This document outlines the Tribunal's policy on interpreters, procedure for attendance to the Tribunal and professional requirements. It also provides a general overview on the Tribunal and its processes. A Glossary is also available.
- General information on the Tribunal
- AAT's policy concerning interpreters
- Interpreting at the Tribunal
- Procedure for attendance
- Instances where Interpreters may be required to facilitate communication
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the AAT) independently reviews a wide range of decisions made by the Australian Government, including decisions relating to social security, veterans' entitlements, Commonwealth workers' compensation and taxation. The AAT also reviews decisions of the Norfolk Island Government. When a person lodges an "application for review of a decision" he or she is called the applicant and the Department, the respondent. In some cases, a Department can be an applicant and an individual the respondent.
Where necessary the AAT arranges and pays for interpreters. The AAT's policy is to arrange interpreters who are accredited by the National Authority for the Accreditation of Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) at the "Professional" level (Formerly Level 3). A "Paraprofessional Interpreter" (formerly Level 2) may only be utilised in languages where no professional level interpreter is accredited. In languages where there is no NAATI accreditation, a NAATI certificate of recognition should be provided.
Interpreters are expected to translate everything. This includes the time during which the applicant/respondent is giving evidence as well as before and after.
Interpreters are not expected to know every term or concept that may be used. They should consult a dictionary if they need to translate certain concepts. If they may need to use one, interpreters are expected to bring their own dictionaries.
Interpreters should not hesitate to ask for a word, a phrase or concept to be clarified if is not clear to them.
Interpreters should not discuss the case with, or offer any views or opinions regarding the case to, either the applicant/respondent or witnesses.
Interpretation should be in the first person.
If a conflict of interest arises as a result of personal or financial relations between the interpreter and the applicant or a witness, the interpreter should notify the AAT.
The AAT understands that interpreters are bound by NAATI and AUSIT's (Australian Institute of Translators and Interpreters) Codes of Ethics.
Where the interpreter feels that the parties have "missed the point" because of some semantic or cultural factor, he or she can ask the AAT Member or Conference Registrar to pause so that the interpreter can make a "clarifying statement". The statement should be tested by the AAT Member or Conference Registrar by paraphrasing it back to the person requiring interpreting for comment.
Interpreters are expected to arrive at least 15 minutes before the hearing or 5 minutes before the conference or mediation is scheduled to start. If interpreters do not know the location of the hearing or conference rooms (mediations are held in conference rooms) they should ask the Registry for information.
Interpreters should make appropriate arrangements for parking prior to their assignment at the AAT.
Interpreters should have their NAATI card with them and be willing to show it if asked by staff or Members for verification of their qualifications.
Interpreters should take an oath or an affirmation at the start of the hearing. The AAT has appropriate guidelines on oaths to cover different religions.
If an interpreter needs to know the nature of the case they are assigned, they should contact the Associate to the Member before the hearing starts or the Conference Registrar before the conference starts.
Once interpreters complete their assignment, they should report to the Registry.
Interpreters should turn off their paging devices and mobile phones while engaged on an assignment at the AAT.
Interpreters should ask the Member for a break if they need one.
The AAT has an Outreach program to provide information about the AAT's processes to people who are unrepresented. The Outreach is conducted over the telephone and usually occurs about the same time the individual is provided with copies of the Department's documents (referred to as "T documents") which are relevant to the decision the Department made. Where necessary, an AAT officer will arrange for an interpreter to be available to assist before making the telephone contact with the unrepresented party. The Outreach program gives the unrepresented person an opportunity to ask any questions about the practices and procedures of the AAT.
The purpose of the conference process is to identify and clarify the issues in dispute between the applicant and the respondent and attempt to resolve the dispute without the need to hold a hearing. In some cases, there may be more than one conference.
A conference may be conducted face-to-face or, in some circumstances, over the telephone. Interpreters are employed as necessary for both face-to-face and telephone conferences.
A conference is held in private and nothing that is said at the conference can be used at the hearing, without the consent of the parties.
If the interpreter feels that the seating arrangements are not conducive to effective communication, the interpreter should point this out to the Conference Registrar or Member conducting the conference.
Where an application has not been resolved during the conference process, the AAT may offer mediation as an alternative to the hearing process. A mediation can only be held if both parties and the AAT agree to it being conducted. Generally more time is allowed for mediations than for conferences (generally a minimum of 3 hours).
In mediations the interpreter may be required to translate the words of the mediator (sometimes written) which record the final Agreement. Time will be set aside to ensure that the interpreter has an adequate opportunity to complete any written translation that may be required.
As above, if the interpreter feels that the seating arrangements are not conducive to effective communication, the interpreter should point this out to the mediator.
If the application is not settled during the pre-hearing stage a hearing will be held.
Applicants/respondents do not have to have a lawyer to present their case although they can be legally represented if they wish. At a hearing the Australian Government Department may be legally represented and may have its own witnesses present.
The interpreter should be seated in a position which enables the Presiding Member to have maximum eye contact with the person requiring the services of an interpreter.
There may be one, two or three members who will hear and decide the case. Apart from the applicant, the interpreter and the Tribunal members, several other people will be present in the hearing room. A Tribunal officer will be there to do things to help, such as calling witnesses and handling paperwork. A person will be there on behalf of the Department. If the hearing is recorded there may be a person operating the recording equipment in the hearing room.
The Tribunal hearings are normally open to the public, however they may be held in private if there is good reason to do so. Some hearings have to be held in private due to the requirements of legislation. Sometimes the Tribunal can order that certain papers or the identity of a person be kept confidential, or that a decision not be published if there is a good reason to do so.
At the end of the hearing the Tribunal will either give its decision immediately or it will say that the decision is reserved, which means that they will provide their decision at a later date, usually in writing and accompanied by written reasons.
The interpreter is required to translate for the Tribunal when the applicant addresses it. At other times the interpreter is required to translate the proceedings to the applicant. In those instances the interpreter should sit next to the person requiring interpreting and speak in a low voice so as not to disrupt proceedings.