Jemina Napier, PhD

Jemina Napier                            

 Chair in Intercultural Communications/Professor of Intercultural Communication

School of Management & Languages; Dept. of Languages & Inter Studies

Heriot-Watt University (Scotland)



Jemina Napier is a native British Sign Language (BSL) user, with extensive experience of interpreting. As a BSL/ English interpreting practitioner she specialised in mental health, conference, media and educational interpreting. She coordinated and taught on the Sign Language Interpreters Training Course at the City Literary Institute in London for two years, before moving to Sydney in 1998. Dr. Napier now practices as an interpreter between English and BSL, Auslan or International Sign, specialising in conferences and linguistics. In 2001 she completed her PhD thesis, which analysed the linguistic coping strategies of sign language interpreters in terms of omissions made and why. She joined the staff at MacQuarie University in 2002.

Dr. Napier is currently Chair in Intercultural Communications/Professor of Intercultural Communication in the School of Management & Languages; Dept. of Languages & Inter Studies at Heriot-Watt University (Scotland). She specializes in sign language interpreting, T&I research methods and interpreting pedagogy. In 2006, she received Division of Linguistics & Psychology and MacQuarie University citations for 'outstanding contributions to student learning', and a 2007 Australian Learning & Teaching Council (ALTC - formerly Carrick Institute for Higher Education) citation award 'For pioneering and developing an innovative research-led program and complementary resources to enhance the learning experience of sign language interpreting students.' Additionally, Dr. Napier engages in scholarship of teaching, and has been involved in leading various teaching-research projects, including a current MacQuarie University-wide project funded by the ALTC to investigate leadership in teaching in the context of peer review. She held a Macquarie University Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from January 2004 - December 2006.  She is currently involved in various research projects, as follows: 

  • a national study of deaf juror comprehension of courtroom discourse via interpreters
  • effectiveness of remote sign language interpreting for legal purposes
  • development of an interactive online Medical Signbank (with A/Prof Trevor Johnston)
  • action research to review the T&I curriculum at Macquarie University

She has recently completed other projects, including:

  • a survey of T&I practitioners throughout Australia (with Helen Slatyer
  • perceptions and comprehension of sign language interpreting
  • mentoring of sign language interpreters (with Tamara Pearce)
  • a pilot of deaf juror comprehension as compared to hearing jurors (with David Spencer)

Current Research Project:

"Perceptions of Sign Language Interpreting in Court and the Potential Impact of the Presence of Deaf Jurors" with intern Maryfaith Autumn

Co-investigators: Dr Meg Rohan (statistical consultant), Prof David Spencer (La Trobe University)

Research assistant: Gerry Shearim (MacQuarie University) –

Abstract: The aim of this project will be to collect and analyse data that will complement two previous projects on sign language interpreting in court for deaf jurors who use Australian Sign Language (Auslan) that found that deaf people can sufficiently comprehend courtroom discourse through interpreters in order to serve as jurors (see Napier & Spencer, 2008).

In order to test these findings through another lens it is necessary to scope the perceptions of stakeholders about the presence of deaf jurors and sign language interpreters in criminal trials and the potential impact on the administration of justice. Perceptions will be gleaned from sign language interpreters and legal personnel through an international online survey of English-speaking countries, with follow-up face-to-face focus groups interviews in Australia. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data will provide a picture of the feasibility of deaf people being accepted to serve as jurors, leading to further triangulation of existing data and planned research, and potential recommendations regarding law reform and access to justice. This project has been funded through the Macquarie University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research (DVC-R) Discretionary Fund (2011-2012).


Napier, J. & Spencer, D. (2008). Guilty or not guilty? An investigation of deaf jurors’ access to court proceedings via sign language interpreting. In D. Russell & S. Hale (Eds.), Interpreting in legal settings (pp.71-122). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

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