Planning & Budgeting

There are five steps to this process.

1 Evaluate Your Translation Needs

You don’t need to translate every resource into community languages. Consider the relevance of the information for each community. For example, breastfeeding information may not be needed for an ageing community.

It’s also worth considering the general English proficiency of community members – do most members of the community speak English well?

It is often new and emerging communities that need health information in their own language, but not always. For example, an established community may be into its third generation, including many proficient English speakers. But family migration programs may mean that new community members are arriving who do not speak English well. Don’t make assumptions – you need to undertake a data informed decision making process.

"Multicultural Demographic Data Explorer"  

How Do I Do It?

Check your information through community consultation, ABC Census data or by consulting with multicultural health services in local health districts (LHDs) and/or MHCS.

Top Tip: Although web-based translations (such as Google Translate) are available, this in against  NSW Health policy. NSW Health does not recommend using any form of automated translations  for health information as there is a high risk of the information being inaccurate, confusing or miscommunicated. 

NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service Position Statement: Use of machine translation to communicate with culturally and linguistically diverse communities

 2 Check for Existing Resources

There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Check if there is already a good resource in the language(s) you need.

If staff are available, NSW Health Care Interpreter Services and Translation Services may be able to translate documents for local health districts of up to 50 words if they are essential for patient care. For documents over 50 words or languages not available in NSW Health Care Interpreter Services or Translations Services, fees may apply.

 Top Tip:

There may be information available in another format, such as in print, online or in a short video.

 How Do I Do It?

To find resources in the language(s) you need:

  • ask the multicultural health service in your LHD
  • check the MHCS site (
  • check with organisations in your topic area. For example, if you need a resource on cancer, check with the Cancerinstitute. If you need a resource on diabetes, check with Diabetes Australia.
  • check online for interstate multicultural health resources.

3 Evaluate the English Version

If you can’t find a quality resource you can use, you may need to create one. The obvious next step is to translate an English resource into the language(s) you need. English resources are suitable to translate if they:

  • are written in clear, cohesive, unambiguous, plain English
  • contain no medical or specialist health jargon or acronyms
  • use the active voice
  • use few pronouns
  • use short sentences and paragraphs
  • include definitions for all technical terms.

However, most resources need to be revised for translation purposes. For example, resources that include:

  • Technical information Health information often contains specialist language, acronyms or jargon that is difficult to translate and understand.
  • Sensitive topics Some health topics are more sensitive in some communities than others. If handled badly, your audience may have a negative reaction rather than receiving the health information they need.
  • Unsuitable formats If your target audience has special requirements the information may need to be modified. For example, if your audience has low literacy, low knowledge of the Australian health system or limited access to the internet. Some languages do not have a written form.
  • A play on words If the resource contains jokes and puns, for example, it will probably need to be rewritten in clear, unambiguous English. Equally, slogans, metaphors and catchphrases rarely translate from English.

 Top Tip: Use the Sydney Health Literacy Lab SHeLL editor tool to check the health literacy level of the resource. Use the PEMAT tool to check the health literacy of videos.

 How Do I Do it?

Get advice on the most effective way to communicate your message.

  • ask multicultural health services in your LHD.
  • ask community organisations that work with the language(s) selected
  • consult with MHCS

4 Determine Your Approach

Once you have evaluated your English material, you need to decide on the appropriate approach:

  • Translate – for simple and straightforward resources.
  • Revise, then translate – for resources that need to be simplified, rewritten or reformatted.
  • Engage a bilingual health professional – for complex, sensitive or controversial topics.
  • Create a campaign – for topics best handled with a community-co-design approach, focus testing, or those that require a change in format (e.g. a video rather than printed material). MHCS specialises in developing community co-design projects across multiple formats.

5 Allocate Budget, Timeline & Team


  • Once you have decided on your approach, you can begin to allocate resources. Always plan for:
  • Translation by a certified National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) translator
  • Redesigning the layout to fit the new script or language to check layout, consistency and typos.
  • Distribution planning to ensure the resource reaches the target community.
  • Resource maintenance to ensure the resource is kept accurate and relevant. For more information on the costs of maintenance,  
    see Resource Maintenance.

You’ll need to allocate extra time and budget if you’re working with:

  • non-alphabetic languages, such as Hindi, Arabic or Chinese.
  • Focus group testing in the community.

 Top Tip:

NAATI-accredited translators are critical to professional translation. The only exception is in cases where emerging community languages are not yet accredited by NAATI. For some new or emerging communities you may need to use a NAATI ‘recognised’ translator.

How Do I Do It?

Ensure your budget and timeline fit your chosen approach. You may need to budget for, NAATI-accredited translators and checkers, design, distribution and resource maintenance. These costs will depend on the number of words to be translated and the layout required. Get a quote from your translator or agency before committing to the job.

If you are creating a community-specific campaign, your costs may extend to research, focus-group testing, audio and video production and digital distribution. For an overview of costs to consider when developing resources in different formats, see Developing health resources for people from refugee backgrounds.

 Top Tip: MHCS offers end-to-end translation services and community-specific health campaign development.


What’s the Difference Between Checking and Proofreading?

Checking is a revision of a translation by a second NAATI-accredited translator to verify the accuracy of the translation. The original translator should fix their own mistakes at no extra charge.  

Proofreading is the review of a completed translation for errors in spelling, accents, punctuation, general layout and ‘look’ of a written document. 

As with English, you can’t proofread your own work. Ideally, proofreading should be done by a NAATI-accredited translator. 

Translating, checking and managing enquiries between the translator and checker should not be underestimated. Budget time and staff for this process.