Aboriginal Interpreter Service

The Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) provides registered and professional Aboriginal interpreters. They are here to help to make sure your story in understood.

You can use an interpreter for anything like talking to Centrelink, a doctor or to housing, not just for court. Interpreters are fully trained so they keep your story secret and don’t take sides. To book an Aboriginal interpreter, call 1800 334 944.

You can book an Aboriginal language interpreter to work anytime - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Interpreter services include:

The Aboriginal Interpreter Service does not translate written documents.

The Aboriginal Interpreter Service in the Northern Territory (NT) has:

  • about 30 interpreters on staff covering the major languages of the NT
  • more than 270 active casual interpreters covering close to 100 languages and dialects
  • seven trainers from backgrounds such as linguistics, health, adult education and law.

Find out more


In 2015, the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) completed recording, editing and quality checking the NT police caution in 18 Aboriginal languages. The police caution explains some of a suspect's rights when the suspect is questioned by police.


  1. To increase the understanding of the police caution by Aboriginal suspects who do not speak English as a first language; and
  2. To decrease the frequency of challenges to EROIs (Electronic Record of Interview)/admissions on the basis that the caution was not properly administered or that the interpreter did not properly interpret the caution.

Background, process and quality control

  1. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Report “Talking in Language: Indigenous language interpreters and government communication” (April 2011) identified areas for improved communication with Indigenous Australians and led to funding for the AIS for related projects.
  2. A working group was formed in August 2012 with participants from AIS, NT Police and NT Department of Attorney-General and Justice.
  3. The working group developed a plain English front translation of the caution, which incorporated both judicial comments on the delivery of the caution to Aboriginal suspects and linguistic knowledge about features of English that inhibit clear communication.
  4. Experienced interpreters worked with AIS trainers to record an interpretation of the front translation.
  5. A second interpreter provided a back-translation of the recording. Any discrepancies between the front translation and back translation were examined. The caution was re-recorded until both interpreters were satisfied with the accuracy and clarity of the recording.
  6. Most recordings are between 2-3 minutes long.

Legal specifics

  1. Two versions of the caution were recorded; one for suspects in custody and one for suspects not in custody.
  2. The use of the recorded caution is not intended to remove the legal obligation that police must demonstrate the suspect’s understanding of the caution.
  3. The recordings explain the right to silence and the right to inform a person of your location (for suspects in custody).
  4. Recordings do not encompass the right to a support person, or the right to an interpreter.
  5. The caution may be used in both s140 PAA cautions and in formal EROIs.
  6. Police must still assess whether to use the recorded caution and work with an interpreter during the interview.
  7. The use of the recorded caution does not remove the need to work with an interpreter during the interview with the suspect.

These recordings are being made available here for the purposes of legal education. If you would like to provide feedback on any of these recordings, please contact ais@nt.gov.au.

Standardised audio police caution (SAPC) English front translations

In custody PDF (184.9 KB)

NOT in custody PDF (182.3 KB)

Our interpreters strive to make a difference by working together to understand each other.

Christine Tchemjiri

Photo of AIS interpreter Christine

Sylvia Tkac

Photo of AIS interpreter Sylvia

Hello my name is Christine Tchemjiri.

I am from Wadeye which is in the south west of Darwin I was born in Darwin and grew up in Wadeye.

The language that I am speaking and interpreting is Murrinh Patha and I became an interpreter in 2008.

I became an interpreter to help my people to communicate with the professionals because English is not their first language. I have a Diploma of Interpreting and NAATI accreditation (National Accreditation Authority Translators and Interpreters).

My name is Sylvia Tkac.

I am an Anindilyakwa Interpreter from the Groote Eylandt Archipelagos. I am now based in Darwin as Interpreter with AIS. My role is to interpret for a wide range of service providers in topics such as health, education, and legal at the Local, Supreme and children’s courts.

At AIS we also do recordings with other NTG agencies, mining companies, legal, health, talking posters, health surveys, private organisations, DVD audios, animation audios, driving apps and video interpreting.

I have completed the Diploma in Interpreting and I have NAATI accreditation. AIS has three important code of ethics that AIS interpreters abide by, they are Accuracy, Impartiality and Confidentiality. Interpreting is challenging because the language that is used in all areas is not common in every day conversations. That is why Interpreters are required to communicate, so there is no misunderstanding, miscommunication and confusion. “I am glad to be part of the team that provides interpreting services to our people".

Last updated: 31 January 2020

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