This procedure relates to the use of interpreter and translation services in youth justice practice and in court proceedings.


When to use this procedure

When a young person has limited understanding of, or does not speak English, or is hearing impaired.


What else you need to know


Practice context and legislation

  • The decision-making principles of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 emphasise that children, families and other people involved in planning or decision-making processes should be provided with an interpreter, if necessary, to allow them to participate fully in the process.
  • In order to promote compliance with youth justice orders, the young person must have a clear understanding of their order and their rights and responsibilities.
  • The information imparted by youth justice workers must be delivered in a mode and manner that is easily understood. The use of a language service may be necessary to assist people with limited understanding of, or who do not speak, English, or are hearing impaired.
  • The sensitive and complex nature of information requested and imparted by youth justice makes it necessary to ensure all terms, definitions, explanations, descriptions, requirements and expectations are understood and unambiguous.
  • The role of the interpreter is to interpret exactly what is being said between the youth justice worker and the young person, family member and/or other community professionals involved in the case.

Roles and key tasks

Youth justice case manager

  • Provide case management and supervision. Liaise with language services when required.

Team leader / team manager

  • Provide consultation and supervision to case manager.
  • Liaise with language services when required.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program.
  • Provide case consultation.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide case consultation in relation to court recommendations, breaches and particularly for high-risk young people. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support and the Senior Practice Advisor.

The procedure in detail

When to use language services

In every instance where there is any doubt as to whether a young person (and/or family) can communicate effectively in English, and understand the information provided to them, youth justice workers must:

  • provide information about language services
  • encourage the young person and their family to use appropriate language services
  • support access to language services
  • organise payment for language services.

Identifying the young person’s language

It is important to check the preferred language and dialect of the young person prior to booking an interpreter, as there are many languages that have more than one dialect.

Country of birth is often not an indication of the young person’s preferred language.

Advance notice

If possible, book a language service well in advance. This is particularly important if an interpreter is required for a language with a limited number of interpreters.

Using a telephone service is likely to reduce the amount of notice required.

Information sharing and consent

When initiating the use of a language service, disclose only the crucial information to the interpreter in accordance with privacy requirements.

In the initial contact between the young person, youth justice and the interpreter, formal consent from the young person needs to be obtained and recorded in the young person’s file using the 'Consent for release of information' form. Refer to the procedure for 'Privacy and information exchange' for more information.

If any concerns arise (such as the interpreter knowing the young person, the interpreter taking over the interview, or a confusion of roles), conclude the interview and consult with your team leader.

Refusal to use an interpreter

Young people may sometimes refuse to use an interpreter. This may relate to concerns about confidentiality and privacy.

If this occurs, make attempts to explore the reason for the refusal with the young person via a telephone interpreter, family members or friend.

Explain the possible consequences of not using a professional interpreter, and if possible, communicate without an interpreter for a period and then reassess the situation.

Avoid having family members, friends or non-accredited interpreters translate detailed and sensitive information. People under 18 years of age are not to be called upon to interpret.

If the young person continues to refuse to use an interpreter, record this in the young person’s file on the Client Relationship Information System (CRIS) and review at a later stage.

Interpreters and court

Section 526 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 makes provision for interpreters to be used during court proceedings to ensure the young person understands.

It is not the responsibility of youth justice to engage an interpreter in these instances. However, youth justice must advise the court if the young person is known to experience difficulty in understanding English.

Assist court proceedings by encouraging the young person to use an interpreter during court proceedings.

Available services

Ensure you obtain language services from an accredited telephone interpreter or translator of written material.

Victorian Interpreting and Translating Services is the department’s provider for language services and should be used in all cases unless VITS are unable to provide the service.

Language services are paid for through either credit lines or by invoice. Departmental areas delivering child protection, youth justice and secure services will pay for services from local budgets and will be separately invoiced.

For more information, refer to the 'Language services access guide'.

Using interpreters

There are some general techniques that can help when using interpreters:

  • Talk directly to the person to whom you are speaking, rather than to the interpreter.
  • Talk in a normal tone and manner.
  • Speak in the first person and avoid using jargon.
  • Think about the structure of the information to be covered.
  • Use short sentences to allow the interpreter to translate accurately.
  • Check that what is being said is clearly and properly understood (by the interpreter and the young person).
  • Be aware that cultural differences may mean that something that is said could be understood differently.

Translating reports

The process of translating written documents such as court or progress reports can take time to complete. Factor this into preparation planning.

Cultural sensitivity

Take into consideration a young person’s specific needs in relation to gender, culture, emotional state and environmental sensitivities before using language services.

If the content of the discussion is likely to culturally sensitive, meet with the interpreter before the interview to develop an approach and allow the interpreter to raise any concerns they might have.

Check with the young person before the interview to ensure they are comfortable with the choice of interpreter.

Payment for interpreter and translation services

Once the young person is deemed to be supervised by youth justice, payment for the use of language services is funded through the youth justice budget in each area/division.

This includes young people on deferral of sentencing or supervised bail.

The court is responsible for payment when a service is required to prepare a court ordered pre-sentence report.

Non-professional interpreters

Avoid using non-professional interpreters such as family and friends due to:

  • potential breaches of confidentiality
  • limited language competency
  • possible misinterpretation
  • conflict of interest
  • potential for loss of objectivity
  • conflict of roles.

CRIS recording

Use of interpreters is recorded on CRIS in the young person’s profile under demographics.