Meet the new Manager of CatholicCare’s Counselling and Clinical Services team

Derek Gilligan was born into a Catholic family. When discussing his childhood and early adolescence, Derek recalls trips to Hawks Nest to visit his grandparents where they would all attend Mass every day and volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society. With some amusement, Derek goes on to share his memories of travelling with them between his home town of East Maitland to the mid north coast, as a St Christopher Medal shone proudly from the engine key and a decade of the rosary was prayed by everyone in the car during the journey for safe passage.

Derek attended St Peter’s High School in Maitland (formerly Marist Brothers High School) where he made many long lasting friendships and memories.  He said his Catholic heritage is also steeped in his father’s time in the seminary with a view to becoming a Catholic priest before he left to become a school teacher. Both his father and his paternal grandmother belong to the Legion of Mary. He also recounts the significance of relying on St Anthony to help unveil the whereabouts of lost items, a practice he notices he is becoming increasing reliant on as he ages!

Derek discloses somewhat wryly that he is also a direct descendant of the Vain family with Mary Vain being his great, great grandmother. Mary was the sister of John Vain, the only surviving member of the Ben Hall Gang. Although Derek’s heritage is peppered with a colourful mix of characters, he reminds people that the only reason Ben Hall survived was because he handed himself over to the Catholic Church which protected him.

Given Derek’s history it is no surprise that he has developed a strong sense of social justice and care for the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of society and talks openly about his “egalitarian world view.”  Derek’s values of social justice and service filter through into his profession as a psychologist. Derek has advanced qualifications in Clinical and Forensic Psychology and has spent almost 18 years in the Justice Department of New South Wales in clinical and leadership roles.

To date, Derek’s career has included work in prisons (both men’s and women’s), forensic mental health units, supervising teams of psychologists and private practice. He has worked with vulnerable clients pro bono in his clinical practice and through his work with Legal Aid.

Derek says he was keen to apply for a position within CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning’s Counselling and Clinical Services team. He is excited by the prospect of working for an organisation where his personal, professional and spiritual values align.

Derek says he finds the ethos of the organisation to be healthy and positive and in the short time he has been employed (seven weeks) as Manager of the Counselling and Clinical Services team he has noticed how well staff relate to each other in a co-operative, sensitive, empathic and supportive way. Derek says such dynamics have not always been present in his career!

Derek holds his predecessor, Tanya Russell (former manager of the Counselling and Clinical Services team, now Practice Development and Innovation Manager) in high regard and he notes the “enormity of the shoes” he has to fill in taking over the role. Derek says he aims to continue respectfully with the work Tanya has commenced in building a quality psychology service.

Derek hopes to expand CatholicCare’s psychology services to meet the demand of a broad range of psychological needs across the lifespan including children and adolescents facing out-of-home-care issues to working with family systems and other carers to produce best outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. He also looks to build on counselling and clinical psychology services to meet the needs of a range of adult issues arising out of various contexts such as employment, family and social systems including homelessness.  The service is also equipped to treat a range of mental health conditions and illness, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Derek’s vision includes building a component of accountability into the psychology services by producing evidence-based, demonstrable outcomes that can be compared with other leading psychology services. He believes CatholicCare’s Counselling and Clinical Services team currently has the skills, abilities and relevant experience and the introduction of these performance measures will show they are already outperforming the best!

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Lizzie Snedden Image
Lizzie Snedden

Lizzie is the Marketing and Events Coordinator at CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning. 

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