The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) is the national peak organisation representing the rights and interests of people from non-English speaking background (NESB) with disability, their families and carers throughout Australia.

“NEDA congratulates the Gillard Government on its initiative to make interpreting services available to help older people from non-English speaking backgrounds communicate on health and aged care matters,” states NEDA president Juan de la Torre. This investment delivers on the election commitment to provide improved access to translation services for older Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds and cultural awareness training for aged care staff.

The government data demonstrates that people from NESB make up 16 per cent of residents in residential aged care homes; it is estimated that by 2026, one in four people aged 80 and over will be from non-English speaking background.

“Given that today already 1 in 4 people with disability are from NESB background, the logical conclusion must be that translation and interpreting services be made available to the disability sector also,” said de la Torre.

NEDA executive officer, Sibylle Kaczorek, said “the fact that the Government recognises that communication barriers can mean that Australians from NESB may not receive timely care and support, which can lead to poorer health outcomes and increased isolation, it surely applies equally to people with disability”.

“The timing of this announcement could not be better,” adds Kaczorek, “given the Government’s new commitment to multiculturalism and the work currently conducted by the Productivity Commission on disability care and support, it now offers the opportunity to ensure that people from NESB with disability are included through interpreting services.

“Productivity reporting on utilisation of existing disability services demonstrates over and again that people from NESB with disability under-utilise these services. The latest figures for 2008-2009 show an under-utilisation of 2 to 4 times for people from NESB as they relate to community access and support services, respite services and employment services.

“The ability to communicate in one’s preferred language and cultural awareness and competence are at the heart of access and inclusion. Without dedicated funding provisions for interpreting services and dedicated multicultural program strategies people from NESB with disability will remain marginalised,” Kaczorek said.