New UnitingCare director

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9_Stephanie-Lagos-2014By Chip Henriss

The Commission for Mission has welcomed the arrival of the new director of UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania, Stephanie Lagos (pictured).

The position oversees the governance of the UnitingCare Network throughout Victoria and Tasmania network.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the social welfare sector Ms Lagos’ most recent appointment was as at Slater and Gordon Lawyers where she was in charge of the firm’s diversity program.

“I’m very excited to come to UnitingCare. The scope and breadth of the organisation is a bit overwhelming when one first comes to understand just how much work is carried out but I am very happy to meet the challenge,” she said.

Ms Lagos was born in Melbourne to Greek migrant parents. She spent some of her youth with her family back in Greece before returning to settle permanently in Australia.

“When we returned my father bought a cherry orchard in the Yarra Valley where we all grew up learning to work very hard. “I’m actually wired for hard work. In our family if you weren’t studying you were working,” she said.

Beginning her career as a social worker, Ms Lagos worked in a variety of areas from child protection to social planning.

“I really feel that my passion for social justice came from my parents. The value of a human life is about its capacity to give to others. To help others less advantaged than one’s self was extremely valued in my family.

“For example, my family would have people that were picking at the farm – one young man was a drug addict and my family took him in and let him stay at the house.

“There was a strong very generous spirit in the family.

“We learned the purpose of life was not about accumulating power and money. The purpose of life is to be of value to others,” she said.

For 15 years Ms Lagos worked as the CEO of Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre which, at the time of her appointment, was a very small and very young start-up community services agency.

Under Ms Lagos’ steerage the agency grew to become the largest migrant and refugee agency in Australia.

“I still have a passion for working with multicultural and refugee communities.

“It’s been a constant cycle for me throughout my life,  first as a child of migrants and then having worked with waves of refugees ranging from the Vietnamese in the 1980s to recent refugees arriving from Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Sri-Lanka,” Ms Lagos said.

As for the immediate future of the UnitingCare network, she hopes to increase awareness of the UnitingCare brand and therefore the ability of agencies to influence social policy.

“UnitingCare is really at the forefront of the social services sector. From helping people in need, to new migrants and people with drug and alcohol dependencies, our lot are really in the thick of it.

“I am also very interested in getting congregations meaningfully involved in the work of UnitingCare agencies as the practical expression of the Church’s social justice ethos and doctrine,” she said.

Ms Lagos is looking forward to travelling to agencies throughout Victoria and Tasmania to gain a stronger understanding of the work carried out by UnitingCare.

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