Supreme Court of New South Wales

Interpreters and translators

The right to an interpreter

An interpreter may be needed in court when a person involved in court proceedings:

  • needs help to understand English
  • has a hearing impariment and communicates using sign language (Auslan).

All people involved in a court matter have a right to have an interpreter on the days they are in court.

  • ​How to book an interpreter​
  • When can you get a court interpreter free of charge?​
  • When is there a cost for a court interpreter?
  • What is the interpreter's role?
  • Translation services
  • Telephone interpreting​

  • How do you book an interpreter​

    The process of booking an interpreter will depend on whether the person applying is:

    • entitled to an interpreter free of charge, in which case the Registry will book it
    • not entitled to a free interpreter, in which case they will need to book the interpreter themself (or with help from a friend or representative).

    When can you get a cour​t interpreter free of charge?​​

    There is no fee for an interpreter to assist defendants in a criminal matters. Professional interpreters are provided by the Languag​e Services​ division of Multicultural NSW, which provides interpreting and translation of 100 dialects and languages, including Auslan.

    Booking a free interpreter in a criminal matter

    The defendant's legal representative will need to contact the registry as soon as a court date is set. The booking needs to be made by contacting the Criminal registry.

    When is there a cost for a court interpreter?

    If you are involved in a civil matter, you will need to pay for your own interpreter. If your claim succeeds, you can seek reimbursement from the other party when costs are determined. If you cannot afford an interpreter, you may be asked to take a means test to see if you qualify to have an interpreter provided free of change.

    Booking an interpreter in a civil case

    Contact the Languages Services Division of Multicultural NSW on 1300 651 500 to discuss your needs. The call line is open 24 hours a day.

    Sydney Office
    Level 8
    175 Castlereagh St
    Sydney NSW 2000
    P.O. Box A2618
    Sydney South NSW 1235

    Tel: (02) 8255 6767
    FAX: (02) 8255 6868
    TTY: (02) 8255 6758

    Bookings for the Division's interpreter and translator services may be made:

    • in person at any of the Division's offices (Sydney office hours Monday to Friday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm)
    • by telephoning the Division on 1300 651 500 for the cost of a local call.

    Existing customers of the Division are now also able to book interpreting services online via 'LanguageLink' secure booking system. If you are interested in obtaining access to this facility, please contact the Division using details provided above.

    Find out more about:

    What is the interpreter's role?

    The interpreter's job is to interpret exactly what is said from one language to another so that people can understand what is being said and participate in the court, tribunal or alternative dispute proceedings. Interpreters can help you communicate with and understand what the other people are saying.

    The interpreter should:

    • only interpret the exact words and sentences each person uses
    • be impartial, which means they cannot help you or the other party
    • when you are seeking legal information or advice, keep everything that is said confidential.

    The interpreter should not:

    • add or take away anything from what is said
    • provide advice or give opinions.

    Division 3 of Part 31 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 sets out the rules concerning interpreters based on the Model Rules set out in the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals that was prepared by the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity. Both the party requiring the assistance of an interpreter and the interpreter themselves must be cognisant of and will need to comply with these rules.

    Translation services

    If you need documents or affidavits translated for a court matter, then contact Language Services of the Community Relations Commission.

    It provides translation services in dozens of languages. There is a minimum fee for translation of a standard document, such as birth, death or marriage certificates. Other documents can cost more to translate.

    The Department of Immigration and Citizenship provides a free translation service for people settling permanently in Australia. It translates particular documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, free of charge for permanent visa holders, provisional partner visa holders and returning Australian citizens. This translating service is only available for eligible non-English speakers in the first two years after entry to Australia. It is not available to the general public.

    Telephone interpreting​

    The Translating and Interpreting Service is a free and confidential interpreting service for non-English speakers. Contact the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450. Give them the telephone number you need to phone and they will put through the call on your behalf and interpret as you speak to the other person. For more information about language assistance.

    Information alert
    National Relay Service

    The National Relay Service is for people with hearing or speech-impairments. If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment, contact us through the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.

    Last updated:

    14 Sep 2023

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