How to access free translating and interpreting services in Australia

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More than one-fifth (21 per cent) of Australians spoke a language other than English at home. So it's important to know that you can access free interpreting and translating services in Australia

Free interpreting through TIS National

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is available all over Australia for people who don’t speak English and need to communicate with an agency or a business.

How does it work?

They are open 24/7 - every day of the year. The easiest way to contact them is by phone on 131 150.  They offer immediate telephone interpreting, on-site interpreting and pre-booked phone interpreting.

Many organisations are registered with TIS and cover the cost of the interpreting. For example, you can use them during an appointment at the doctor, to ask questions to a pharmacist or to have a chat with your phone company. If the organisation you want to talk to is not registered with TIS, you’ll have the option to pay for the service yourself.

When you call TIS, they’ll ask what your language is, connect you to an interpreter and connect the call to the person or organisation you need to talk to.

You’ll be assigned the most qualified interpreter. But you can request a specific gender for sensitive situations, like a visit to the doctor.

Woman on the phone
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TIS Multilingual

TIS interpreters speak 160 languages and can assist you on the phone. If you want to have more information before calling, The TIS National website is available in 19 languages, here

Why an interpreter is important

Many people rely on relatives as interpreters, but it’s not recommended. They are not professional so their translation might not be accurate and they can withhold information so as not to hurt your feelings or because they’re uncomfortable.


Free translating through the Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services offers up to 10 eligible documents translated into English for people settling permanently in Australia. They are doing it to encourage employment, education and community engagement.

Free Translating Service
Department of Social Services

Who is eligible?

It’s available to permanent residents and certain temporary and provisional visa holders within the first two years of their visa grant date.

What documents can I have translated?

The documents need to be used for settlement purposes, and not when you apply for a visa.

  • Identity documents (Birth certificate, marriage certificate, certificate of change of name, etc.)
  • Facilitation documents (Driver’s license, police clearance, medical documents, etc.)
  • Education documents (Academic transcripts, school certificates, etc.)
  • Employment-related documents (Employment references, employment contracts, professional certificates, etc.)

You can find out more about who is eligible, what documents are eligible and how to have your documents translated here

Paying for the services of a translator of an interpreter

If you need more documents translated or documents that are not eligible, you can hire a translator.

Make sure your translator is accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). You can find a translator on NAATIS’s website, or use their verification tool to check if your translator is accredited.

Useful links

TIS National 

TIS Multilingual

Free translating service by the Department of Social Services 



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