Foundation House , Sunshine , Australia , RMIT, Melbourne , Australia
The role of interpreting is pivotal in both listening to and understanding the narratives of people from refugee backgrounds when language barriers are evident. Effective trauma counselling and advocacy in this sector necessitates clear communication from the practitioner and often relies heavily on interpreting. However, interpreting is arguably far more than a communication tool involving the transmission of words. In the therapeutic context there are nuances, metaphor and meaning that hinge on the interpreter and in turn shape the content of sessions.
This presentation from a counsellor/ advocate seeks to make the implicit process of therapeutic work explicit. It is based on conversations that have developed over time and is a critical reflection on practice. The work is essentially participatory action research aiming to unpack the complexities of refugee trauma counselling alongside interpreters and considers some of the deeper stories shared. Verbatim interpreting and translation is acknowledged as critical particularly with processes such as protection claims, departmental interviews and the like.
To illustrate ideas, the speakers pair current literature with professional experiences. Core questions are: What are key ingredients to effective collaboration between counsellor and interpreter, in service of the client? In which ways can safety and equality be established and maintained in a three-way dialogue?
Some of the challenges identified include power dynamics and the mechanisms behind interpreting. E.g. ultimately the counsellor does not likely know what is being said word for word and in that respect interpreters hold power and responsibility. Additionally, interpreters are often from refugee backgrounds themselves and this may naturally impact them when hearing accounts from survivors of human rights violations. Emphasis will be on consultation with clients and interpreters, critical thinking and reflection. A more nuanced understanding of the interpreter’s role and client narratives is suggested as well as a renewed focus on collaboration.