Interpreter and Translation Information
An interpreter may be needed in court when a person involved in court proceedings:
- needs help to understand English
- has a hearing impairment and/or speech impairment
When can you get a court interpreter free of charge?
The Court will arrange and pay for an interpreter for you, if you are:
- an accused in a criminal matter;
- an applicant or respondent in a family violence application; or
- an applicant in a VOCAT matter
You or your representative should contact the relevant court registry as soon as a court date is set and ask for an interpreter to be booked.
Auslan interpreters and assistance via relay services
Arrangements can be made for AUSLAN interpreters to accompany eligible court users who are deaf, hearing impaired and/or speech impaired to court hearings.
Interpreter services for deaf, hearing impaired and/or speech impaired court users will be paid for by the Court.
Each court region has at least one court room with a hearing loop installed. Arrangements can be made to assist courts users who are deaf or hearing impaired to utilise this facility where practicable.
Please give the court as much notice as possible of any assistance you might require. Please contact the registry of the Magistrates' Court you will be attending.
National Relay Service
The National Relay Service (NRS) is a free and confidential service for people who have difficulty with telephone communication because of their hearing or speech impairment.
Contact the NRS Helpdesk
Voice - 1800 555 660 (free from landlines)
TTY - 1800 555 630 (free)
Fax - 1800 555 690 (free)
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
SMS - 0416 001 350
Mail - Level 2, 10 Mallett St,
Camperdown, NSW 2050
Inform the NRS operator that you want to communicate with a court registrar and give the operator the phone number of the court you wish to contact.
More information is available on the National Relay Service website.
How do you book an interpreter?
The process of booking an interpreter will depend on whether you are:
- entitled to an interpreter free of charge, in which case the Registry will book it for you
- not entitled to a free interpreter, in which case you will need to book the interpreter yourself (or with help from a friend or representative).
If you are not sure whether an interpreter can be arranged for you, please contact the registry of the Magistrates’ Court you will be attending.
If you are involved in a civil matter, you will need to pay for your own interpreter. If your claim succeeds, you may be able to seek reimbursement of the interpreter costs you have incurred, from the other party.
If you are a witness in a matter, you should contact the person or organisation who has requested your attendance at court, and request that they make arrangements for an interpreter on your behalf.
Organisations that provide interpreting and translating services can be found in the yellow pages of the telephone book under 'Translations' and 'Interpreters' or by searching the internet.
What is the interpreter's job in a court hearing?
The interpreter's job is to interpret exactly what is said from one language to another so that people can understand what is being said and participate in the court proceeding. Interpreters can help you communicate with and understand what the other people are saying.
The interpreter should:
- only interpret the exact words and sentences each person uses
- be impartial, which means they cannot help you or the other party when you are seeking legal information or advice
- keep everything that is said confidential.
The interpreter should not:
- add or take away anything from what is said
- provide advice or give opinions.
If you or someone you know needs an interpreter when you contact a Magistrates’ Court registry, please use the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS).
Call 131 450 and tell the TIS operator the telephone number of the Court registry you need to contact.
An interpreter will call the number while you are on the phone and translate what the person on the line says to you.
It is the responsibility of parties to provide accredited translated copies of foreign documents to the Court. In exceptional circumstances a presiding Magistrate may determine that it is in the interests of the Court to obtain translation of a document to assist in a hearing. In these circumstances a translation will be arranged and funded by the Court in the same way as interpreter services.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship provides a free translation service for people settling permanently in Australia. It translates particular documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, free of charge for permanent visa holders, provisional partner visa holders and returning Australian citizens. This translating service is only available for eligible non-English speakers in the first two years after entry to Australia. It is not available to the general public. (https://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/help-with english/help_with_translating/translation_help.htm).
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has translated brochures available on our website.
Victoria Legal Aid has free fact sheets and publications about different areas of the law that have been translated into other languages. These publications can be accessed via Victoria Legal Aid’s website. Please see the related publications menu on the right.