PICAC Royal Commission Forum on Language Services in aged care

Aboriginal Aged Care Community Hub – Langford Aboriginal Association
June 20, 2019
Living Culture at Fortis | An interview with Intern Shagun Sachdeva
July 9, 2019

Western Australia is the Australian State that is home to the largest proportion of people born overseas, making it the most culturally diverse state in the nation. The number of workers and clients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds has increased dramatically in community, aged care and disability services organisations. With people from 190 countries, speaking more than 270 languages and dialects (including around 50 Aboriginal languages) in Western Australia, it is important to provide culturally appropriate services and care within the sector. This includes the use of interpreters and translators. (1)

On June 25th 2019 Fortis PICACWA held a Royal Commission Forum on language services issues in the aged care sector to raise awareness on how to best use interpreters, bi-lingual workers and the community visitor scheme.

As the Royal Commission into Aged Care continues, issues around communication with clients are surfacing. Mary Gurgone National Director of Fortis Consulting and Board Member for the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) states, “Legal and health matters demand the use of qualified interpreters to avoid serious risks of elder abuse.”

Ruth Lopez, Cultural Diversity and Policy Officer from the Department of Health discussed resources that were available via the Department’s website (insert link of the resources on the Fortis PICAC website) and rationale behind the importance of utilising interpreters and benefits to service providers which include:

  • To enable accurate diagnosis and management of health conditions
  • To improve consumer understanding of medication and treatment plans
  • To address primary health care needs in the community


Megan Beasley, Director of Operations for NAATI stressed the disffernce between bilingual workers and interpreters which include:

  • Being bilingual is not the same as being able to translate or interpret!
  • Bilingual workers are not interpreters.
  • Do not use friends or family as interpreters. They are not trained or credentialed and accuracy cannot be ensured. They are not impartial and may adjust conversations, for example in order to spare their relative’s feelings.
  • They are not bound by the Code of Ethics and may not respect confidentiality.

As old age may often bring seniors back to their first language, let us continue to treat them with the respect they deserve by using WA’s world class interpreters.

For copies of the slides please email info@fortisconsulting.com.au and to access other useful resources, click here.