With a network of over 3000 interpreters assisting people in 160 languages to communicate in health, education, legal and consumer settings, the service has ensured that lack of fluency in English is no barrier to access and equity for those in Victoria’s diverse communities for more than 40 years.
“I am thrilled to be leading such an important organisation which provides such vital services to Victoria’s diverse communities, which is more important today than ever” she said.
“COVID 19 has highlighted the importance of effective communication channels with diverse communities, including making information available in community languages and providing interpreter services in health settings.”
Born in Hungary, Professor Laster came to Australia as a child as part of the family reunion program for refugees. She co-authored Interpreters and the Legal System, a key text used in interpreter education in Australia and overseas.
In addition to her academic background, Professor Laster has been a public sector leader as CEO of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) and Executive Director of the Victoria Law Foundation, where she championed access to justice through such initiatives as annual Law Week outreach events.
She previously served on the Board of AMES Australia, a migrant and refugee resettlement and education agency.
As the incoming Chair, Professor Laster and eight other Board members will oversee the governance of the service, which reports jointly to the Treasurer and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence welcomed Professor Laster to the role.
“Victoria is a proudly multicultural state and we support all Victorians regardless of where they live, their background or the language they speak,” she said.
“VITS Language Loop plays a vital role helping the Government provide timely and accurate information to communities, where and when it is needed – and that’s never been more important than during the pandemic.”
“I congratulate Professor Laster on her appointment.”
Professor Laster’s appointment recognises Victoria University’s long-held commitment to diversity. It also highlights the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre’s focus on law and cultural diversity, and its aim to make law and legal system more accessible for newly arrived and refugee communities.
The Centre's ASPIRE program, and its ‘train the trainer’ approach, allows leaders from diverse communities to understand and explain aspects of law most directly relevant to their communities.