At the 2017 NZSTI National Conference held in Auckland in mid-June, Quintin Ridgeway gave a presentation on the Language Assistance Project. While Quintin is known to us as the National President of our own organisation, he in fact wears a number of hats, and he was asked to give this presentation in his capacity as Manager of the Internal Affairs Translation Service and Co-convener of the Language Sector Reference Group.
What is the Language Assistance Project?
Led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, this is an inter-agency project aimed at improving access to interpreting and translation services in the public sector. Its stated objectives are:
- To provide equitable access to public services;
- To improve the quality, consistency and coordination of language assistance service provision across government;
- To future-proof access to New Zealand public services;
- To provide guidance, standards, systems and advice to government agencies requiring language services.
What has been done so far?
The current project is based on two reviews of the current state of language services in the public sector, carried out in 2015 and 2016 respectively, one focusing on translation and the other on interpreting:
- Language Support Services Review, Department of Internal Affairs, 2015;
- Fair and Accessible Public Services: Summary Report on the Use of Interpreters and Other Language Assistance in New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand, 2016.
Based on the groundwork provided by these reviews, the Language Assistance Project has been designed to work in parallel on three distinct aspects:
- Developing guidelines for the use of translation and interpreting services by public agencies;
- Developing professional standards and an accreditation system for translators and interpreters working for public agencies;
- Developing a new language services procurement model for public service agencies.
Quintin’s own involvement in the project is with the working group looking at standards and accreditation; accordingly, this was the focus of his presentation. He stressed that the project has only just begun, and they are currently looking at options and seeking input from stakeholders. The options may include adopting existing standards or a combination of existing standards, or identifying an appropriate way to develop new standards for translators and interpreters working in the public sector. With regard to accreditation, NAATI is a key player in the Australasian region, and the working group will be looking at their model to see if it might be applicable in New Zealand – although this is additionally complicated by the fact that NAATI itself is currently transitioning from the old accreditation model to a new certification scheme. Whether in the end we will develop our own model or collaborate with NAATI to some degree is yet to be determined. In response to a question from the floor, Quintin assured the audience that NZSTI, as the T&I industry body, would have a voice in this process. He also exhorted all practising T&I professionals to take part in a survey, which is aimed at collecting input on this topic from as many stakeholders and industry professionals as possible. An invitation to complete this online survey will be sent to all NZSTI members. However, if you do not receive this and would like to have your say, contact the coordinator: email@example.com.
What about procurement?
Naturally, this is an issue of prime concern to all T&I practitioners who work for public service agencies. At this stage, work is being done to research and develop a new model which would provide greater consistency and co-ordination across different agencies. The timeframe for transitioning to the new model, whatever it may look like, is planned for July 2018. Quintin was at pains to emphasise that until that time there will be no change to the procurement processes currently in place in the various public agencies.
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By Guthrun Love