ALS policies and related documents

This page contains various policies and statements which the Australian Linguistic Society has developed or endorsed. 

Linguistic rights

At the 1984 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society a number of motions relating to the linguistic rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were passed. Two of these motions were:

That the ALS recognizes the linguistic rights of Aboriginal and Islander communities as set out in the statement made by the Aboriginal Languages Association, August 1984 (see copy of statement below). (The motion was passed unanimously)
That members of the ALS are obliged to respect these rights in their dealings with Aboriginal and Islander people. (The motion was carried)

Linguistic rights of Aboriginal and Islander communities

(As published in The Australian Linguistic Society Newsletter no. 84/4, October 1984)

In any dealings between a community and linguists, the community has the following rights:

  1. To finalize clear and firm negotiations to the community's satisfaction before the linguistic fieldwork is undertaken
  2. To know and understand what their work involves, their obligations to the community and the restrictions they must observe using a paid local interpreter at all times if the community so requests
  3. To request a trial period before giving full permission for the research to continue
  4. To control research if the community wishes and also to request the linguist to consult with relevant community organizations where appropriate
  5. To ask for their help in language matters, training and other ways
  6. To receive regular summaries and results of the linguist's work written and presented in a way that the community can understand
  7. To privacy and secrecy with respect to person's names, confidential information, secret/sacred material and publication
  8. To approve the content of material before publication
  9. To see its members adequately paid in cash or otherwise for their services, and properly acknowledged in publications
  10. To negotiate for a share of royalties from any publications
  11. To be advised and receive a copy of any subsequent publications related to the research


At the 1989 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society a statement of ethics was adopted.

Statement of ethics

(As published in The Australian Linguistic Society Newsletter no. 90/4, November 1990)

The Australian Linguistic Society, as the principal professional body concerned with the discipline of linguistics in Australia, declares that the following ethical principles apply to its members, and also to persons directly employed by members, in the conduct of linguistic research:

  1. Researchers in the field of linguistics have multiple and cross-cutting obligations to their discipline, to their colleagues, to bodies and individuals providing funds and facilities for research, to human communities and individuals who participate in any way in the research, and to themselves. These obligations are to be met by the researcher in accordance with the highest professional standards and consideration of the highest prevailing standards of human ethics, in broad conformity with the ethical provisions made by comparable professional bodies, associations of social sciences and humanities, and committees on medical research and experimentation on human subjects.
  2. In particular, the rights of lay persons and communities involved in the research require especial consideration, since such persons and communities may not have the same understandings about the nature and conduct of the research as the researcher. These rights include protection of privacy, the right to withhold cooperation in the research, appropriate remuneration, and access to data collected by the researcher, and to the results of the research. These rights are especially important in small and threatened communities. It is recognised that particular communities may have strong views on the researcher's access to data and dissemination of information; such views should be respected, to the extent that they do not clash with other obligations of the researcher.
  3. Nothing in this statement of ethics shall override the conditions for research imposed by particular communities, official bodies, or governments; in agreeing to such conditions before undertaking research, the researcher is deemed to have entered into a contractual obligation.
  4. Persons deemed to be conducting research not in accordance with the spirit of this ethical statement may be subject to disciplinary action by the Australian Linguistic Society, according to principles that may from time to time be determined by the Society.

Guidelines for the use of language analysis in relation to questions of national origin in refugee cases

Australia is one of a number of countries who use 'language analysis' in the determination of the national origin of asylum seekers. Concerns by linguists about the assumptions and methods involved led to the formulation of the 'Guidelines for the use of language analysis in relation to questions of national origin in refugee cases' by an international group of linguists called the Language and National Origin Group (June 2004). At its AGM in September 2005, ALS unanimously voted to endorse these Guidelines.

The Guidelines are available as a 16 KB PDF file by clicking here.

Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia, England and Wales, and the USA

The primary aim of the Guidelines document is to inform police, lawyers and judicial officers about linguistic issues which impact non-native speakers of English in police interviews, particularly in the communication of rights, such as the right to silence and the right to a lawyer. The recommendations address the wording of the rights – including the need for standardized statements in other languages – and the communication of the rights, including informing suspects about access to an interpreter, and the consideration of whether or not a non-native speaker of English has understood the rights.

The document was authored in November 2015 by the Communication of Rights Group (CoRG), which comprised 21 linguists, psychologists, lawyers and interpreters who have research and/or professional experience and expertise in this issue in three common law countries which are officially monolingual and whose policies and procedures in this area have many shared features: Australia, England and Wales, and the USA. At its AGM in December 2015, ALS unanimously voted to endorse these Guidelines.

The Guidelines are available as a 197 KB PDF file by clicking here.

Code of Conduct

ALS members will:

  • treat fellow participants, students, volunteers, and any other members of the public with respect, dignity, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity;
  • maintain a cooperative and collaborative approach to interpersonal relationships;
  • respect the privacy of others;
  • ensure that they do not become involved in or encourage discrimination against or harassment of participants, students, volunteers, or any other members of the public.

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