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Indigenous Australian Health and Cultures: Use of Interpreters 4

Indigenous Australian Health and Cultures: Use of Interpreters

Indigenous Australian Health and Cultures: Use of Interpreters

According to Thackrah & Scott, (2011) in order to implement cultural competency, the health care system should establish guidelines and strategies of achieving and monitoring standards of practice. This paper will address the issue of use of interpreters in health care in indigenous Australian Health and Cultures. In my view, the decision to use an interpreter should be determined by the patient’s request, the nature of illness as well as the consultation subject (Phillips, 2011). The command of English is also another aspect that should be considered since most indigenous Australians use English as their second language. Basically, interpreters should be availed in the following situations:

  • When patients require self-management with modification of medication, for instance insulin medications, asthma management approaches etc

  • In situations where issues of patient safety are involved, for example partners’ violence or risk of harm to self/others

  • Consultation where patient is not in a position to make decision without full information, for instance, treatment alternatives for severe illnesses and such (Phillips, 2011).

Below are the guidelines on how healthcare practitioners should work with interpreters:

  • The healthcare providers should be trained on how to work with interpreters and how to best work with them. Additionally, healthcare practitioners should be adequately informed on the role of the interpreters.

  • The healthcare provider is supposed to talk to the patient and not the interpreter where the interpreter is the part of the background and not the healthcare provider’s communication object. Additionally, the interpreter is supposed to use the first person when communicating the words of the patient (Phillips, 2011).

  • The healthcare provider should give the interpreter time to interpret and if necessary the interpreter should be provided with supporting health information

  • The patients should be matched with interpreters who understand the patients’ language, cultural practices, gender, age, religion, political conflicts, and country of origin (Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council’s, 2009).

In conclusion, the interpreters used should be professional and in the long run this can diminish communication and medical errors, raise patient understanding, enhance clinical outcomes, increases patient satisfaction, in addition to contributing to enhanced access to healthcare services.


Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council’s. (2009). Cultural Respect Framework For Aboriginal And Torres Strait Island Health. Queensland: Department of Health South Australia.

Phillips, C., 2011. Using Interpreters. Canberra: Australian National University.

Thackrah & Scott, (2011). Indigenous Australian Health and Cultures” outlined actions for cultural competency.