Free Interpreting Service

The Department of Social Services provides a Free Interpreting Service primarily to non-English speaking Australian citizens and permanent residents communicating with approved community organisations and individual service providers. The Free Interpreting Service Policy is designed to provide equitable access to key services (that are not government funded) for eligible Australians and permanent residents who do not speak English.

Eligibility criteria for the Free Interpreting Service

The following groups and individuals are eligible to access the Free Interpreting Service, through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) to assist communicating with Australian citizens and permanent residents* who do not speak English:

  • private medical practitioners (defined as General Practitioners and Medical Specialists) providing Medicare-rebateable services and their reception staff to arrange appointments and provide results of medical tests
    See: Medical Board of Australia-Medical Specialties and Specialty Fields
    * Note: In addition to Australian citizens and permanent residents, private medical practitioners and pharmacies can use the Free Interpreting Service to communicate with Temporary Humanitarian Stay (subclass 449); Temporary Humanitarian Concern (subclass 786); Temporary Protection (subclass 785); and Safe Haven Enterprise (subclass 790) visa holders.
  • incorporated, not-for-profit, non-government, community-based organisations for approved casework and emergency services where the organisation does not receive substantial government funding to provide these services
    Note: Organisations that require language services (such as interpreting) and receive substantial government funding should incorporate the cost of these services into their application for funding
  • Members of Parliament for constituency purposes
  • local government authorities to communicate with non-English speaking permanent residents and Australian citizens on issues such as rates, garbage collection and urban services
  • trade unions to respond to members' enquiries or requests
  • pharmacies for the purpose of dispensing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications.
  • Licensed real estate agencies to discuss any private residential property matter (such as management of residential tenancies).

Non-Government Organisations (NGO) category

From 1 August 2013, a number of key initiatives were implemented to enhance and streamline the administration of the Free Interpreting Service under the incorporated, not-for-profit, non-Government organisations (NGOs) delivering casework/emergency services 'NGO category'.

Eligibility for the Free Interpreting Service ('the service') remains unchanged and the service continues to be available to approved organisations and individuals to communicate with non-English speaking Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Further information on the key initiatives, including how these may affect your organisation is available:

Applying for the Department of Social Services' Free Interpreting Service under the non-government ('NGO’) category

Incorporated, not-for-profit, non-government, community-based organisations can apply for the Free Interpreting Service through TIS National to support the delivery of casework and emergency services (which do not receive substantial government funding) that are provided to Australian citizens and permanent residents by applying online or downloading the application form. To apply, please complete the NGO application form for the Free Interpreting Service available on the TIS National website.

Further information on the Free Interpreting Service NGO category is available.

Settlement Grants service providers

Settlement Grants service providers (including service providers with a current Settlement Grants Programme funding agreement) may also access the Free Interpreting Service to assist with the delivery of settlement grant services to eligible clients. The Free Interpreting Service access code for Settlement Grants service providers is valid for the duration of the grant. To obtain a Free Interpreting Service access code, please contact TIS National Language policy liaison on 1300 575 847 or email: tis.lpl@border.gov.au.

Terms and conditions apply to NGOs receiving Free Interpreting Services from 1 August 2013

From 1 August 2013 consolidated terms and conditions apply to all organisations that have access to the Free Interpreting Service under the NGO category (both new and existing organisations). The defined terms and conditions will make it easier for NGOs to understand their rights and responsibilities when accessing the Free Interpreting Service.

Clauses 4 and 11 of the terms and conditions apply immediately to new Free Interpreting Service access codes issued under the NGO category on or after 1 August 2013.

For all existing Free Interpreting Service access code holders, clauses 4 and 11 will only apply after the code has been reviewed and access is renewed.

The terms and conditions are available on the TIS National website.

Registration for the Free Interpreting Service under any of the other approved listed categories

To register for the Free Interpreting Service under any of the other approved categories, please complete the online 'register for a TIS National client code' form available on the TIS National website.

Doctors Priority Line

The Doctors Priority Line is a free phone interpreting service which helps medical practitioners to communicate with their non-English speaking patients.

General practitioners and eligible medical specialists can use the Doctors Priority Line when providing services that are:

  • claimable under Medicare
  • delivered in private practice
  • provided to non-English speakers who are Australian citizens, permanent residents or hold one of the following visas:
    • Temporary Humanitarian Stay (subclass 449)
    • Temporary Humanitarian Concern (subclass 786)
    • Temporary Protection (subclass 785)
    • Safe Haven Enterprise (subclass 790)

Doctors who are not currently registered for the Doctors Priority Line who meet the above criteria can arrange access to the service by completing the online 'register for a TIS National client code' form available on the TIS National website.

Email: tis.lpl@border.gov.au
Phone: 1300 575 847

Phone interpreting service for pharmacies

Free phone interpreting services are available to pharmacies for the purpose of dispensing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications. This scheme is aimed at assisting pharmacists to communicate with Australian citizens, permanent residents or Temporary Humanitarian Stay (subclass 449); Temporary Humanitarian Concern (subclass 786); Temporary Protection (subclass 785); and Safe Haven Enterprise (subclass 790) visa holders about the proper use of medications.

To date more than 1700 pharmacies have registered for use of the service.

Lists of registered pharmacies are available by state and territory on the TIS National website.

Pharmacies can register for free phone interpreting services by completing an online 'register for a TIS National client code' form available on TIS National’s website.

Phone interpreting service for Real Estate Agencies

Free phone interpreting services are available to licensed real estate agencies to assist them communicate with non-English speaking permanent residents and Australian citizens about any private residential property matter (rental or sales).

Further information on the Free Interpreting Service real estate agencies category is available.

Licensed real estate agencies can register for free phone interpreting services by completing the online 'register for a TIS National client code' form available on TIS National’s website.

Last updated: