An update on community engagement around NZSL interpreter standards

We at the NZSL Board understand there are long-standing NZSL interpreter workforce issues, so we engaged in community consultation to prioritise the work we need to do to promote and increase the ease of access to NZSL in New Zealand.
  • The Board met with members of the Deaf community, NZSL interpreters and organisations at local Deaf clubs, in-person and online and we will continue to work with stakeholders to gain their feedback. 

  • In the consultations it came through clearly that interpreters are valued and that it is highly skilled work. The Board recognises interpreters for their work and will continue to work to support and enhance the workforce.  

  • The issues raised in the consultation are not new. They represent a range of long-term challenges, which provided us with valuable information on how we should prioritise these issues during the transition to the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) system. 

  • During the consultations, the Board explained why the decision was made to adopt the NAATI system of interpreter standards and associated certification for those interpreting in the New Zealand Public Sector from 1 July 2024, and what the system would look like. 

  • The Board was considering the use of a Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI) assessment for overseas qualified interpreters applying for NAATI but after consultation with an expert advisory group with representatives from AUT, SLIANZ, Victoria University of Wellington and SLPI members, the board has decided not to use the SLPI assessments. NAATI has a testing process for NZSL interpreters, this should assess the interpreter’s use of NZSL, meaning the SLPI is not necessary. 

  • Concerns have been raised that there is no place for the people working as unqualified NZSL interpreters (‘communicators’) in the NAATI system. 

  • Rural and regional users of NZSL Interpreters described how it can be incredibly difficult or impossible to get a qualified NZSL interpreter when needed. These communities are reliant on communicators.
  • While there is no decision on what to do with communicators in the NAATI system, it will be carefully considered and reviewed at the November board meeting.

  • Currently, there is only one place to study to become a NZSL Interpreter and not everyone is able to move to Auckland to study for three years. We recognise this and will keep exploring options. 

  • The need to support and develop Trilingual interpreters was raised as a priority. The community also acknowledges the need to raise the base level of te Reo and te Ao Māori for all interpreters. 

  • The community raised the role and use of Deaf interpreters and their ability to gain qualifications and register with NAATI. 

  • The need for regular professional development opportunities that can be accessed by interpreters across the country was raised as a priority.  

  • As was the need for an independent and accessible complaints process. 

  • From here, a full summary of the findings from the community and stakeholder engagement sessions will be released in early October.  The same information will be discussed at the Interpreter Stakeholder meeting in October, to make recommendations for the NZSL Board in November 2023.
  • For more information, the NZSL Board website has a FAQ page that answers some questions, gives guidance about NAATI and has links to useful websites. 

  • The NZSL Board would like to thank everyone who participated in this consultation process and look forward to prioritising these issues and starting to work through them where we can. 

  • If you are a NZSL Interpreter, we encourage you to register for RPI now, before 1st July 2024.

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