Interpreters scarred by traumatic assignments (captioned) – SBS World News


Interpreters help keep the wheels of
justice turning in Australia. Relating accounts of horrific sexual abuse
and torture to police, and translating for murder suspects
at trials. But the confronting nature of their job
takes a personal toll. A survey has found a worrying number are
now refusing to accept traumatic assignments. Reporter: Accounting terrorism raid, tense, sometimes chaotic scenes,
where interpreters are called to serve. Turkish migrant, Sedat Mulaylm is an
interpreter with 20 years experience. His police work has exposed him to the
trauma experienced by victims of crime, and brought him face to face
with alleged murderers. Mr Mulaylm: He was covered in blood,
scratches, he was still shaking and he was
incoherent… And I can still remember, you know,
the smell of the blood. Reporter: Unlike the police officers
he works with, the father of two has no debrief before
heading home from stressful assignments. Mr Mulaylm: It’s very difficult
to switch off,
and you can’t tell people what you
have just experienced, I mean it’s a professional life. Reporter: A survey of more than 270
interpreters in Victoria have found that 78% have experienced
distress following an assignment involving traumatic material. 1 in 5 said the distress was so severe,
it reduced the quality of their performance. 16% said they felt a loss of interest in
interpreting, while 40% said they’d avoid such
assignments in the future. The survey was part of an RMIT University
study, co-authored by Dr Georgina Haydon. She says the results are alarming. Dr Haydon: That’s a catastrophic effect,
that could be the loss of access to
justice for a whole community. Reporter: Interpreters reported having
‘nowhere to turn’, saying ‘agencies don’t care’ about the
trauma, they’re too busy. State Government Departments often hire
interpreters through private agencies. Dr Haydon: If they’re engaging the
interpreters, even through an agency, we believe there’s a duty of care. Reporter: A spokesman for Victoria’s
Department of Justice and Regulation says ‘there’s not a universal approach with
regard to the engagement of contractors’ ‘The Department is not involved in the
engagement of contractors for the courts.’ Miranda Lai says she and other
interpreters could do a better job, if they were given briefs. Ms Lai: If you have a brief you will be
mentally and emotionally well prepared to go into your assignment. Reporter: Dr Haydon is calling
for the curriculum
on interpreter training courses
to be altered to put greater emphasis
on the impact on the job exposure to trauma
can have, and how affected interpreters
can get help. Phillippa Carisbrooke,
SBS World News. Subtitles by the Amara.org community

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