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Congress Rental is supporting interpreters and state agencies to improve working conditions within courts across Australia.

interpreting equipment being used in courtroom

Interpretation in courts across Australia currently takes the form of chuchotage. This is a traditional method by which the interpreter stands or sits with typically one individual and whispers simultaneous interpretation of what is currently being said. This form of interpretation is known to have many disadvantages, not least in already difficult working conditions.

With the addition of portable interpreting equipment, specifically a purpose-built whisper system, the multilingual court process is significantly improved. This small system allows the interpreter to speak into a handsfree microphone headset connected to a wireless transmitter, while any listeners use headphones plugged into a wireless receiver to hear the interpretation. The transmission is digital, meaning audio is crystal clear, interference-free and secure.

Recently, Congress Rental collaborated with Multicultural NSW to demonstrate this technology in an active trial scenario. Professor Ludmila Stern from the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales was granted access to observe the demonstration and shared the immediate benefits from using the system:

  • Improved quality due to the equipment making complete interpretation possible with no summarisation or omission.

  • Improved ergonomics for the interpreters, comfortable sitting with no body contortion.

  • Added ability for interpreters to sit anywhere in the courtroom, allowing them to have working materials laid out in front of them.

  • Added ability for interpreters to social distance from other people in the courtroom.

  • Reduced level of fatigue due to the simplified process.

  • No association, real or perceived, between the defendant and interpreter.

  • No ability for the defendant to engage in an aside with the interpreter which can reflect badly on them.

  • Proceedings run more smoothly with fewer interruptions or break requests by the interpreter due to fatigue.

  • Greater ability to transmit a uniform message in a trial with several defendants.

The equipment is light, easy to carry, portable, facilitates clear digital audio, enables wireless communication from dual transmitters to countless receivers, and can be expanded to operate on 99 channels concurrently. Finally, each unit comes complete with a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 10 hours and is easily charged via the carry case.

This technology has an expanding list of benefits and minimal risks. It is clear the implementation of digital whisper equipment into Australian courtrooms and a shift away from chuchotage are recognised as the required standards for court interpreting.

We would like to thank Silvia Martinez, Professor Ludmila Stern and Professor Sandra Hale from University of New South Wales, Dr Erika Gonzalez from RMIT University and Multicultural NSW for this joint effort to improve working conditions of court interpreters across Australia.


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