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Interpreting service to help ethnic communities

22 June 2002 Media Statement

New interpreting service to help ethnic communities

The government is to introduce a new telephone interpreting service to allow better communication between New Zealand’s growing ethnic community and key government departments.

Speaking today to the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils in Manukau City, Prime Minister Helen Clark said the $900,000 service would be free to users and is scheduled for introduction in the first half of next year.

The scheme will link staff at the Ministry of Social Development, including Work and Income, Accident Compensation, the Police, Immigration Service, Housing New Zealand and Internal Affairs including the Identity Services, Ethnic Affairs, and the Community Development Group, with professional interpreters to support clients with few English language skills.

“New Zealand’s ethnic communities are diverse and growing. Ten per cent of respondents to the 2001 Census describing themselves as belonging to an ethnic group other than of Maori, Pacific Island or European origin,” Helen Clark said.

“It is important that all New Zealanders can access the services provided by central government. The interpreting service will be of great assistance to new New Zealanders who can experience difficulties with the English language.”

Ethnic Affairs Minister George Hawkins said the scheme would initially operate for twelve months and start with around ten languages. Discussions had taken place and were continuing within various ethnic communities on the details of the programme and to determine which languages would feature in the pilot, Mr Hawkins said.


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