Every year, many people immigrate to Australia from abroad to start a new life. If you have moved to Australia from a country where English is not the native language, you may face some difficulties accessing health care and other social services required by a family member who does not speak English. Below is a guide to the steps you can take to help a family member who doesn't speak English access healthcare.
Seek a multilingual healthcare centre
When you register with a doctor, you should ensure that the staff are aware that English isn't your first language and that your relative cannot speak the language at all. You should also inform them of your mother tongue. A multilingual health care centre should be able to arrange for your relative to receive treatment from a doctor, dentist or nurse who speaks your native language. If a nurse who speaks your native language isn't available, multilingual health care centres can hire a professional medical translator who can sit in on any consultations. A multilingual healthcare centre will also produce multi-lingual documentation or leaflets, which will provide important information in your relative's native language.
Reassure your relative
Visiting a hospital or clinic can be stressful at the best of times, but if you do not understand everything written on posters and signs, or what some people around you in the waiting room are saying, it can become even more stressful.
Before your appointment, you should take time to reassure your non-English–speaking relative that you will be there to translate on their behalf if needed and that the staff at the multilingual healthcare centre are specially trained in the care of those who do not speak English. You should explain to your relative that if they have any question or do not understand something even though it has been translated, they should let you know.
Ask the medical staff to use diagrams
If a doctor is explaining a disease and its treatment, you should request that they use diagrams to illustrate what they are saying. This will help your non-English speaking relative to understand what is being said. Diagrams also help to prevent any information from being lost in translation.
If you have any concerns about the health of a relative who doesn't speak English, you should not avoid visiting a doctor because of potential language problems. By contacting a multilingual health care centre, you can arrange the healthcare your relative needs.