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In recognition of the growing migrant population and challenges of health service delivery to multilingual and multicultural communities, the first four interpreters in New South Wales were appointed in early 1976 and based at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown, Sydney.

The Health Care Interpreter Service was then formally launched on Friday 14 October 1977 with an additional 18 interpreters joining the service and located in hospitals in the Inner Metropolitan Health Region with headquarters at the Women’s Hospital in Crown Street in Surry Hills, Sydney. Interpreting was offered in Arabic, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish and Turkish between the hours of 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

A black and white image on a roll of film showing about fifteen people dressed up and celebrating
SydneyConnect Image: The Sydney Health Care Interpreter Service launch, 1977.

By the beginning of 1978 there were 53 full-time interpreters working in metropolitan Sydney including interpreters who spoke Asian languages such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian and by 1980, interpreter services had been extended to the entire Sydney metropolitan, Hunter and Illawarra regions forming the NSW Health Care Interpreter Services.  

An eight-week Health Care Interpreter Training course was offered to familiarise trainees with the health care system, developing group cohesiveness and a corporate identity, providing interpreter skills, knowledge of anatomy and physiology and cross-cultural communication skills. A code of ethics and statements of duty were also developed specifically for the health care system.

Sydney Health Care Interpreter Service 40 year celebration book
SydneyConnect Image: The NSW Health Care Interpreter Service: the first forty years – Paul Ashton, Terry Chesher, Vesna Dragoje, Lisette Engel, Carla Knox, Marlis Walther. ISBN: 9781863655095 (paperback)