The Australian LSP Market: Size and State of the Industry Down Under

Report written by Hannah Leske.

Table of contents

  1. About this report
  2. Methodology
  3. The Australian market
  4. The providers
  5. The services
  6. Buyers and end-users
  7. Role of the Government
  8. Training and certification requirements
  9. Technology
  10. Challenges and opportunities
  11. To wrap up…

About this report

Simultaneously the smallest continent and one of the largest countries in the world, Australia is a country like no other, as is its language services industry. On the one hand, Australia has one of the highest proportions of immigrants in the world, with more than a quarter of all Australians having been born overseas. On the other hand, it is an incredibly isolated country that shares no land borders with other nations and, despite having no official language, English is by far the dominant and de facto language in Australia’s public sphere and is spoken at home by roughly 4 out of 5 Australians.

So how do these factors, along with others, impact the Australian language services industry?

Existing Nimdzi publications indicate that Australia and New Zealand combined host just 3.3% of the top providers in the global market, and account for just 1% of global revenues from clients. It would appear that the local market represents but a drop in the ocean compared to Europe, North America, and Asia… the question is, then, why?

This report aims to shine light on the largely unresearched market and provide an in-depth resource that can serve both buyers and providers in the language services industry.


  1. The data presented in this report has been gathered via primary research, i.e. an online survey distributed to Australian LSPs and interviews with local providers.
  2. We’re listing full company revenue, not just language services revenue. 
  3. We use data from the latest fiscal year for each company. This means the numbers for some companies will not reflect 2022 calendar year revenues. 
  4. Our definition of language services includes: translation, localization, transcreation, multilingual desktop publishing (DTP), language quality assurance, linguistic testing, multilingual copywriting, multilingual technical writing, language project management, interpreting, video remote interpreting, telephone interpreting, linguist verification and staffing, media localization, versioning, adaptation, subtitling, voiceover, dubbing, machine translation (MT), training machine translation engines, cultural consulting, and related services. 
  5. Growth rates are calculated in AUD. 
  6. Revenue figures have been converted to USD to allow for easy cross-publication comparisons. We use average annual currency conversion rates to US dollars, published by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States for each day of trading in 2022.

The Australian market

Despite Australia’s long history of immigration, English commands a strong hold over everyday communication in Australia. For the vast majority of English-speaking Australians — few of whom will master a second or third language in their lifetime — the need for translation or interpreting in their communities is rarely considered. Indeed, the English-speaking Australian community at large has limited awareness of the professional translation and interpreting industry. It’s a very different story for Australia’s First Nation or migrant populations who, of course, have a more acute need for language services.

We know that multilingualism is rarely a key driver for language services, and Australia’s societal underappreciation for foreign languages may go some way toward explaining why the language service industry is so much smaller than in other regions. So what, then, motivates the provision of language services in Australia?

The answer: compliance is the biggest driver of demand.

Equal language access is reasonably well regulated by both federal and state governments. Such legislation often extends to government entities and service providers rather than private businesses, though. As such, the largest demand for language services in Australia is in the public sector. State or federal government departments even own a number of language service providers (LSPs), and the vast majority of LSPs service the government in some way. This demand comes primarily from healthcare, social services, nonprofits and NGOs, and the legal sector. 

In the private sector, demand typically comes from large, multinational companies with overseas clients or customers. Local regulations for private-sector vs public-sector language service provision mean that private-sector work can more readily be handled in-house or outsourced to international LSPs. However, this is not a hard and fast rule.

Nimdzi estimates that the total language services revenue in Australia in 2022 was approximately AUD 500 million (roughly USD 347 million).

The providers

We have compiled a ranking of the largest Australian-based companies that participated first-hand in Nimdzi research or published financial data publicly, according to their 2022 revenue.

Revenue ranking

RankCompanyRevenue (AUD million)Revenue (USD million)NoteMain business
1Appen560.2388.5FYdata company
2Multicultural NSW86.359.8FYinterpreting, healthcare
3Ai-Media59.841.5FYtranslation & localization, government, education
4ONCALL Language Services55.138.2egovernment, interpreting, translation
5TIS National48.033.3FYtranslation, interpreting, government
6LanguageLoop27.919.3einterpreting, government
7Expression Australia16.111.2FYsign language interpreting
8Translationz9.26.4vinterpreting, translation, healthcare, legal
92M Language Services6.94.8einterpreting, translation & localization, government, mining, defense
10Interpreting and Translation Centre6.64.6FYtranslation, interpreting, government

(FY) fiscal year, figures for the latest financial year (verified with financial reports)

(v) verified, data provided by companies

(e) estimated revenue, based on extensive industry research

While Australia does host several companies with revenues greater than AUD 20 million, this is the exception rather than the rule. Our research suggests that the average revenue of Australian LSPs was just under AUD 5 million in 2022. It’s also important to highlight that not all revenue is generated domestically. In fact, Appen generates less than 5% of its revenue in Australia. 

Interestingly, several of the largest providers in Australia are those owned by local government bodies. In the above ranking, four companies are publicly owned: TIS National is part of the Australian Department of Home Affairs, while Multicultural NSW, LanguageLoop, and the Interpreting and Translation Centre are owned by the New South Wales, Victorian, and South Australian state governments, respectively.

Growth ranking

The average growth rate for Australian LSPs in 2022 was 20%. The below table ranks the top 5 LSPs by fastest growth in 2022.

RankCompany2022 Revenue (AUD million)2021 Revenue (AUD million)Growth rate (%)
1Multicultural NSW86.337.3131.1%
2TIS National48.037.727.3%
3Translationz9.27.3 26.0%

Many Australian providers (particularly privately owned companies) report that growth in this market requires a concerted effort. Most tenders are issued by state governments and are not national contracts, so the value is smaller, and providers need to win multiple notable contracts to see considerable progress. LSPs can win similar contracts across different states, but local providers are often preferred, giving an advantage to companies with a business address in the awarding state.

The services

Nimdzi research has shown that translation is typically the largest piece of the global language services pie, but in Australia this isn’t the case.

Australia’s interpreting market is significantly larger than its market for translation, especially on the public-sector side.

Not only that, but community interpreting — which is a secondary interpreting service at best for many global providers — is the bread and butter service for most Australian LSPs. 

This is strongly influenced by Australia’s legislation and funding. Hospitals and courts, for example, have a legal requirement to ensure access to information so interpreters must be available when required. In fact, court hearings will be adjourned if no interpreter is present. Put simply, most government tenders prioritize interpreting services over translation services, and funding is more consistently channeled to these solutions. As such, interpreting contracts are more widely available, and providers have an easier time selling this service. 

The split between translation and interpreting demand is rumored to be more equal in the private sector. However, this is difficult to verify. Not only are private contracts less accessible, but their work is more frequently managed in-house, which is less readily captured by Nimdzi’s research.

Buyers and end-users

The Australian market is almost like its own bubble within the global industry. Not only does Australia represent a small share of business for global providers, but global demand for language services appears to have little bearing on local LSPs. This is because most Australian providers are primarily active in the local market: data show that just under 95% of all revenue is generated by customers within Australia. A measly 3.3% comes from North America, and just 1.8% is from clients in Europe.

This isn’t altogether surprising. Local certification requirements restrict the presence of international providers in Australia (especially in the public sector), and high domestic wages mean that Australian linguists rarely compete on the global market.

Within the public sector, the buyers and the end-users of language services are rarely the same parties. While governments typically fund service provision, end users are commonly Australians with limited English proficiency (primarily immigrants or First Nation Australians) or tourists. In the private sector, the individuals or corporations that buy translation and interpreting services are usually also the ones who receive the benefits of the services, although end-users may also be their customers and clients.

Demand is highly influenced by end-user demographics, so it should be no surprise that the most-demanded languages are those of Australia’s largest immigrant populations: Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Punjabi, and Greek, to name a few. French is also frequently requested, despite not being as widely spoken as a first language — it is often a second or third language for immigrants from African countries and is occasionally offered when no linguists are available in these mother tongues.

Role of the Government

As we’ve already spelled out, one of the Australian government’s most important roles in language service provision is funding. Federal or state governments offer tender invitations, usually open every three to five years.

Several tenders are exclusive (won by a single provider), but the vast majority use a panel of providers.

These contracts are awarded to several providers (usually five or six) with no ranking or preference system. Every provider has equal access to the customers within the contract, and customers choose their preferred provider from the panel. The clients can even switch providers for each new assignment if they wish. This contract type promotes healthy competition between approved providers and ensures that no single provider can form a monopoly with just a handful of large contracts, but it can be trying for providers. After all, you’re only as good as your last project, and you’ll be kicked to the curb if you don’t perform. 

The government has been receptive to language service provision (especially community interpreting) over the years, but their primary goal is to fulfill legal requirements for the lowest price possible. This often results in price pressure for providers, which is ultimately felt by linguists, particularly because the industry is largely unregulated. 

Linguists in Australia almost always work as contractors — usually for multiple providers — and there is no industry minimum wage. Translators typically earn reasonable salaries, but multiple providers have come under heat recently for their interpreter compensation models. A full-time equivalent interpreter often takes home less than the average Australian and sometimes only a fraction more than minimum wage. It’s now begun impacting the market, putting stress on local supply chains. 

It’s important to highlight that several LSPs are challenging this industry trend, resetting their interpreter rates to reflect the value of the role. We only hope that others follow suit and that interpreters are soon compensated more competitively. Several parties are working toward a standardized national minimum wage for translators and interpreters, but, for now, it’s still a dream. 

Associations and unions

Australia has several associations that go to bat for providers and linguists. 

  • The Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) is Australia’s association for language professionals. Its aims include upholding high professional and ethical standards for linguists, providing professional development opportunities and funding, and fighting for fair working conditions, as well as promoting the access rights of non-English speaking persons.
  • Professionals Australia has a dedicated union for linguists known as Translators and Interpreters Australia (TIA), which is working to progress the recognition and compensation for interpreters and translators.
  • The Australasian Association of Language Companies (AALC) advocates for the interests of language service providers. 
  • The Australian Sign Language Interpreters’ Association (ASLIA) promotes sign language interpreting and has successfully lobbied for better working conditions for interpreters. Auslan interpreters are known for being more organized, and the working conditions are widely believed to be better than those for regular interpreters.

Training and certification requirements

Translators and interpreters worldwide need to prove their linguistic competency before entering the fray, but every country has its own certification requirements. Most linguists in Australia hold a diploma or advanced diploma in their chosen profession, but even that isn’t always enough to secure work. Linguists who want to work in the public sector — and remember, the bulk of the work is in the public sector — also need to become certified by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters, commonly known as NAATI. NAATI certification assesses education, training, and ongoing professional development to ensure that linguists’ skills are up to scratch. Recertification requirements were also introduced recently. This move was unpopular with many linguists (some of whom refused to get recertified) but has been hailed as a welcome and necessary development by many LSPs.

As a general rule, working as a translator or interpreter in Australian hospitals or courts requires NAATI certification, and all documents submitted to government entities must be translated by NAATI-certified linguists.

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, and these requirements aren’t always realistic. Formal training solutions often lag behind real-time demand for specialized roles, and the language services industry is no exception: NAATI testing is not always available for new and emerging languages, for example, yet linguists are still needed. At the end of the day, LSPs are encouraged to select NAATI-certified linguists wherever possible (and required), but other certifications are accepted when necessary. 

Quality assurance aside, the requirements for NAATI certification also go a long way toward protecting the Australian language service industry. It’s no secret that the cost of living is high in Australia, so wages are naturally higher than in many other countries, especially neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Without the local certification requirements, there would be very little to stop LSPs from outsourcing translation or remote interpreting services to linguists in countries with lower labor costs. This is not the purpose of NAATI-certification requirements, but it is a side effect.

Of course, the system is not impervious to loopholes. International linguists are well within their rights to seek NAATI certification — it can be obtained remotely — so there’s no reason they can’t compete on price after gaining accreditation, but, at least so far, this hasn’t been a common occurrence. Providers, on the other hand, are not afraid to work the system: while the formal requirement for all government translations might demand a NAATI-certified translator, providers can cut costs by outsourcing the bulk of the work to overseas linguists, then engage a certified proofreader to tick the compliance boxes.


We can’t beat around the bush. Australia lags well behind the global language service industry when it comes to the use of localization technology solutions.

Research suggests that most language service providers use regular automated scheduling systems and translation management tools. However, adoption is lower than the global average, and end-users in particular have traditionally been reluctant to embrace technology solutions. Prior to 2020, end-users in Australia’s more technophobic states were resistant even to OPI solutions, and remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) was widely perceived as a threat before it suddenly became a lifeline. 

To be fair, it appears that the interpreting industry has come along in leaps and bounds since the first COVID-19 lockdowns. Buyers had no choice but to accept remote solutions and, once providers ironed out the kinks, many end-users came to tolerate the technology as well.

Interpreting technology use: today and beyond

OPI and VRI are quite widely accepted these days: OPI is used almost exclusively for remote healthcare interpreting, while VRI is commonly used for courtroom interpreting. RSI is also becoming more and more common. 

Of course, there is still a strong preference for onsite services when available, and we don’t expect this to change in a hurry, although providers report that remote onsite jobs are becoming harder to fill as interpreters become less willing to travel sizeable distances. So far, buyers have been mostly willing to resort to remote interpreting if onsite listings cannot be filled, but it will be interesting to see if attitudes change. 

Moving forward, RSI is expected to continue increasing its market share, particularly in the newly remote and hybrid corporate world. Board meetings and conferences, which may not have historically involved language services, are now open to these solutions. 

Interpreting vs translation tech in Australia

Not only do interpreting tools seem to be an established part of the Australian localization scene these days, Australia has also produced several world-leading technology solutions of its own, which have held up against international competitors. Companies such as Appen and Interpreter IO have had significant success globally, for example.

When it comes to translation technologies, the same cannot necessarily be said. Adoption of translation tech tools is still relativelylow — many Australian translators are allegedly yet to engage with even computer-assisted translation tools! Naturally, no one can agree on why this is the case. LSPs cite resistance from end-users, while others argue that providers need to be doing more to educate clients. We don’t imagine that technology use will remain low forever; providers do see potential for technology to help cut costs and compete on a global scale, and end-users will undoubtedly come around… eventually.

Challenges and opportunities

Training and reskilling

Enthusiasm for a career in interpreting seems to have waned in recent years. National enrollment and completion of interpreter- and translator-related qualifications are the lowest they have been since 2017. There are a plethora of factors that contribute to this trend, but the high training costs and low salaries almost certainly have an impact. 

LSPs have noticed, and several companies have invested in their own training courses. Many are free, and some even offer credits toward NAATI certifications. Providers may not benefit financially from these services, but long-term benefits include stronger supply chains and higher-quality services. 

As much as providers are happy to do their part to further the industry, several individuals note that there might be space in the market for an independent national body that can really take charge of monitoring the ebb and flow of supply and demand so that supply chain issues can be better foreseen and the effects mitigated. Currently, no such body exists in Australia.

Distance and technology

Australia is a vast country, and roughly 28% of the population lives outside of the major metropolitan areas. Servicing these communities can be challenging, especially when interpreters are required on short notice. Even urban areas can be caught high and dry if the supply of language experts is low. 

There is a huge opportunity for remote interpreting services to fill these gaps. However, stable internet or telephone coverage is critical. At the moment, internet access across regional Australia is patchy, but initiatives such as the Mobile Black Spot Program — aimed at improving remote telecommunications services — give hope that this problem may be solved very soon.

Not only that, but Australia is a long way from anywhere else in the world. As a result, it has traditionally played host to far fewer international conferences, meaning that local interpreters have always had a smaller pool of conference interpreting jobs. Now, with the new dawn of remote conferencing, we expect to see more opportunities for Australian linguists to participate in conference interpreting from afar.

Global competition

Right now, Australian LSPs and linguists are sheltered by local certification requirements and ingrained habits that see most companies automatically hunt for providers and suppliers within the country’s own borders. The truth of the matter is that many are not well-equipped to face the highly competitive global market. Translators in particular are protected from potential price undercutting (by way of international outsourcing), and domestic supply chains would likely be decimated if these protections were removed, particularly as global trends show an ever-increasing shift to low-cost labor.

That said, the rise of technology and automation may well increase the efficiency and scalability of local players enough to see them truly compete on the global stage in the coming years. Only time will tell!

To wrap up…

The Australian language services market is unlike that of any other country in the world. It is still maturing and has a lot of ground to cover before it can be compared side by side with the European or North American markets. We see a great deal of potential, though, and it will be particularly interesting to observe how local providers and linguists integrate with the rest of the global industry over time.

Hannah Leske Nimdzi Insights

This report was researched and written by Nimdzi's Localization Researcher, Hannah Leske. If you wish to learn more, reach out to Hannah at [email protected].

29 March 2023

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