Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Interpreting in Australia

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The United Nations recognises the right to speak one’s own language as a human right. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, interpreting has been an essential part of communicating across language and cultural groups since time immemorial.

More recently, because of colonisation, passionate and talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocates have fought for their rights to understand and be heard in their own languages by establishing interpreting as an industry and profession for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In this lecture, you will hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interpreting in Australia – both its history, as well as what is happening currently in the industry. You will hear about the kind of work that interpreters do, the breadth of languages and geographies that interpreters cover, and the unique conditions many of them work in. You will also hear about how the Aboriginal Interpreting Service Northern Territory (AISNT) supports their interpreters and NAATI’s efforts to get as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language interpreters certified as possible.


Dr Curtis Roman is a Larrakia man born and raised on Larrakia country. He is the Senior Director at the Aboriginal Interpreter Service, NT Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet.

Before commencing in this position, Dr Roman was an academic at Charles Darwin University where he was employed as a lecturer, senior lecturer and head of school. He has published papers in academic journals in Australia and overseas on a range of Aboriginal topics.

Dr Roman is the first Aboriginal man to complete a PhD at CDU. He is currently an Adjunct Fellow at CDU and continues to supervise PhD students doing research on Aboriginal topics.

Lavinia is a Luritja/Pintupi woman from a small community three hours north-west of Alice Springs called Papunya. Papunya is where she spent her early years speaking Luritja/Pintupi and learning and living her culture.

Both of Lavinia’s parents were linguists, and she was fortunate to observe and learn from her parents who did translating and interpreting work, thinking: ‘wow, I want to be able to do what my parents do one day’.

Lavinia is a NAATI certified Luritja/Pintupi interpreter. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in General Studies in Education from the Queensland University of Technology. Lavinia currently working as a Project Officer at NAATI on the Indigenous Interpreting Project. The main aim of the project is to get as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language interpreters certified as possible.

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