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Working in Parliamentary Settings

Posted on 14 March 2016

- By NABS/NICSS Interpreter, Amanda (Mandy) Dolejsi

As a Professional Auslan/English interpreter, living in Canberra has provided me with the opportunity to work in various political settings in both the ACT Legislative Assembly as well as the Federal Parliament.

My first exposure to federal politics was interpreting for the then Federal Minister's Disability Advisory Council during the International Year of People with a Disability in 1981, and since then I have had a keen interest in politics. Parliament is steeped in historical protocols and procedures that are strictly maintained and adhered to.

I have worked in a wide range of settings including: interpreting Question Time in the House of Representatives; interpreting evidence to Senate Standing Committees and Committees of Inquiry where your interpretation is recorded in both Hansard and on video; interpreting the Valedictory Speeches of retiring Senators and MPs; interpreting the National 'Sorry' Speech for Children of Forced Adoptions; educational and public tours and meetings with Members of Parliament and Senators.

Most recently I was interpreting for an overseas delegation of dignitaries who had been invited to attend Question Time in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. As these dignitaries were also Members of Parliament in their country of origin, they were invited to observe proceeding from 'the floor' in both Chambers. Approval was sought from the President of the Senate and the Presiding Officer in the House of Reps and I believe that this was the first time that an Auslan Interpreter was actually present on 'the floor' of our Federal Parliament.

On 23rd September 2015 ACT Member of the Legislative Assembly, Nicole Lawder, moved a motion in the Assembly for an amendment to Standing Order 210 regarding the presence of strangers on the floor of the Assembly. Ms Lawder sought the amendment to allow appropriately qualified Auslan Interpreters to be present on the floor of the Assembly without needing to seek special permission from the Assembly to do so. The motion was later passed unanimously and the ACT became the first parliament in Australia to formally allow the presence of Auslan Interpreters as a matter of proceedure.

I am hoping that it won't be too long before Auslan/English Interpreter's find themselves interpreting 'on the floor' of various Parliaments more often.

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