Common law does not require people are given access to an interpreter but legal cases show that use of interpreters does not always lead to an accurate and fair presentation of evidence in court. This is especially problematic for Indigenous Australians who speak diverse languages that don’t necessarily translate well through the mouths of a poorly trained interpreter.
Social science researchers already challenge the criminal justice system which disproportionately incarcerates Indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australians. In the Northern Territory, Indigenous Australians make up 86% of prisoners. In many cases they are jailed for drug offences or petty crimes like driving without a licence (though without reckless endangerment) in remote areas where there is no adequate public transport or access to nearby social services.
Lack of universal access to quality interpreters is just one way to make the criminal justice system less unfair, though working to eliminate unnecessary policing of Indigenous Australians requires broader social reforms.
Art by Adnate in Melbourne. Photo by Zuleyka Zevallos