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Auslan interpreters in Victorian hospitals - Signs for Health

This page contains background information on the project. For the Signs for Health website, visit

The Commission has conducted research into how Auslan interpreters are provided to patients in Victorian hospitals. We researched this issue because of concerns raised by our Disability Reference Group and other stakeholders, suggesting that there are gaps in how Auslan interpreters are made available in hospitals.

Our research builds on Deaf Victoria’s report An Inquiry into Access to Auslan Interpreters in Victorian Hospitals

The project began with a series of interviews and focus groups with public hospital staff to determine current practice and levels of awareness about providing Auslan interpreters, and possible solutions to improve health outcomes for patients who are deaf, hard of hearing of deafblind.

A second phase of the project, developing solutions to respond to the findings from the consultations, began in early 2015. This has included the development of a new website, Signs for Health, launched on 19 October 2016.

Project Recommendations

The Commission has proposed the following six recommendations in response to consultation findings. These recommendations were developed in consultation with the project Reference Group, including Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and interpreting units across five Victorian hospitals.

  1. The Commission develop a website portal that will include information on obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities relating to providing Auslan interpreters in hospitals. The content of this portal should be developed in a collaborative manner with DHHS, the Deaf community and Deaf sector organisations, and will include information and resources for hospital staff, patients and Auslan interpreters.
  2. The Commission develop an information resource for patients who are Deaf and hard of hearing on their right to access Auslan interpreting within hospitals to be disseminated through hospital networks.
  3. Vicdeaf develop written guidance for health services on the acceptable use of technology for communicating with patients who are Deaf and hard of hearing – particularly videoconferencing (e.g. ClearSea or Skype) as an alternative to providing an Auslan interpreter in limited situations.
  4. DHHS encourage training by the Commission at the request of hospitals regarding providing Auslan interpreters to enhance patient outcomes and satisfy legal obligations. Training would be targeted to each hospital in recognition that hospitals often have individualised needs in relation to staff training.
  5. DHHS, with the assistance of the Commission, develop and disseminate a brief overview of the obligation to provide Auslan interpreters for patients who are Deaf or hard of hearing to ensure quality and safety for patients. This should include information about the source of these obligations, including language services policies, the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, the Equal Opportunity Act and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
  6. DHHS amend the Language Services Policy to provide more information on alternative communication methods (e.g. videoconferencing), and consider input provided by the Commission.

The project is supported by a Reference Group including representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, Deaf VictoriaVicdeaf, Royal Women's Hospital and Bendigo Health.

Signs for Health

As part of this work, the Commission has launched Signs for Health, a web-based information resource. Signs for Health provides information for Victorian hospital staff to assist with providing safe, high-quality healthcare for patients who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind. This includes information on providing Auslan interpreters and other communication supports for patients who are deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind as well as information about associated legal obligations. It also provides information for patients who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind on their rights to an interpreter when they go to hospital.

Signs for Health can be accessed at

Launch Event

Signs for Health was officially launched on 19 October by Mary-Anne Thomas, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Parliamentary Secretary for Carers. Other speakers were Brent Philips, General Manager of Community and Languages Services at Vicdeaf, Kristen Hilton, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, and Sue Matthews, CEO of the Royal Women's Hospital.

Watch a video of speeches from the launch (with Auslan interpreter).

Download a transcript of the speeches from the launch (DOC, 26KB).

More information

For more information about this project please contact us at [email protected].

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