Working with patients when there are language barriers (June 2017)

GPs and Specialists in private practice have access to free interpreters for all Medicare eligible consultations. A free phone interpreter is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Telephone and Onsite Interpreters can be booked in advance to ensure that an interpreter is available for the consultation. Interpreters are sourced from across Australia to enhance your access to the right language. Book an on site interpreter online with as much notice as possible.

Each Doctor and Pharmacist must Register for a TIS National Client Code to receive an individual code so that they can access this free interpreting services with TIS National. Once the doctor has this code, it can be used each time an interpreter is requested.

Doctors Priority Line 1300 131 450

Make a note of the patient’s need for an interpreter and the patient’s preferred language/s and ethnicity (if known) in their chart for future reference. Document that an interpreter was used in the patient’s record including the interpreter’s code.

Eligibility criteria for the Free Interpreting Service

The following groups and individuals are eligible to access the Free Interpreting Service, through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National), to assist communicating with Australian citizens and permanent residents* who do not speak English:

  • private medical practitioners (defined as General Practitioners and Medical Specialists) providing Medicare-rebateable services and their reception staff to arrange appointments and provide results of medical tests

Provided by the Department of Social Services’ Free Interpreting Service.


Put this sign in Practice Reception so that patients can point to the language they speak. Practice staff can then arrange an interpreter at no charge. Developed by Metro South Health, 2016.

Languages of the world – Use this list to assist you to identify which language your patient may require an interpreter for.

Interpreting for Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Programs

This program supports access to private allied health services by non-English speaking clients and ensure free interpreting services are available to AHPs working in private practice to communicate with non-English speaking clients.

Registered AHPs can receive FREE access to Immediate phone interpreting, Pre-booked phone interpreting and On-site interpreting.

BSPHN LogoBrisbane South

Download the Brisbane South PHN AHP Interpreting Flyer or contact Nicole or Andrea on 3864 7580 or

Brisbane North & Moreton Bay Region

Download flyer and Expression of Interest From here.

Darling Downs & West Moreton

Darling Downs & West Moreton PHN has established the trial program.

More information here or contact Program Coordinator, Population Health


The Australian Government Free Translation Service allows Australian citizens and permanent residents to translate personal documents.

  • This service is only available within the first two years of arrival in Australia.
  • You cannot translate documents that are required for visa applications using this service.
  • You must provide evidence of your eligibility when you lodge documents (example: passport with entry stamp or visa label).
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