Role playing “Pumpkin”

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In September 2007 a three-year old Asian girl is found lost at city railway station in Melbourne, Australia. As police and child protection workers struggle to communicate with the child, they call an interpreter, guessing the girl – nicknamed “Pumpkin” – could be Chinese. Later, we find that the mother has been murdered by the father, who abandoned the girl; the father is eventually convicted. None of this is known at the time. In the Advanced Diploma of Translating and Interpreting at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, students engage in a role play with social work students on this scenario. It seems unpromising – interpreting for a three-year old? Yet of all the role plays that the students engage in, this raises perhaps the most intense debate and the most extensive investigation of role and responsibility. Using material from the students’ journals and reports, this paper looks at how issues of ethics and role are illuminated by such a situation, which seems to challenge standard codes of ethics.


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