6. Interpreter ethics versus customary law

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This is is an exploration of the tensions between interpreting ethics and customary law distilled from interviews with interpreters in Aboriginal languages as part of research commissioned by the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2006). While accuracy, impartiality and confidentiality are key principles in interpreting ethics, it was found that for Australian Indigenous interpreters each of these principles may be seriously compromised in practice by rules of customary law. Suggested strategies for resolving potential conflict between interpreting ethics and customary law include: Indigenous communities requiring public education about the interpreter’s role; health and legal professionals undertaking cultural awareness training; requiring use of trained and accredited interpreters; and an expanded role for interpreters to occasionally act as cultural broker.


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