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How to become an Auslan interpreter

Auslan Interpreters are highly sought after

Over the last 18 months, Auslan Interpreters have been in the media every day, updating our Deaf and hard of hearing community with critical information. So  how do you get to become a qualified Auslan interpreter? We'll show you how to start and where you can land in your career here.

You may have a connection with the Deaf community, learned Auslan at school, or have seen the interpreters working at the press conferences during the bushfires and the pandemic.

Something sparked your interest and you want to study towards a rewarding career that facilitates communication between the Deaf and hearing communities

There are a few steps involved in becoming an Auslan interpreter – firstly, becoming proficient in the language, on to studying interpreting skills and passing a professional certification exam.

How do I study Auslan?

Studying the language itself is the first step, Melbourne Polytechnic offers the only accredited pathway to learn Auslan in Victoria with Certificate II, III, IV and Diploma level courses. These courses teach signing skills as well as cultural and historical knowledge of the Deaf community, at both the Prahran and Preston campuses.

Auslan Lead Teacher Wendy Devlin says students begin their Auslan learning with the Certificate II of Auslan PSP20218. There are no prerequisites, however it’s helpful to do a short course such as those offered by Expression Australia, to get started with the basics.

‘Students will mostly start off at Certificate II of Auslan PSP20218, and sometimes they can jump depending on their background experiences or their family. Maybe they're already involved in the Deaf community, so they can get Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and potentially move to a higher certificate,’ Wendy says.

Students who apply to start the Certificate III in Auslan PSP30218 may be eligible for Jobtrainer.

Full time or part time?

Studying full-time, the pathway through to the end of the Diploma takes two years, with each course taking six months / one semester. Part-time is four years.

After completing the Diploma of Auslan PSP51018, students can continue their practice by becoming more involved in the Deaf community, working with a Deaf organisation, and volunteering to building more confidence, skills and fluency.

The next step is to study the Diploma of Interpreting (LOTE-English) which is offered at RMIT.

What career path can I take?

The final step is to take the exam by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) which provides different levels of certification for professional interpreter.

That accreditation opens up a wide range of opportunities for work.

‘Media conferences aside, interpreters work where Deaf people go in every walk of life,’ Wendy says.

They are able to interpret for everyday situations such as medical and personal appointments, in the theatre and entertainment, at all levels of education from primary through to university, in person or on phone or video calls.

‘Any professional job or space that a Deaf person participates in, an interpreter is able work in that space,’ Wendy says. ‘That's where interpreters will be, if a Deaf person is participating in some kind of dialogue or needing access to information then interpreters will be there.’

Is there NDIS Funding?

The NDIS has granted greater access too, with people able to book an interpreter and use NDIS funding instead of their own money.

Interpreters can work freelance or through an agency, and some industries such as education, have their own in-house interpreter working full time.

How much work is there?

‘In terms of employment opportunities, you can work with a number of major agencies, but there is an abundance of work available. Auslan interpreters require a high skill level and the industry itself is currently at a shortage in contrast to its high demand. There is a lot of work.’

Wendy says being an Auslan interpreter is a good career for ‘people that have a passion for language, people who have got a passion for engaging with the Deaf community specifically, people who are allies to the Deaf community, and that have got a good heart and good attitude’

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