Translation and interpreter services

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) —  My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Equality, who is also the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Creative Industries. It concerns the federal government’s cuts to translation and interpreter services. Many of the people who use the services provided by the minister’s department need access to interpreter services. The action I seek is that the minister raise this matter with the federal Minister for Social Services.

Just last week I held a community forum with the new chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Helen Kapalos. Together we met with multicultural community organisations from right across Casey to hear firsthand about the issues they are facing. One issue that was raised by multiple organisations was the federal government’s decision to cut funding for translation and interpreter services. From 1 December, many organisations will now have to pay for these vital services as the Department of Social Services completes a review.

The Casey North Community Information and Support Service, which I know the minister is aware of, does outstanding work in my electorate, and it may be forced to pay for these services, which many of its clients rely upon. Our local community is home to people from more than 150 different nations and of many faiths: 26.7 per cent of local residents were born in non-English speaking countries and 29.9 per cent speak English as a second language. There are few communities as wonderfully diverse as ours, but many local residents require significant assistance with complex and sensitive issues.

Working with people from different cultural backgrounds who have limited English can be incredibly difficult and often time consuming. I ask anyone who has been in a situation where they have had to communicate in a language they did not understand to consider what it might feel like. Imagine if you had been in need of urgent help. No-one should have to feel so helpless and alone. Yet without funding for these services, many community organisations will either have to reduce their existing interpreter services or look at cutting back on other services. Many organisations already go above and beyond with their very limited budgets, and now they will be forced to dig even deeper.

The Casey North Community Information and Support Service does exceptional work providing support and assistance to victims of family violence. Many women and their children from many different backgrounds come to the outstanding team at Casey North when they have nowhere else to go. Casey’s programs make a big difference to the lives of so many in our community, and they simply should not be put at risk. I ask the minister to raise this very important issue and give voice to those who need our help.