Kiwirrkurra, Australia. The citizens of Australia recently awoke to the unpleasant reality that many of its native citizens may be incarcerated for crimes they did not commit and that their right to fair trials have not included translators that are able to help clarify what the accused native Australians are saying in court.
The interpreters and the Aboriginal Legal Service have called on the Western Australian government to reinstate funding for the state’s only Indigenous language interpreting service in the wake of the wrongful conviction of an Aboriginal man.
Dee Lightfoot, chief executive of Kimberley Interpreting Service (KIS), the only Aboriginal-language interpreting service operating in the western part of Australia, said she hoped the ruling would spark the McGowan government to renew state funding for the service, which had been cut back in 2014.
Interpreters were being funded by the federal and western Australian governments until the previous agreement expired in 2014. The federal government continued to contribute about $400,000 a year but state funding of $200,000 a year was not renewed.
Aboriginal affairs minister, Ben Wyatt, spoke in support of the service while in opposition, “Without that interpretive service, Aboriginal people not understanding what’s happening to them in the justice system, we see trials fall over, we see police investigations critiqued by judges.” he said.
The Police in western Australia were ordered to review its policies and practices around providing interpreters and interviewing Aboriginal witnesses in 2015, after a Corruption and Crime Commission investigation into the Gibson case. Where an Aborigine citizen spent five years in jail for a crime he was innocent of.
In the wake of recent allegations, five officers were relieved of duty and disciplined following the investigation but have since contested the action taken against them by regional police authorities. The matter will now go to a hearing for further review.