Closing the Gap for Indigenous Australians - Northern Territory - Aboriginal interpreter service 

Attorney-General's Department (AGD)

Key Elements

The Australian Government has committed $0.8 million to increase the resources of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service (NTAIS) to meet the increased demand generated by the implementation of specific law and justice measures under the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).

The NTAIS is a Northern Territory (NT) Government body and the Australian Government provides funding to purchase interpreter services for the legal assistance organisations which it funds. Under this proposal, funding will be allocated to the NT Government for the purchase of additional interpreter services by Indigenous Legal Aid providers, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and the Community Legal Centres. These include:

  • Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service;
  • Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency;
  • Katherine Aboriginal Families' Support Unit;
  • Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit;
  • North Australian Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service;
  • NPY Women's Council Aboriginal Corporation Domestic Violence Service;
  • Top End Women's Legal Service;
  • Darwin Community Legal Service;
  • Katherine Women's Information and Legal Service; and
  • Central Australian Women's Legal Service.

This funding will prevent delays in the administration of justice by providing additional interpreters (the implementation of specific law and justice measures under the NTER has created a heavy demand on the existing resources of Aboriginal interpreter service providers). There is no reason to expect this demand to decrease during the NTER.

Data collected by NTAIS demonstrates the impact of additional demands related to NTER measures. In the eight months since the introduction of the NTER, NTAIS has received 2,631 requests for interpreters. Examples of the additional demands occur when Australian Government agencies and their representatives need to explain the operation of new legislation (eg income management, alcohol or pornography bans) or when government business managers meet with communities.


Indigenous people who have contact with the criminal justice system in the NT require access to vital interpreter services to negotiate the legal protocols particularly when charges have been brought against them.

This proposal specifically focuses on improved access to interpreters for AGD's legal assistance services providers in the NT and addressing issues associated with Aboriginal interpreting in the NT.

An independent evaluation in 2004 found that the NTAIS has had a significant impact in improving access to services and promoting the wellbeing of Indigenous people, including their human rights. The evaluation recognised that access to an interpreter service addresses some of the considerable inequities that Aboriginal people who speak little or no English face in gaining access to legal, health and other services.

Indigenous Australians in the NT with limited English will benefit from additional interpreting services to help them obtain information and advice regarding NTER measures. Centrelink, for example, which uses terminology and concepts unfamiliar to community members and non-English speakers, is working closely with NTAIS.

Government business managers rely on interpreters when conveying information to communities. Interpreters help a range of legal service providers, family violence legal prevention agencies and community legal centres in matters involving Indigenous people. Many of these providers have reported increased need as a consequence of NTER measures.


This measure continues funding for existing services. Funding will cease on 30 June 2009.

Total Government Funding

The Australian Government has committed total funds of $0.8 million in 2008 09. Further activity will be informed by the outcomes of the NTER review later this year.

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