SYDNEY – Law enforcement authorities in Western Australia have said a new mobile interpreter app will help improve relationships with indigenous communities, especially in areas where English is not widely spoken .
The technology translates some common police instructions into local languages and was designed with a native interpretation service.
The so-called Yarning app allows police in Western Australia to choose from eight Aboriginal languages and deliver key messages relating to detention rights and the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous leaders believe it will save lives by preventing the wrongful imprisonment of people who do not understand the legal process.
The technology will be available in communities where English is often the third or fourth most commonly used language.
Chris Dawson is the Police Commissioner for Western Australia. He says the app will build trust with indigenous communities.
“What better way to communicate this in language in the sense that we can now offer additional information to overcome confusion or to overcome fear, doubt, whatever they are. This app is a world first,” a- he declared.
Critics, however, say the app is too basic and ignores deeper issues of racism within Australia’s justice system.
Aboriginal Australians are among the most incarcerated people on Earth, according to a report commissioned by the Canberra government in 2019.
Relations with the police have often been strained. Western Australia has the highest rate of indigenous youth detention in the country. A criminological study from the Sydney University of Technology found that since 1991, the number of indigenous prisoners in Australia has more than doubled, from 14% to 29% of the total prison population.
Over 780 indigenous languages are identified by First Languages Australia, an organization dedicated to safeguarding linguistic heritage.
He says about 20 languages are used every day by fluent speakers.
Australia’s native inhabitants make up around 3.3% of Australia’s population, according to a 2016 Australian census, but suffer from high rates of poverty, poor health and unemployment.