Language interpreters are crucial in the lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

1 October 2019

It is an important service to highlight during the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Sylvia Tkac is a Ngalmi woman living and working in Darwin, and an interpreter for Anindilyakwa – the community language of the Groote Eylandt Archipelago community.

‘I became an interpreter with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) through working in the language centre for six years on Groote Eylandt,’ Sylvia said.

‘My language teacher who I worked with at the time on Groote Eylandt saw a great need for more interpreters who speak Anindilyakwa language, so she encouraged me to become an interpreter with the AIS.’

The 2016 Census estimates that there are 60,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who speak an Indigenous language at home. This is about 10 per cent of Australia's First Nations people.

Indigenous Australians who do not speak English as a first language may require an interpreter in order to have equal access to government services.

‘People are grateful that they hear the message in their own language because most people think in the language they speak,’ Sylvia said.

‘So this stops miscommunication and provides the client a better understanding of what is happening and what has been said.’

The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) also provides a directory of independent certified Indigenous interpreters across Australia.

Find out more: