Languages connecting the community to Human Services

Did you know you can speak to the Department of Human Services in over 200 languages? This Harmony Day, Thursday 21 March, the department is highlighting the services its multilingual staff and interpreters provide to diverse communities all across Australia.

Across Australia, the department has 540 bilingual staff who speak more than 40 languages.

These staff use their language skills every day to help people who are culturally and linguistically diverse have the same access to the department’s services as people who speak English.

Ahmad El-Dik works answering calls for the department’s national Multilingual Phone Service and uses Arabic to help people every day.

This service is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, handling approximately 2,500 calls a day in more than 30 languages.

“Some things said in English don’t translate well in Arabic, so I need to put together an example that better describes a scenario people can relate to and understand,” Ahmad said.

“When I was growing up we had a rule that Arabic was to be spoken at home and English at school so that my siblings and I were able to learn both.

“What I love about the language is that there are so many ways to describe things so that they have a really deep meaning and can be tailored.

“By taking calls in a language that a caller can better relate to makes them feel more comfortable and they can easily do their business.”

The department also provides free interpreter and translation services in more than 230 languages.

In 2017-18, more than 2,000 interpreters assisted with over 800,000 appointments with people over the phone and in person.

“If we didn’t offer services to people in their preferred language a lot of people just wouldn’t know what to do,” Ahmad said.

“People really appreciate being able to call the Multilingual Phone Service and speak to someone in their preferred language.”

More information

  • To find out more about how we help multicultural Australians connect with us, go to