This page has information for interpreters in relation to reviews in any of the following AAT divisions:
- General Division
- Freedom of Information Division
- National Disability Insurance Scheme Division
- Security Division
- Taxation & Commercial Division
- Veterans’ Appeals Division.
This page outlines the AAT's policy on interpreters, procedure for attendance at the AAT and professional requirements. It also provides a general overview of the AAT and its processes.
General information on the AAT
The AAT conducts independent review of a wide range of administrative decisions made under Commonwealth laws. We review decisions made by Australian Government ministers, departments and agencies and, in limited circumstances, decisions made by state government and non-government bodies. We also review decisions made under Norfolk Island laws.
We review a decision ‘on the merits’. This means that we take a fresh look at the facts, law and policy relating to the decision and arrive at our own decision. The AAT must make the legally correct decision or, where there can be more than one correct decision, the preferable decision.
When a person lodges an application for a review of a decision, he or she is called ‘the Applicant’ and the department, agency or organisation that made the decision to be reviewed is called the Respondent. In some cases, a department can be the Applicant and an individual the Respondent.
AAT's policy concerning interpreters
The AAT arranges and pays for interpreters when they are needed.
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.
Interpreting at the AAT
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 interpret certain concepts. 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 it 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 AUSIT's (The Australian Institute of Translators and Interpreters) Codes of Ethics.
Please note: Where the interpreter feels that the parties have missed the point because of some semantic or cultural factor, the interpreter 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.
Procedure for attendance
Interpreters are expected to arrive at least 15 minutes before a hearing or 5 minutes before a conference or other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process is scheduled to start. If interpreters do not know the location of the hearing or conference rooms, they should ask the Registry for information.
- Interpreters should make appropriate arrangements for parking prior to their assignment at the AAT.
- Interpreters must have their NAATI card with them and be willing to show it if asked by staff or Members for verification of their qualifications.
- Interpreters must 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 would like to know more about the nature of the case they are assigned, they should ask at the Registry to speak to a relevant person.
- Interpreters must turn off their mobile phones while engaged on an assignment at the AAT.
- Interpreters should ask the AAT Member for a break if they need one.
Instances where Interpreters may be required to facilitate communication
AAT'S Outreach program
The AAT has an Outreach program to provide information about the AAT's processes to people who are representing themselves. Outreach is usually conducted by telephone. Outreach gives the person an opportunity to ask any questions about the practices and procedures of the AAT.
An AAT staff member will arrange for an interpreter to be available to assist before making the phone contact with the self-represented party.
Conferences are a type of ADR process. They give the AAT and the parties a chance to talk about the decision that is being reviewed, the issues in dispute, what further information might be gathered, whether an agreement can be reached about how the case should be resolved and what will happen next. We might decide to hold more than one conference to talk about the case.
A conference may be conducted in person at the AAT or by telephone. Interpreters are employed as necessary for both face-to-face and telephone conferences. Conferences usually last between 30 minutes and one hour.
Conference are held in private and nothing that is said or done at the conference can be used at the hearing unless the parties agree.
If the interpreter feels that the seating arrangements are not conducive to effective communication, the interpreter should point this out to the Conference Registrar conducting the conference.
Other types of ADR processes
The AAT uses other types of ADR processes (conciliation, mediation, case appraisal and neutral evaluation) to help the parties reach an agreement about how a case should be resolved or to narrow the issues in dispute.
These other ADR processes are usually conducted in person but might be conducted by telephone or videoconference in some cases. Generally, more time is allowed than for conferences (usually a minimum of 3 hours).
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.
The AAT holds a hearing if the application has not been resolved during the pre-hearing stage.
In most cases, the hearing will be conducted by one AAT Member, although there can be two or three AAT Members. An AAT staff member will help with the administration of the hearing.
The parties do not have to have a lawyer to present their case at the AAT, although they can be represented if they wish.
Hearings are usually conducted in person but might be conducted by telephone or videoconference in some cases. The length of the hearing varies from case to case.
AAT hearings are normally open to the public. However, they may be held in private if there is good reason to do so or if this is required by legislation. The AAT can order that the identity of a party or witness, or information given to the AAT, be kept confidential.
At the end of the hearing, the AAT Member(s) will either give the 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 interpret when the applicant is speaking or being addressed. At other times the interpreter is required to interpret the proceedings for the applicant. The interpreter should sit next to the person requiring interpreting and speak in a low voice so as not to disrupt proceedings.
When the hearing is conducted face-to-face, the interpreter should sit in a position which enables the AAT Member to have maximum eye contact with the person requiring the services of the interpreter.