Family violence and the role of the interpreter

Developing and implementing ethical guidelines for interpreters

Presenter: Jonathan Beagley

Interpreters are often called upon in times of need, whether it be in the courtroom, the doctor’s office or a police interview, and when it comes to family violence, the interpreter is by no means exempt. While questions of ethics and quality have been discussed by various practitioners and researchers[1] as well as the role of the translator/interpreter in violent conflict[2], family violence scenarios provide particular challenges to the interpreting process. Taylor and Putt’s study of family violence in Indigenous and CALD backgrounds in Australia proffers that there is “a need for appropriate interpreters when reporting sexual violence” [3]. Of particular importance to interpreters is that in the case of family violence, Chang et al. state that, “the manner in which they are asked is important”[4]. I will outline some of the main issues in familial conflict and violence in referring to literature on interpersonal violence and mental health, like Chang et al.’s caution above, before proposing a set of guidelines based on studies of ethics in interpreting research and the NZSTI Code of Ethics, the goal of which is to increase awareness of family violence for interpreters and to help them subsequently navigate the unique challenges of interpreting family conflict.

Jonathan BeagleyAbout the Presenter
Jonathan Beagley is currently a student in the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies at Monash University. He is an aspiring interpreter and hopes to continue research in interpreting in order to inform his practice. He has lived and studied in the US, France and Australia and plans to work in Melbourne as a professional interpreter upon graduation.


[1] Uldis Ozolins and Sandra Hale, “Quality in Interpreting: A Shared Responsibility,” The Critical Link 5 (2009); Uldis Ozolins, “Descriptions of Interpreting and Their Ethical Consequences,” FITISPos International Journal 1, no. 1 (2014): 23–41; Sandra Beatriz Hale, Interpreter Policies, Practices and Protocols in Australian Courts and Tribunals: A National Survey (Melbourne: Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration Incorporated, 2011).
[2] Moira Inghilleri and Sue-Ann Harding, “Translating Violent Conflict,” The Translator 16, no. 2 (2010): 165–73, doi:10.1080/13556509.2010.10799467; Maria Tymoczko, “Translation, Ethics and Ideology in a Violent Globalizing World,” in Globalization, Political Violence and Translation, ed. Esperanza Bielsa and Christopher W. Hughes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 171–94.
[3] Natalie Taylor, Judy Putt, and Australian Institute of Criminology, Adult Sexual Violence in Indigenous and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in Australia (Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2007),
[4] Judy C. Chang et al., “Asking about Intimate Partner Violence: Advice from Female Survivors to Health Care Providers,” Patient Education and Counseling 59, no. 2 (November 2005): 141–47, doi:10.1016/j.pec.2004.10.008.