Free Interpreting Service

The Free Interpreting Service aims to provide equitable access to key services, that are not government funded, for people with limited or no English language proficiency.

The Free Interpreting Service is delivered by TIS National, on behalf of the Department of Social Services.

Using the Free Interpreting Service is easy and convenient. It is quick and simple for service providers to register and they can be connected to a phone interpreter within a few minutes.

Eligible groups

The following groups can access the Free Interpreting Service to provide services to anyone in Australia who has a Medicare card:Photo of a mother hugging her young son.

Why use interpreters

Australia has a rich cultural diversity. The 2016 census revealed that Australians were born in almost 200 different countries and speak more than 300 languages.

The Free Interpreting Services helps eligible groups to communicate with clients who have limited or no English language proficiency. Using credentialed interpreters can facilitate better access to essential services for these clients and is particularly important for conversations in technical, legal or health contexts.

TIS National interpreters are bound by a professional code of ethics, which requires them to:

  • interpret information accurately and honestly
  • maintain confidentiality
  • be impartial and objective
  • act in a professional manner at all times.

TIS National’s policy is to use the highest credentialed interpreter available. Requests for specific interpreters are not encouraged for this reason.

Services available

Photo of a female interpreter in a suit wearing a headset.

Eligible groups can use the Free Interpreting Service to access interpreting services delivered by TIS National, including:

  • immediate phone interpreting
  • pre-booked phone interpreting
  • pre-booked onsite interpreting (not available to pharmacies or real estate agents)

Immediate phone interpreting is most useful for unplanned interactions. It provides:

  • access to over 3000 interpreters in over 160 different languages
  • interpreting services 24 hours a day 7 days a week
  • connection to an interpreter within a few minutes of calling.

Pre-booked phone interpreting is useful for planned interactions, or if you know you need to request a less common language.

When phone interpreting is not suitable, TIS National can arrange an interpreter to arrive onsite for a face-to-face appointment. This may be important when you have a group of people needing the same language interpreter, when you are discussing complex ideas, or when you anticipate that the appointment will go for an extended period of time. Onsite interpreter bookings must be for a minimum of 90 minutes.

Register for a client code

Each eligible individual, group or organisation will need their own unique client code to access the service.

To register for a client code, eligible groups can complete the online client registration form on the TIS National website, or allow a few extra minutes the first time they use the service.

You can also register by contacting TIS National on 1300 575 847.

How to access the Free Interpreting Service

  1. Call TIS National on 131 450
  2. Provide the operator with the language of the interpreter that you need
  3. Provide your client code and the name of the organisation/practitioner/parliamentarian
  4. Request an interpreter of a particular gender, if required (subject to availability)

For more information

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