivals build their lives in Australia.

​Language services

All Australians have the right to communicate and engage with the Australian Government and other essential services. This is irrespective of their:

  • first language preference
  • English language ability or
  • cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Members of Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse communities may sometimes experience a language barrier when accessing government and other essential services.

In the 2021 Census almost 700,000 people born overseas (and aged over 5 years old) self-reported that they have limited English skill. This is an increase of approximately 60,000 people since the 2016 Census.

Language services aim to ensure that people with limited or no English language skill can access the services and programs they need. Language services can include:

  • engagement of professional interpreters in person, via telephone or video conference
  • translation of government documents from English into community languages by professional translators
  • translation of personal documents from a language other than English
  • information on web sites translated into community languages
  • multilingual telephone information
  • multimedia resources and other digital media in languages other than English.

Ideally, interpreters and translators hold a credential conferred by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd (NAATI). NAATI is Australia’s national standards and certifying authority for translators & interpreters.

The appropriate language service depends on the situation. Many Australian Government departments and agencies have language services policies and procedures. These help to guide staff in determining when and what type of help to provide.

Language services support people from Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse communities to achieve settlement, access and equity objectives. For information on Indigenous language interpreting see the National Indigenous Australians Agency. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for this Protocol.

For information on Australian Sign Language (Auslan) to communicate with deaf people see the following:

Interpreting

TIS National

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)​ has a long history of delivering accessible multilingual language services. TIS National’s mission is to connect government, business and communities by providing credentialed, cost-effective and secure language services. TIS National services are available anywhere in Australia in more than 150 languages. Interpreting services are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. More information is available on the TIS National website.

Free Interpreting Service

The Free Interpreting Service (FIS) aims to provide fair access to key services for people with limited or no English language skill. Engaging a credentialed interpreter can facilitate better access to essential services for these clients. This is particularly important for conversations in technical, legal or health contexts. See Free Interpreting Service (FIS).

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) delivers the FIS on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs.

National Interpreter Symbol

The National Interpreter Symbol is a national public information symbol. The symbol lets people know that they can ask for language assistance when using government and other services. See National Interpreter Symbol.

Translating

Free Translating Service

People settling permanently and some temporary or provisional visa holders in Australia have access to the Free Translating Service. This service aims to support participation in employment, education and community engagement. To verify eligibility or to make an application for the Free Translating Service visit the Free Translating Service website.

The website is easy to use and is available in English, Arabic, Farsi and Simplified Chinese.

Australian Government Language Services Guidelines

The Australian Government Language Services Guidelines are primarily for staff in Australian Government departments and agencies. They assist staff responsible for developing policy and administering programs and services for Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse communities:

NAATI

NAATI is Australia’s national standards and certifying authority for translators & interpreters. It is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. They are jointly owned by the Australian, state and territory governments and incorporated under the Corporations Act 2001.

NAATI's role is to set and maintain high national standards in translating and interpreting services. They ensure there is a supply of appropriately credentialed translating and interpreting professionals responsive to the changing needs and demography of Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse communities. For more information see NAATI.

Interpreting and translating professionals need to recertify every 3 years upon demonstrating their currency of practice and participation in professional development.

For more information, see Statement of Endorsement of NAATI's certification system.