NDIS – Interpreters in the Crossfire

changeLet us start this article with an apology to the interpreters of Australia. In my last article I stated that they were grumbling about the changes to their pay and conditions that have been introduced by the National Auslan Booking Service (NABS). I meant not to offend and it was a poor choice of words. They have legitimate concerns and this article will try to explain some of those concerns. In the debate as to whether NABS should be kept out of the NDIS I am keen to get accurate
e information out there. I may err and if I do please correct me.

To the CEO that wrote in taking umbrage that I had mentioned a memory of an old article that suggested that most funding for disability organisations was swallowed up in management costs, overheads and let’s add consultants … I apologise not at all.  For too long large disability agencies have had too much control as to what services and how much service a person with a disability can get. The NDIS aims to give more control over funding to the client with a disability. Have they fully achieved that yet? No, but that objective is a good thing. It is all about choice and control.

This article aims to try and explain the concerns of interpreters that have resulted from the introduction of the NDIS. The aim is to further inform the Deaf community and Deaf sector. I want the Deaf community and Deaf sector to better understand that the changes that the NDIS brings with it raise a number of challenges for the interpreter industry.

An open letter from NABS released on 27th June suggests that the decision to place medical interpreting within the NDIS rests solely with the Minister responsible. NABS also note that they have known of the transition of NABS services to the NDIS umbrella for the last three years. They claim that repeated requests to meet with the Minister concerned have been denied. NABS state that they have lobbied hard to keep NABS as it is. (Click on the blue writing for the full text of the NABS open letter.)

It is the view of NABS that they are a service similar to the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) that services Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities. (CALD) NABS feel that their service does not fit into the NDIS criteria and is more aligned with TIS services.

Despite NABS protestations the Government has clearly classified Auslan interpreting in medical situations, and indeed all situations, as a disability issue. As NABS note, the decision has been made by the Minister responsible and only the Minister can reverse the decision.

The NDIA have to work with what they are given as do the Deaf community.  NABS note that as a result of this Government decision they have received significant funding cuts. Consequently they have had to make decisions about capping services and changing how interpreters are paid. Clearly it has not been an easy road.

Indeed the capping of services is already having ramifications. A number of specialist medical services that Deaf people have previously booked interpreters for have been cut. I understand that some of these specialist services include occupational therapy, X-Rays and naturopathy to name a few. NABS indicate that interpreting funded by NDIS plans will cover the services that have been cut. While this may sound good it does not help those Deaf people who are not within an NDIS roll-out site or have chosen not to have an NDIS plan. Indeed for many the NDIS will not be a reality until 2019. These cuts have left the treatment of many Deaf people in limbo.

It would seem from the NABS letter that the Government aims to phase out NABS. While this will not occur fully until 2019 it clearly has ramifications after 2019. What this means, as alluded in the previous Rebuttal, medical interpreting for people over 65 or Deaf people not on NDIS plans is an unknown quantity after this date.

The crux of much of interpreter concerns comes down to the conditions that the NABS are imposing on them as the result of the Ministers decision. The Minister has instructed that Deaf people who receive NDIS packages must use these funds to pay for private medical interpreting.

The criteria for using NDIS funds for medical appointments is apparently the same as the current NABS model. It can’t be used for public hospitals, it must be a private medical appointment, there are conditions around how interpreters can be used for hospital stays and so on. While NABS doesn’t cover everything it provides a good service and an appropriate remuneration. This remuneration recognises the unique conditions that interpreters work under. It takes into account travel costs and time to travel so that interpreters are adequately compensated when they travel. This means they can service regional and rural areas too. This was the old NABS anyway.

The introduction of the NDIS has led to pay structure changes. The NDIS has made the decision that interpreting services can be billed at a maximum of $115 an hour. Unless an interpreter is booked direct they will not receive the full amount because agencies receive a fee to cover management and booking costs.

I understand, as the result of the introduction of the NDIS, that NABS have reduced the minimum booking from 1.5 hours to just one hour. There have been other reductions in the payment of travel time and so on.  These changes will impact on the pocket of interpreters who can least afford it. I have been informed by an interpreter that they stand to lose up to $15 600 through the changes to pay and conditions that interpreters have had imposed on them by NABS.

In the previous Rebuttal we established that Deaf people over 65s can still access NABS. We have established that Deaf people not on NDIS packages, or not in an area that the NDIS is currently rolling out, can still access NABS. In theory no Deaf person should be disadvantaged but this is far from the case.  We now know some specialist medical services where NABS previously provided interpreters have been cut. We do not know whether all people who are Deaf will be expected to have an NDIS package to access medical interpreting after 2019. We do not know the fate of access to medical interpreting for people over 65 after 2019. Very clearly the new pay structure introduced by NABS is severely disadvantaging interpreters. There is much uncertainty.

Ill try to give a few examples here of how interpreters are disadvantaged. Minimum booking time previously was 1.5 hours. What this means is that if an interpreter worked for 30 minutes they still got paid for 1.5 hours of work. Now this has been reduced to an hour. That means if an interpreter was to do four medical jobs in a day they would lose two hours of pay. Over a week that’s one full day of pay that they have lost. What this may lead to is that interpreters will simply not do medical jobs. They will do jobs that compensate them adequately like education or employment.

The reduction in the minimum booking requirement by NABS also means that if there are huge delays in seeing a doctor, as is often the case, after one hour the interpreter might simply have to go because they have another job waiting. The current 1.5 hour minimum at least provides greater flexibility. All of these changes could mean, in the long run, less interpreters for medical jobs. This has the potential to put Deaf people at risk. It is a real concern.

I understand that NABS have changed conditions in a a number of other areas such as reductions in payment for periods of waiting and the abolition of reimbursement for parking and tolls. The end result is that the interpreters income is being severely reduced. It seems that all of these changes that have been introduced were more or less imposed on interpreters with no consultation and only one week until the changes were due to start. The bottom line is that if an interpreters standard of living is impacted by reduced income they may get jobs elsewhere. This may leave fewer interpreters available to work for Deaf people.

The NDIS rolls out may mean that many interpreters may choose to go solo rather than go through an agency. They will do this because they will be able charge the full $115 an hour rather than have to be paid at the agency rate. It might seem that $115 per hour sounds a lot but interpreters work under unique conditions.

For example most interpreters are usually only able to work a maximum of 4 hours/jobs per day in the medical field because of travel time between jobs. As a result, for a full day, many interpreters really only earn $57.50 per hour. From this interpreters going solo have to cover their own insurance, administration costs, car expenses, preparation time and ongoing professional development among other things. They also must put money aside for sick days and holidays. It doesn’t leave much left over.

As was pointed out in the previous Rebuttal the Deaf person has the right to choose who they book and with whom. Deaf people on self managed packages can even book any interpreter they see fit whether or not they are registered as an NDIS provider. The only condition is that the interpreter have an ABN. As a Deaf person I like this control but interpreters are right in being concerned that this will impact on quality control and the continued skills development of interpreters.

Agencies, including NABS, provide professional development and ensure that interpreters that are allocated to jobs have the skill set to do that job (in theory anyway.) The NDIS claim that they have a rigorous process for registering as an agency or interpreter as a provider under the NDIS and they do. The NDIA also, rightly in my view, claim that the Deaf person knows who is best for them. This is why many have preferred interpreters.

But for interpreters this is a real concern because medical interpreting is a specialist field. An interpreter who is inadequately skilled could place the Deaf person at risk through interpreting medical information wrongly. Interpreters, many who have spent years and a lot of money honing their skills, are well within their rights to be concerned about this lack of quality assurance.

They are very fearful of an influx of “cowboys and cowgirls” that may see the NDIS as a means to make a quick buck. I have already seen one piece of marketing material where an interpreter has set themselves up with the line that goes something like- See me for your NDIS needs.

One must also consider that interpreting work is largely seasonal. During holiday periods there are often down times for interpreters where there are very few jobs. This means when they are in demand they must maximise their income. If interpreters are being hit in the hip pocket they will seek other employment. This will mean less interpreters  for a system that already cannot meet demand.

Changes to payment for travel time may mean interpreters are less likely to want to travel. This may mean that Deaf people in rural areas and the outer suburbs will miss out.  The reality may well be that interpreters will just decide to give medical interpreting a miss and choose the more stable jobs that provide a better income. If this happens the Deaf community may be put at risk in many medical situations. Some interpreters may simply give interpreting away altogether.

Lets look at some of the issues that the Rebuttal has established with todays article and yesterdays article.

  1. People who are Deaf and use Auslan as their primary means of communication are seen as people with a permanent and significant disability. They are eligible for NDIS services.
  2. Deaf people who are not currently on NDIS plans can continue to access NABS services as usual.
  3. Deaf people over 65 will be able to continue to access NABS services.
  4. Deaf people who decide to establish an NDIS plan must use funds for interpreting to pay for medical interpreting. If they become very sick requiring extensive treatment and more interpreting is needed then packages can be renegotiated
  5. There is a question mark as to what will happen after 2019. It seems that the aim of the Government is to phase out funding NABS completely and use only NDIS packages to fund medical interpreting. This raises questions in regard to medical interpreting for Deaf people over 65 and also Deaf people who choose not to access NDIS packages after 2019.
  6. There are flaws in the “self managed” packages in that Deaf people can basically book whoever they want and are comfortable with. Quality control and monitoring of “unqualified” interpreters will possibly become an issue.
  7. The NDIA, on their own admission, have very few case studies to go by. This means developing an appropriate assessment tool to work out how much interpreting is needed is problematic. It will take time.
  8. NABS have received significant funding cuts and have had to drastically change conditions in how they remunerate interpreters.
  9. These changes mean that interpreters will be paid significantly less. This is a concern for many of them.
  10. Changes to conditions and the NDIS pay structures MAY mean that interpreters decline to service areas where there are significant travel costs involved.
  11. Ultimately interpreters need security. If this can not be provided they are likely to choose work that remunerates them appropriately. Indeed some may actually leave the profession altogether leading even greater stress on a system that cannot meet demand.
  12. NABS and many in the Deaf sector see NABS services as the equivalent of services that are currently provided to CALD groups through TIS. Consequently NABS believe that medical interpreting should be funded separately from the NDIS. The Minister responsible clearly disagrees and sees interpreting as a disability issue and not linguistic one.
  13. New NABS rules has seen a cut to the specialist services that they will provide interpreters for. This is already raising questions as to how deaf people will continue with ongoing treatment that they may be receiving.

This is where we are at. The Minister has made a decision that is unlikely to be reversed in the short to medium term. If the Deaf community and the Deaf sector believe they are being disadvantaged they must collectively lobby and collate evidence to show that they are being disadvantaged by that decision. The NDIS is in the difficult situation that it must implement some not well thought out decisions from the Minister.

Luckily the NDIS was developed to be a flexible system and the NDIA have indicated that they want to liaise closely with the Deaf community to attempt to address any concerns. Whether this will be enough in the long run is anyone’s guess. All we can do is to continue to inform ourselves and make an honest attempt to find solutions before rejecting the NDIS as am alternative for medical appointments outright.

That said there is likely to be a great deal of pain and anguish in the meantime before consensus can be reached.


*** Note that even under the NDIS there are still limits to accessing the hospital system, particularly public and emergency situations that are not covered. The long hard road for advocacy in this area has to continue.

*** This article was developed with assistance from professional interpreters impacted by the changes documented.


32 thoughts on “NDIS – Interpreters in the Crossfire

  1. I have been following all of this with immense interest – it affects me as a Deaf consumer. I have some points to make though.

    1. $57.50 an hour is pretty fucking good money.
    2. A loss of $15,600 from what? From $100,000? From $30,000? The dropping point makes a difference.
    3. A lot of people are boycotting NABS and cancelling jobs they have already been booked for – does no one realise that they are not “rebelling against the system”, but actually HARMING deaf people?
    4. NABS historically has always paid interpreters a really good rate – now they are doing a more reasonable rate (and they have always done one hour bookings anyway), so an income is still happening.
    5. Interpreters are saying they are quitting the industry altogether because of this – I always heard that you don’t do interpreting for the money, but for the love of the job/community – this whole situation is saying otherwise.
    6. I understand that many interpreters are getting taxed more as NABS may not be their primary employer – so what?! Stick with the primary employer instead – there are SO many jobs going around – interpreters are in greater and greater demand. Serve the community.
    7. Why aren’t interpreters actually having a (open) dialogue with the deaf community about this? Why is a lot of it hush-hush? Because we’ll think it is about money? Because we won’t like the things you have to say? Engaging the Deaf community on this would be good – we could be your greatest supporters, we have a symbiotic relationship.

    I could go on, and in fact I fear I may have said too much already.

    • I am a full time interpreter and single parent, specialising in medical and legal interpreting, and working mainly in the public health system. I make around $50k a year before tax and overheads.

      • Also a single mum working school hours as an interpreter, have to be home by 3pm. This means I average one to two jobs a day, 3 if I’m lucky and they all fit together. I drive all over Sydney (& outside when required). My taxable income this year for all that effort will be just under $20,000. Do the math.

    • Having used most providers, NABS is preferred, some others need to close. Someone close is an interpreter, while the rate is high, with travel or the booking they only get this for a few hours. Some odd days no work and need another steady part time job to survive.
      Good rates need to be paid to ensure they are available during business hours. If income drops then alot maybe change to consistant income work.

  2. Dear Anon. Interpreters are the LOWEST PAID PROFESSION IN AUSTRALIA. Guess what – we have mortgages and rents to pay, and we spend a lot of money keeping our skills up to date, like doing postgraduate uni courses, which cost thousands of dollars per subject. Many interpreters travel interstate or even overseas to further their skills.

    All interpreters understand we wouldn’t have jobs without the Deaf community. Most of us got into interpreting in the first place because of our love and respect for the Deaf community, our love of Auslan, and our belief in equal rights for Deaf people.

    BUT…love and respect don’t pay the rent. If you can’t make an income commensurate with your skills and your level of responsibility, you’ll go into a different industry. Which means fewer interpreters.

    Have a read of this – it’s about all interpreters, not just Auslan – but it helps explain the dire straits of our industry as a career path. http://www.professionalsaustralia.org.au/translators-interpreters/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2015/03/Lost-in-Translation-issuu.pdf

    • I would seriously disagree that interpreting is the lowest paid profession in Australia. I’d like to see a source – not a report which found that interpreters weren’t happy with their income.

      Let me be clear – I am one of the interpreting industry’s biggest supporters and always have been. But I’m really uncomfortable about how the interpreters are not engaging the deaf community on this dialogue. Why not?

      And also. Now that interpreters are apparently fleeing the industry, deaf people won’t be able to pay their mortgage/rent either without appropriate job interview processes, workplace interpreting, or maintain their health without interpreters present.

      • most adults get paid for more than what may only be 1 or 2 90 minute sessions per day….

        that ISN’T enough to live on

      • Hi Anon. You quite reasonably asked for evidence – I’m in the process of getting the evidence comparing the interpreting profession to other professions. In the meantime, these figures may help you understanding why so many good interpreters have already left the profession, or only do it occasionally, and why so many more are now thinking of doing the same thing. Please don’t think we don’t understand what it means when we move into different careers – we do. We have friends and family and colleagues who are Deaf. We understand the demand and what it means when someone doesn’t get a suitably qualified terp. But – like many professions dominated by women – we are poorly paid, the work is seasonal, and the career path is pathetic. We are undervalued and underpaid. For me, the identity of ‘interpreter’ will never go away; it’s a really important part of my life. But I simply could not afford to keep interpreting as my main source of income. Anyway, here’s some stats for now (from Professionals Australia):

        “Rates of pay not keeping pace with inflation:
        Between 2001 and 2006, while the consumer price index (CPI) went up by 15.3%, translator incomes overall increased by only 3.7% and interpreter incomes fell back by 1.5%. In other words, over this period the movement in translator incomes lagged the CPI by 11.6% and the movement in interpreter incomes lagged the CPI by 16.8%.

        Liability for costs/expenses incurred:
        With services outsourced and Translators and Interpreters almost always working via an intermediary, responsibility for expenses – formerly covered by employers or not incurred because Translators and Interpreters were directly employed – are paid by the Translators
        and Interpreters themselves. Translators and Interpreters report that after covering expenses
        including Blackberries (which is how they receive their bookings), internet service provider (to
        support the use of Blackberries), street directory, petrol and travel time, their hourly rates are
        less than they were 10 years ago.

        Little or no offset for income insecurity: notice and periods of engagement:
        Short notice periods, little or no regulation around minimum periods of engagement and inadequate cancellation fees provide little offset for the income insecurity which characterises the industry.

        Multiple job-holding:
        There is evidence that Translators and Interpreters hold more than one job and receive
        income from multiple sources. .. around 37 per cent of respondents earned less than 50 per cent of their total income from their Interpreting job.

        Misclassification of employees as contractors and employment entitlements:
        There may be a significant number of contractors who,
        when assessed against the common law test of employment, may more appropriately be
        classified as employees [aka sham contracting]. This has implications for access to employment entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave and as discussed above, superannuation, and as discussed below, for workers compensation and professional indemnity cover.

        Risk shifting:
        Because of the lack of clarity around employee/contractor status, there is also a lack of clarity
        around who is liable in the two critical areas of workers compensation and professional
        indemnity cover. While agencies divert this risk/liability to the contractors, there is a limited
        understanding of the need to obtain the relevant cover by the Translators and Interpreters

  3. I feel that Anon is a little ignorant of exactly what we interpreters go through!
    There are times during the year that we get absolute minimum hours booked and have to survive these times on the work that we have built up over the year just to pay our mortgages and send our children to school .. We don’t get holiday pay or sick pay and some of us work on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not to mention the literally tens of thousands of dollars we have spent on professional development, conferences, seminars, workshops… etc etc, And make sure that our professional skill levels are exactly that – at a professional level !!!

    I have been working as an interpreter for 20 years and got into it because both of my parents suffered at the hands of fools who could not understand Deaf people, Deaf culture or their signed language.

    My parents will Not be misdiagnosed while I am working as a professional interpreter!!!!

    It is not about the money (!!) but I cannot afford to lose the house I am trying to pay off on my own!

    I worked damn hard for my level of accreditation and expect to be paid for the professional service I offer – just as do other highly skilled and educated professionals.

    • I am SO aware of what interpreters go through. Believe me. I have worked with interpreters all my life in all aspects and areas of it. I have friends and family in the industry. I listen and ask questions all the time.

      I agree there are a lot of things that need to be improved in the industry, definitely. But my points still remain.

      I also hear of interpreters bringing in “only $70K this year”. That’s more than both of my (deaf) parents combined makes – and they work full time too. They don’t have choices. So goddamn straight when I say that the quoted amount of $57.50 means I think you’re sitting pretty.

      • It is almost impossible for interpreters to do a full time interpreting work – as most of their work would depend on the number of appointments booked in a day and they may get the occasional all day paid jobs (they are a godsend for many I am sure). Travelling in between jobs as a freelance interpreter is mostly unpaid. So, when you say “$57.50 means I think you’re sitting pretty” – you need to take a grip of reality and consider the fact whether the majority of interpreters work to the equivalent of a 9am-5pm 5 day working week.

        And what is your point when you say “more than both of my (deaf) parents combined makes” This is totally irrelevant and I do believe that they DO have choices!

        Reading some of your other posts, I believe you are rather ignorant of the facts about interpreting. Maybe it is time for you to reflect on what you state and think twice before you say anything.

      • I doubt your parents have advanced degrees in their chosen field…. and as I am intermittently booked for appointments in a professional field, it is hardly a goldmine(!) so I am, in fact, Not “sitting pretty”!!!!

        Ignorance must be bliss….

  4. Dear Anon – comment number 1

    If I do one job in the morning and travel two hours to do a second job my travelling expenses through nabs were previously covered appropriately. Now they won’t be. If interpreters now CHOOSE not to take jobs that are going to cost them money in terms of time, wear and tear on the car, then don’t blame the interpreters. It’s not like they’re doing it deliberately, but just have to make their own judgement call.

    2 jobs a day and lots of travelling, or 3 jobs in the city? what would YOU choose? Yes, we all know it is the Deaf community that loses out here, but that isn’t the interpreter’s fault. Don’t like it? take it up with Wesley Mission.

    $57.50 per hour minus @$20 in petrol that won’t be covered, $5 for tyres and $10 for a car service isn’t suddenly too rich after all is it….

    • I just wanted to answer your point about the maths here:

      $57.50 minus $35 for petrol, types and car service? So using your example here I calculate that to mean you’re essentially spending $200 a week on petrol on two jobs a day in close-by areas, and $2,400 on tyres a year and $4,800 on service every year? A slight exaggeration I think.

      I feel like everyone is engaging in hysteria here.

      I’m not blaming interpreters for not taking jobs. They are allowed to and often do get to pick and choose their jobs, ever at the deaf person’s peril. And cancel at the last minute whenever they get a better offer.

      All I can say is I am seeing this issue is creating a divide between the deaf and interpreting communities. This would have been a fantastic opportunity to work together.

  5. Anon: I don’t know any professional who would willing agree to accept a reduction of AT LEAST $28 every single time they walk out the door.

  6. Until you have been on the other side of the fence, don’t make assumptions. Your comments was so unfair, biased and judgemental. In fact, interpreters are my lifeline, my children’s lifeline…

    Until you have walked in their shoes, be more respectful please. Last thing I want is interpreters not willing to work for us anymore because without them, how can we be ourselves among society.

    I expected better from you and am disappointed.


  7. @Anon: Yep $57 an hour is a great rate! If you’re sitting behind a desk for 7.6 hrs a day, 5 days a week and don’t have to calculate travel and expenses, professional devt etc out of it and you can bank on that rate for 7.6 hrs a day 50-52 weeks of the year inclusive of annual and sick leave. Not so great if this rate happens twice, maybe 3 times a day if you’re very lucky, and frequently only with one hour a day or less. Not so great if you get sick, or your kids get sick and you have to take unpaid time off. Not so great through holiday periods when work dries up for weeks at a time. Not so great when that rate is earned at 6:00am or 10:00pm or anything in between, Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t know of anyone who is cancelling or boycotting jobs, most of us desperately worried for our clients and their welfare in all of this.

  8. I am not ashamed of my comment – nor the feedback it may attract – so I will use my name.

    I have a family member who is Deaf, and I’m just at the beginning of my journey as an interpreter. I have left a very lucrative career in the resources industry to do something that is good for the soul. I have taken a pay cut (less than half what I earned in my previous profession) to do something truly meaningful with my life and work. Earn without destruction. Work knowing that my efforts are for something meaningful in someone’s life – and feel the responsibility and sense of needing to always improve and be a better service provider.

    I am truly confounded by the attitude of some that interpreting work is something that is worth nothing – we should do it for nothing / do it for minimal fee. It is already a VERY low salary for a “profession”. It is NOT in-fact a salary. It is a freelance/contractor’s risky enterprise – we do it realising that next week there may be no work, that next week’s payslip/invoice may not pay the bills. That holidays/illness come at a cost.

    I have two considerations:

    1. you pay peanuts – you get monkeys
    2. just because we complain about FAIR pay for FAIR work – does not mean we are power/money-hungry.

    • Exactly Megan! And Anon – most interpreters don’t make anything near $70K. But even if they did – that’s much lower than other professions. Do you want a professional workforce? Or do you want to go back to the bad old days when the Deaf community relied on unqualified friends and family with no uni or TAFE qualifications, no testing of skills, no ethical constraints?

  9. Your comments are extremely misguided and uneducated. Seems that you’re making gross generalisations of the whole interpreting community based on a few interpreters. Just because some interpreters drive around in a Benz, doesn’t mean I have an Audi in my garage while I ‘only pull 70k a year’.

    Your 4th point says that nabs have always booked for an hour. This is simply not true. If you had looked at the nabs book you sign after every appt, you’d see there is 3 time options. 1.5hr, 2hr or ‘other’. 1.5hr has always been the standard booking time.

    Nabs are cancelling our booking that were booked prior to these changes. The appointments for allied health are being cancelled. And timeframes are now being changed to an hour.

    I do the bulk of my work through one agency so these cuts won’t have an affect on me yet. Yet. But I can see where the future is heading. Less travel pay, less interpreters for the regional community. Less nabs work, more interpreters rushing for jobs which they may not be suited for, all because the have bills, families and mortgages to pay. And all while the Deaf community suffers.

    Us interpreters can be just as concerned for the Deaf community as we are the interpreting community.

    I love my job, my profession, my career and my communities. I have invested thousands of dollars and years to get to where I am. I’ve made massive sacrifices, which have been my choice but I will not let it be in vain. I do pro bono work, Deafblind support work for half the amount I would earn as an interpreter. If I wanted to make big money I would have become a nurse, a teacher, or a drug dealer like everyone else from my home town.
    I know my hearing privilege, and that I would be nothing without the Deaf community. To see comments like yours are so disheartening, but luckily I know for a fact there are scores of Deaf people that do appreciate us interpreters. If any a divide being caused between us, it’s defiantly not from us interpreters.

  10. Dear anon,
    I am an interpreter, I work very hard, I make myself available 24/7 yet I’ve only ever managed to make 42k a year. Taking a pay cut ($28 or more) on EVERY medical job I take it does add up. Hugely! Ive worked hard to become the interpreter I am. I deserve to work in a job I love, and get paid FAIRLY for it. $57 is great, yes but we don’t get paid that 8hrs a day everyday. Its random hours, its never the same and we receive no benefits like holiday/sick pay either. We’re doing the best we can like everyone else to keep ourselves afloat.
    Our right to earn is being threatened and if they cut this, and we just accept it, who’s to say in a few months even more cuts are made… meaning that suddenly its no longer viable to continue. This isn’t only a money issue, its the right to be paid fairly.
    Due to the nature of our job every cut affects us greatly. This is our right to stand up (and do it together) to say we’re not ok with this. I will stand with my collegues strongly as this is unacceptable in my view. (Especially with no consultation whatsoever.)

    I don’t believe this is hush hush I’m sorry you feel that way. we’ll discuss this with anyone who wishes to join in! An approach taken together as interpreters & community members to say this is unfair and effects us all is always stronger than a divided one.

  11. Hi Everyone

    I am pleased that this article has created such great discussion.As I write this nearly 2000 have read the article. That’s pretty good considering that there are supposedly only 20,000.or so Auslan users in Australia.

    I am pretty sure that Anon … Whoever he/she is has received an education today. Nevertheless Anon .. like all of us … Is trying to make sense of this enormous change …

    We all need each other moving forward … Can I just say be kind to each other … There is a long road ahead.

    Much Love

  12. I agree, Gary. I think enough has been discussed and speculated about what my income may or may not be. I don’t know nor would I query Anon’s or anyone else’s wage unless they are obviously gouging a system in some way. That cannot be said of our industry. We contribute far more than we receive, when it is all said and done.

    What I would like to discuss is the current Rebuttal articles re: NABS. I appreciated the information that was laid out for everyone, right up to the part about “grumblings”. I then became of one of the people actually grumbling about the negative way we (interpreters) were portrayed. One word turned me from wanting to engage anymore.

    And then came the most recent piece “NDIS – Interpreters in the Crossfire”, which I must admit I almost didn’t read. Fortunately I did. I greatly appreciate the apology, along with the succinct, informative piece that should be the guide as to how we conduct ourselves into the future. A collaborative effort that is balanced and illuminating.

    So, in short, thanks Gary and the team at the Rebuttal.

    Leanne Beer

    • Thanks Lee Anne …my intent of the word grumbling was not the same as many interpreted .. but I should have known better … You’ll note I edited the word out but alas the damage had been done.

      But I am glad that you got value from the information. I hope in the long run it helps lead to positive and constructive change in the system that clearly needs to be reviewed as it is disadvantaging too many.

  13. If ‘anon – for fear of backlash’ bothered to be right across the issue, they would be aware that Deaf Australia and Vicdeaf have released open letters on the subject. Both these and other organisations likely to be effected are involved in consultations and are well and truly involved in ongoing discussions. I’m sorry nobody asked you specifically for your opinion but we have come to expect that you’ll eventually impose it by contributing something controversial. Yawn.

    Are you aware that one of NABS’s changes to conditions dictate that while interpreters are now only secured and payed (poorly) for one hour, they are not allowed to accept other work for a further hour with NABS or any other agency? Meaning that the interpreters availability and ability to provide service and earn is further reduced? So while an interpreter finishes your medical appointment at 2.00pm they have to decline your follow up pathology testing in a suburb 10 mins away because it occurs within the following hour. What a frustrating waste of resources.

    Once you receive your NDIS bucket of money and are able to attend all the appointments and various personal gatherings your heart desires, you’ll then perhaps realise there just aren’t enough interpreters to manage the increased demand. I just hope you haven’t pissed off your interpreter family members and friends too much because they are who you’ll be turning to when no one else will work with you because everyone is so fed up with you laying the boots into them! And if anyone can be accused of “creating a great divide between hearing and Deaf communities” you don’t need to look further than some of the stuff you’ve previously contributed.

    The most offensive thing you’ve suggested is that interpreters should be committed, give back to the community. They are. They do. They do so in the hundreds of hours of voluntary work they offer, the PD they attend and the Deaf events they support. To suggest interpreters are only in it for the money and living the good life on the money made from the Deaf community is a lame argument and one you’ve previously put forward. It’s tiring and unhelpful to continue it. I ask you to think back to every single minute of free interpreting you’ve enjoyed thanks to your signing friends or interpreters who have volunteered at events you’ve attended because this is how they give back to the community. You’ve just taken it for granted because of you’re ‘what about ME?!’ attitude. If you do understand how it is for interpreters, then you would never have written your response chastising interpreters for complaining about the good wicket their on. You would be supporting them to be recognised and valued by NABS, not agreeing that they deserve lesser payment for the same work they’ve been doing pre 1/7/16 and worse working conditions.

    Some people just contribute opinions. Others work their arses off with injuries and no hope of long service or sick leave, a holiday, ever owning their own home or being able to retire with enough Super to sustain them. These same individuals, let’s call them “interpreters”, work WITH their community and pay 3 times the taxes to keep some people busy at home blogging at their computers in between travel.

    Please do let us know when you have something meaningful, helpful, positive and informed to contribute. Or just something nice or pleasant. It’s all just whinging with you. I shall not hold my breath.

  14. Oh Anon Backlash. You try hiring a locksmith and see how far $50 dollars gets you. Or a plumber. Locks and Toilets are something that everybody needs but I don’t see you raging about the pay for those professions. Interpreters are independent professionals doing a professional job in a field that is required. If anything we are not paid enough. You might be butthurt and thinking that we are sponging of Deaf earning some mega wage but that’s simply not the case. It’s just not true. We chose this field not for the dollars. Anyone going into interpreting knows it’s not for the money. Terping is not an earner, for the same effort you could be qualified in a field that pays much much more. We do it for our community. But living ain’t free. If you want to see us not earn a living wage for what we do feel free to bring a hearing buddy that knows a bit of sign for your next physio or Gp appointment. Maybe an wide eyed, keen to help, Auslan student would be right for you and your needs. But if you want a professional service then professional rates need to be paid for sustainability of the profession. You get what you pay for. You’re opinion is ill advised.

  15. Further to andwilt1965, yes agreed. It is impossible for a freelance interpreter to work 9-5/5 days a week. Not just because of the need to travel between assignments but because physically it’s just not possible. Interpreters are flesh and blood. They are thinking, feeling, emotional beings and OHS, which includes vicarious trauma is a real concern. ‘Anon – for fear . . .’ might be holding out for a plug in robo-interpreter that can be kept in a cupboard at home and dragged out whenever needed. And better still, it won’t need to be paid! Not sure whether it would smile, express warmth, laugh with you, engage in waiting room conversation, feel genuine empathy, effectively advocate, be capable of developing an important trusted relationship with you and your practitioner, walk with you to the tram stop or gladly call you a taxi afterwards. Surely, THAT deluxe model would cost you WAY more than you’re prepared to pay. Best you order the ‘Screw You 101’ model when they eventually hit the market. You get what you pay for.

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