QAMH Member of the Month – December 2019

Life Without Barriers is our December Member of the Month!

Each month we will be highlighting the value and diversity of our members and the fantastic work they do in the community mental health sector.

Read on below to learn more about Life Without Barriers, including their history, values and mission. 

Please tell us a little bit about your organisation. 

Life Without Barriers is a leading social purpose organisation dedicated to changing people’s lives for the better. Nationally, we support more than 22,000 people living in over 500 communities across the nation, providing them with the services and assistance they need so they can feel safe, achieve their goals and maximise their opportunities to participate as fully in society as they wish.

We assist people across a number of program areas, including disability services, aged care, foster and kinship care, after care, children and families, mental health and homelessness, refugee and asylum seeker services, youth justice and domestic violence amongst the range of services we offer.

What are three words to describe your organisation? 

Respectful, Courageous and Inclusive

How/why/when did your organisation get started? 

Life Without Barriers was established in 1995 through the shared determination of local community members in Newcastle, NSW, who wanted to improve the lives of people with a disability. 

Motivated by their own experiences and in response to demand for local disability support services, they decided to act. Generating interest in the community with the idea of a new non-government organisation to support people living with disability, a Board was quickly formed and Life Without Barriers was established.

What inspires your work and what sets your organisation apart from everyone else? 

We believe in the rights of people and the importance of relationships. Everything we do is designed to partner with people to change lives for the better

Our values underpin our work and our approach: We are Responsive; We are Imaginative: We are Courageous, We are Respectful; We Build Relationships.

Where does your organisation provide services? What type of services are offered? 

Life Without Barriers is a national organisation and we have offices in more than 500 communities across Australia.

In Queensland, we offer Families, Children and Youth Services, including out of home care, After Care services, Disability Services, Home and Community Age Care Services, Youth Justice, Mental Health and Domestic Violence Prevention.

How many employees do you have? How many offices, and where are they located? 

We have approximately 920 staff assisting more than 5330 clients across Queensland.

Our locations in Queensland are in Shailer Park, Robina, Deception Bay, Cairns, Capalaba, Ipswich, Milton, Mooloolaba, North Mackay, Rockhampton, Toowoomba, Townsville and North Lakes.

How has your organisation changed over the last few years – and what has driven this change? 

From humble beginnings more than 25 years ago, where it sprang to life in order to fulfil a need for people with disability in Newcastle, NSW, Life Without Barriers has grown into one of Australia’s largest national charitable organisations with services across the country, including remote areas.

Life Without Barriers works to a board of Directors, Chaired by Terry Lawler, and has been led by Claire Robbs who became Chief Executive in 2011. Claire has successfully developed Life Without Barriers to become one of Australia’s largest disability providers and one of Australia’s few national providers of services for children in out-of-home care

Claire has collaborated and partnered in a truly authentic way to deliver high quality supports for people seeking support and services from the non-government sector.

Today, Claire leads more than 7,200 staff to support more than 22,850 people across the range of services, including close to 3000 foster carers nation-wide. Claire leads her teams from a values and culture driven approach that seeks to inspire the leadership qualities in others.

Looking forward, what do you see as the main challenges/opportunities for your organisation, and why? 

Alliance20 is one of the partnerships Life Without Barriers is proud to have. This a group focused on partnering to work together to make the NDIS the best it can be. Through the Alliance we are working with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on key issues and are confident we can bring practical solutions to the table.

We are also a lead agency in the Children in Care Collective which seeks to support advancements in practice, research and service delivery priorities for children in out-of-home care.

As we continue to support children and young people, we have significantly advanced our practice initiatives by embedding the recommendations of the Royal Commission and taking our Child Youth and Family strategy to the next stage using national and international practice improvements. Our new practice initiatives include advancing how we support foster carers across Australia and engaging experts throughout our organisation to drive innovative practice improvements.

Tell us something about your organisation that most people wouldn’t know?  

We are proud of our commitment to embedding reconciliation into our business. At Life Without Barriers, we believe reconciliation must live in the hearts and minds of all Australians. The only way to close the gap in life expectancy, wellbeing and opportunity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rest of the community is to work together, in partnership and as a nation.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan provides real actions that have a positive impact by achieving measurable outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

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Phone – (07) 3442 6600