Public servants from the Department of Home Affairs used Google Translate rather than official translators to communicate with multicultural communities at the beginning of the pandemic, ABC News has revealed.
Home Affairs had initially used the free translation service rather than trained professionals to ensure information from the federal government was made available to multicultural communities “as quickly as possible”.
But, as the ABC has previously revealed, a number of the commonwealth’s (and the Victorian government’s) public health announcements have contained errors, with some impossible to understand.
While the department had hired translators to write official fact-sheets, Google Translate was used for aspects of its website early on in the pandemic.
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,” he said in a statement.
“The Morrison government needs to better support multicultural communities and engage with community leaders who represent emerging communities during this pandemic.”
Home Affairs said it has spent more than $2 million on translating COVID-19 messages using certified translators.
At the launch of a new $10 million mental health awareness campaign earlier this month, health minister Greg Hunt told reporters the government has been working closely with multicultural communities during COVID-19, and has distributed pandemic-related fact sheets in 60 languages, and electronic advertising in more than 20 languages.
The How’s Your Head Today? campaign will be provided in 15 languages across radio and print including Vietnamese, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Greek, Italian, Korean, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi, Khmer, Thai, Turkish, Persian and Macedonian.