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The New Interpreter

“The New Interpreter”

By Lauren Briigmann

Auslan Connections Booking Officer, Access Training & Education Certificate IV in Auslan student and future Auslan Interpreter

I was fortunate to be able to attend the ASLIA National Conference in September this year. Even more fortunate, in that I am not yet an accredited Auslan interpreter. The conference centred itself around the theme “Partners in Practice”. My introduction to the weekend was the J W Flynn oration by Susan Emerson. Susan’s history and involvement in the Deaf community reads like an impressive resume. From a family of 8 generations of Deafness and hard of hearing, thirty-two years of interpreting experience and fluent in multiple sign languages, Susan’s career left me reeling.

Like Susan, many of the attendees at ANC 2018 are pioneers of the Auslan-English interpreting field. Between sessions, I was introduced to the mentors of my mentors, interpreters with decades of experience and deep entrenchment in the world of Auslan interpreting. I found myself searching for my role in this industry, after all, what could be left to do in this world with so many giants?

Over the next two days, I found that the conference kept me looking forwards to the future. Social and cultural elements are constantly changing the landscape of the industry; the roll-out of NDIS nationally has uprooted traditional expectations of demand, service delivery has gone digital, and more academic research papers are published every year. In particular, Kirri Dangerfield represented the brilliant union of expertise, as a PhD candidate with accreditation as an interpreter. I was enthralled to hear about Kirri’s findings and the practical implications on interpreter teamwork. I realised the future of research into Deaf issues is an avenue with limitless potential. Danielle Ferndale, Mark Cave, and Neil Wood spoke about their development of Deaf mental health first aid – a trail blazing Australian project that takes a culturally appropriate approach to working collaboratively with the Deaf community to tackle mental health issues.

I slowly began to understand that ANC is an opportunity not only to discuss our shared language, but also to explore the role of interpreters extending across multiple professions. This influence is growing and branching out. Interpreters are working in the boardroom, in lab groups, the family table, on stage and in online spaces.

Pioneers in the industry, like Susan and so many others who presented over the weekend, are deeply impressive. They laid down foundations that support us still and shaped the profession into how it looks today. Susan Emerson showed us what partnership looked like when she began to work as a professional. However 35 years of advocacy has created irrevocable change. There are new challenges to address and roads to explore. As the conference wrapped up on Sunday, I had begun to think about what partnerships will look like for the new interpreter.

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