Symposium on Humanitarian Interpreting

The Translation and Interpreting Studies program organised a symposium on humanitarian interpreting on April 1&2, 2016.

The work of interpreters in the 21st century is characterised by a need to adapt to many different contexts and modalities of work. One of these is the humanitarian context: in conflict zones, in disaster zones, in refugee camps or in terrorism trials for example, interpreters have to cope with specific demands and realities. How do interpreters respond to them? How are they prepared to face them? What policies are put in place to help and protect them?
As Dr Marc Orlando, the symposium organiser and T&I program director, said in his opening remarks: “Delivering military assistance or emergency and humanitarian aid across language and cultural barriers and through interpreters and language mediators can be a major challenge. Working in high-risk settings and stressful environments can pose numerous challenges to the interpreters involved in the field. Unfortunately training for professional interpreters and interpreter users in this area is very limited.”

In an attempt to bridge this gap, the two-day symposium looked at the challenges and the opportunities in the provision and use of interpreters, as well as adequate training solutions for such contexts of work. It was attended by more than 120 participants each day: practitioners, trainers and researchers, but also end-users, policy makers, representatives of NGOs, and stakeholders from the full spectrum of industries were represented. The invited speakers were all experts in distinct but complementary fields which are fundamental to this important area of the professional work of interpreters which is now attracting greater attention and visibility.
For any questions about the symposium please directly contact Dr Orlando:

  1. Introduction and Opening Address

    Abeselom Nega is the current chair of the Translation and Interpreting Working Group of the Settlement Services Advisory Council. He is also the CEO of IEmpower which was established in 2006 in response to the growing need of integrated services for highly disadvantaged young people from refugee and humanitarian entrant backgrounds.

  2. Keynote 1 - Joining forces: The quest for protected-person status for linguists in conflict situations

    Maya Hess is the founder and CEO of Red T, a U.S.-based non-profit organisation that advocates worldwide on behalf of translators and interpreters in conflict zones and other high-risk settings. She is a forensic linguist, and also holds a master degree in journalism and a PhD in criminal justice.

    Linda Fitchett has worked as a conference interpreter for 37 years in various international organisations and at the European Parliament. She was the President of AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters, from 2012 to 2015 and coordinates the AIIC project for Interpreters in Conflict Zones.

    For privacy reasons, some sections of the original presentation have been deleted.

  3. Panel of Experts 1 - Role(s) and status of interpreters working in the humanitarian context

    Mark Painting is the current CEO of NAATI, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters.

    Abeselom Nega is the current chair of the Translation and Interpreting Working Group of the Federal Settlement Services Advisory Council.

    Gulnara Abbasova is the current director of FECCA, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia.

    Jim Hlavac is a senior lecturer in Translation and Interpreting Studies at Monash University and is also a practising NAATI accredited Interpreter and Translator.

  4. Panel of Experts 2 - Working with interpreters in humanitarian contexts: challenges and opportunities

    Trevor Neroy is the current director of TIS National, the Translation and Interpreting Service of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

    Charlie Powles works as a solicitor and migration agent for Refugee Legal, an independent community legal centre specialising in all aspects of refugee and immigration law, policy and practice.

    Anita Bogdanovski works for DHS, the Department of Human Services and is the director of the Multicultural Services Branch in the Division of Indigenous, Regional and Intensive Services.

    Susan Burdon-Smith is a Senior member at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, appointed to lists in the Human Rights Division, Residential Tenancies Division and Civil Division, and is the member responsible for Social and Cultural inclusion matters at the Tribunal.

  5. Day 1 Closing Address - The politicised use of translators and interpreters: Could higher professionalism be the antidote?

    Sharon Pickering is a Professor of Criminology and Australian Research Council Professorial Future Fellow on Border Policing at Monash University. She is also the Director of the Border Crossing Observatory, an innovative research centre that connects Australian and international stakeholders to high quality, independent and cutting edge research on border crossings.

  6. Day 2 Keynote Address - The need for specialist legal interpreters for a fairer justice system

    Sandra Hale is a Professor of Translation and Interpreting Studies and the current Program Convenor at the University of New South Wales. She has conducted most of her research into legal and court interpreting. She is also a NAATI accredited Conference Interpreter and Translator, and the current national President of AUSIT, the national association for the translating and interpreting profession.