Documents have revealed Australia’s Department of Home Affairs used Google Translate rather than official translators to communicate with multicultural communities at the beginning of the pandemic.
While the Department had hired translators to write official pandemic fact sheets, Google Translate was initially used for health messaging on parts of its website. Critics have stated that this decision resulted in critical health messages being rendered “nonsensical,” prompting fears that migrants and refugees would lose trust in the government’s handling of the crisis.
Describing the revelations as “embarrassing,” Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles said communication barriers must be broken so the right information reaches all communities.
“All Australians need access to accurate and clear public health information, including the many culturally and linguistically diverse communities who have made Australia their home,” Giles stated.
Mohammad Al-Khafaji, chief executive of the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils Australia, said using Google Translate on an official government website is never acceptable.
“We know the automated translated services are not accurate sometimes, and that can be very dangerous,” Al-Khafaji said. “There are many languages where omitting the smallest letter or space will give the exact opposite meaning, so instead of saying ‘stay at home’ it might say ‘do not stay at home.’”
The Department issued a statement explaining that it used the Google Translate subscription service for its website at the beginning of the pandemic to “ensure that there would be an easy-to-use repository of translated information available to multicultural communities as quickly as possible.”
“That is a poor excuse. This isn’t a community organization under pressure, this is the government of Australia,” Giles said. “We know a public health response that’s successful requires every community member to be able to access appropriate advice, and everyone in Australia knows we shouldn’t be relying on Google Translate to translate important public health information.”
Read Full Article from Australian Broadcasting Corp. News (11/18/20)
Author: Dalzell, Stephanie
News summaries © copyright 2020 SmithBucklin