Libby Watson, Social Worker

bw-11I find it almost inconceivable that, in Sydney today, I live amongst women and children who are denied their basic human rights on the basis of gender, and that this is largely ignored.

Libby Watson is a highly trained social worker and a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.  She has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of New South Wales and a Master of Social Work from the University of Newcastle. Since 1988 she has worked in a range of fields, such as sexual assault, employee assistance provision, crisis intervention, mental health and statutory child protection. In 2004, she joined the St George Domestic Violence Service (DV Service), a Department of Health community-based specialist team that provides assistance to women and children who have experienced domestic violence.  In this position she engages in complex risk assessments and provides a multi-faceted clinical service including individual and family work, child protection work, safety planning, trauma counselling, group work, advocacy, and clinical supervision to other workers in the field.

Libby also provides training and education to health workers, government departments, non- government organisations and universities. She has designed and delivered family violence training for organisations such as Relationships Australia, Interrelate, Unifam, Law Access and the College of Law, Sydney. In 2010 -2011, she was involved in developing and delivering training for the Attorney-General’s Department’s national pilot program, Co-ordinated Family Dispute Resolution, a model for families where there is family violence.  Since 2012, Libby has been co-facilitating the AVERT multi-disciplinary training, based on the Australian Attorney-General’s AVERT training package. This training is targeted at a range of professionals who are part of, or come into contact with, the Family Law System. It has been run across NSW and also in the Northern Territory.

Libby’s individual clients, who are referred through the DV Service, are often hesitant to begin the process as they do not want to be seen or labelled as victims. They are as likely to be educated, professional women as they are to be recent immigrants raised in a patriarchal society. Domestic violence is not a relationship problem – it is solely about the perpetrator’s violent nature.

Libby begins each new case by performing a risk assessment for high lethality: to determine the woman’s risk of dying at the hands of her partner. Factors taken into account include physical evidence of harm, Libby’s and her colleagues’ professional opinion of the situation and, most of all, the victim’s own perception and fear of being killed. The likelihood of being killed by a partner is highest at the point of separation: domestic violence is a power issue setting one partner against the other. When a victim starts asserting power, the perpetrator responds by matching or raising the bar, to maintain a position of dominance.

Libby helps the women to see their options, to let them know they are not trapped just because they recently bought their dream house, they are finally out of debt or new to Australia with no one to fall back upon. She works with them to plan the best possible outcome, to guide them though the safest options, to let them know they are not alone and that it is not a sign of weakness to be a victim of domestic violence. In fact, it is quite the opposite. These women are skilled at protecting themselves and their children from unpredictable situations. Libby and the team at DV Service help them redirect their efforts, tapping into their resilience, developing strategies to change their environment, to keep themselves and their children safe from harm.

Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800 656 463


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