By Robert Carry

A new national pilot program which will provide a free telephone interpreting service to newly arrive migrants with housing issues through participating real-estate agents, has just been launched.

The Department of Immigrtation and Citizenship (DIAC) through its Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS National), is piloting an extension of free telephone interpreting service to selected real estate agents around Australia.

"The Australian Government is aware of the particular challenges faced by migrant and humanitarian entrants in securing housing," said Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson.

Ferguson added, "A key factor is the limited English skills of many new arrivals. Access to free interpreting service will provide valuable support that will enable reap estate agents to communicate more readily with these clients."

The pilot is linked to 13 housing-related projects and is being delivered under the department's Settlement Grants Program (SGP) in locations of high migrant and humanitarian settlement.

Project locations include the Blacktown area in Sydney, south-east Perth and outer south-east Melbourne. The outcomes of the pilot will be used to evaluate a possible broader service extension, taking account of national settlement patterns and identified needs.