21 June 2023

Life Without Barriers’ National Immigration Support Services team supports people creating a new start in Australia.

Image: NISS team at the Employee Recognition Awards in Melbourne.

During National Refugee Week, we spoke to Panos Massouris, Director of National Immigration Support Services (NISS), about partnering with others to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.

"The theme for this year's Refugee Week is 'Finding Freedom', and it has a strong focus on harmony and togetherness. Our relationships with individuals, communities and organisations are essential in creating a safe environment for the people coming to Australia trying to live a free life with equity and without the fear of persecution," said Panos.

Panos has worked in the community services sector for nearly 20 years, of which the past 11 years have been within the asylum seeker and refugee sector. Recently, Panos has become Life Without Barriers' Director for National Immigration Support Services.

The role was created to focus on the national stakeholder engagement with the community and sector organisations and the overall management of the NISS program in Life Without Barriers.

“Working in this sector requires a strong level of resilience, however, the level of resilience we see from the people we support constantly inspires and motivates our team."

"The people using our services had to go through a traumatic journey to Australia. Our sector plays a pivotal role in helping people find the freedom they seek - supporting their settlement into new environments and providing them with the opportunity to live, love and dream again," said Panos.

"We partner with people to offer tools and support they need to find freedom in their new lives and ultimately be independent of us."

Life Without Barriers started supporting asylum seekers and refugees in 2009 and began providing Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) in 2014. After successfully tendering and obtaining the SRSS contract with the Federal Government Department of Home Affairs, Life Without Barriers NISS will be one of two National providers of the SRSS program across Australia as of July 1, 2023.

In Western Australia, MercyCare will continue to provide all SRSS Services through the partnership with Life Without Barriers.

"We are very excited about this partnership and collaboration. MercyCare has established solid local relationships with the sector in Western Australia. Our organisations share similar ethos and commitment to our people," Panos said.

Panos also acknowledges that the NISS program's achievements are thanks to the staff.

"I want to acknowledge the importance of the NISS team and the great work that they have been doing over the years to support the program's intent and purpose.

"From how they help people to a willingness to collaborate with the wider team and sector and living our organisational values through their work, they are the main reason why we are where we are now," he said.

The size and breadth of skill of our organisation, including our different support services, are also strengths that Life Without Barriers offers.

"The majority of people who use our services are families and children, and we have been able to leverage from our Child, Youth and Family colleagues across Life Without Barriers."

"Having practice models, frameworks, and relevant policies allows us to innovate and meet people’s needs in different ways.”

At the time of writing, SRSS services under the new contracts will be transitioning to Life Without Barriers within the next ten days.

"Some people coming to us have had relationships with previous SRSS providers that were formed over many years. The changes now mean that we have a different responsibility and accountability on how to partner with people and the sector.

"We need to be closer to the communities on the ground and also be high-level big-picture thinkers who can continually improve the lives of people who come to Australia seeking refuge," said Panos.

Panos talked about the future he and his team are working towards.

"Our vision is to provide high standards of care to all people coming into the NISS program. We want to leverage the benefits of operating at a national level and, at the same time, working at the grassroots level in partnership with people to meet their needs and milestones.

"We want to empower people and equip them with all they need to live well independently in the community.”

"This is really meaningful work we do. Every day we help people with a simple human need – to live a life free from terror.

"When I talk about our NISS program, I'm reminded of the ethos and purpose of our whole organisation. How we give voices to people in our community to be heard, to be supported and to get their needs met," he said.

Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Life Without Barriers provides services through our National Immigration Support Service (NISS)

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