Translating and Interpreting Services

What if I don’t speak English very well?

  • You have a right to have an interpreter available, by phone or in person, during any health visit (in the hospital or at the doctor).

  • Please always ask for an interpreter if your don’t understand what is happening or what is being said.

  • Look for or show this symbol to your doctor or nurse so they can arrange an interpreter for you. interpreter-symbol

  • The Australian Government supports a translating and interpreting service called TIS National.

    • TIS National is free to access within most Australian hospitals, GPs and private doctors who provide medicare rebateable services (see Shifra’s Medicare section for more).
    • TIS National can provide an immediate telephone interpreting service.
    • TIS National have access to over 2 900 interpreters, who speak 180 languages and dialects.
    • TIS National telephone interpreters are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • TIS National can help in emergency situations from anywhere in Australia.
  • To use a TIS National interpreter call 13 14 50 and tell the operator which language you speak.

    • The operator will contact an interpreter in your language to help you.
    • If you need emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance), you can call “000” (“112” will also work on your mobile phone if you don’t have a signal).
    • If you have a caseworker they will show you how to use this service.
    • A doctor can also pre-book an on-site interpreter for you, if this is required.
    • Pharmacies can also use telephone interpreters to speak with you about medicines.
    • For more information, please visit: TIS National


  • Other translating and interpreting companies exist but they may charge you money for using their services.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect and courtesy at every visit, by every staff member.

You have a right to an interpreter and should not have to use a family member or friend to translate for you if you are not comfortable with this.

Medical staff should arrange for a professional interpreter for any consultations or meetings you have.

If you feel the interpreter is not translating properly or not treating you respectfully, you can complain to your health care provider (e.g. GP/nurse) and to TIS National on 13 14 50.