Researcher biography


Deborah Lynch is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and was the Program Lead of the Bachelor of Social Work in the School from 2013 to 2016. Her research and teaching focuses on the protection, welfare and rights of children and young people, social and ecological justice and international community development. In 2017 she received a prestigious award from the University of Queensland for her Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. Deborah brings many years of international community development practice in South Africa, India (Kolkata and Bangalore), Nepal (Kathmandu) and Indonesia (North Sumatra) to her teaching and research. Through her international collaborations in social work education in Sweden, United Kingdom and Ireland, Deborah contributes to interdisciplinary scholarship in collaborative projects and journal publications including the European Journal of Social Work, Social Work Education and Ethics and Social Welfare.

Since her first research paper on child sexual abuse in The South African Medical Journal in 1988, Deborah has published widely on systems, policies and practices in health, education and justice that impact on children, young people, families, and communities. In Australia, she developed the North Sydney Area Health Service's response to young people and adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse, and contributed to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) policy and protocols in New South Wales (and subsequently in Ireland). In Canberra, Deborah developed support programs for refugee children with the Torture and Trauma Rehabilitation and Network Service. Her publications on children's rights and child protection foreground the critical contributions of child protection practitioners, academics, non-government organisations, professional groups, children's rights advocates and child abuse survivor groups to policy, theory, research, and practice. Researching with young people, Deborah used both quantitative and qualitative methodologies (such as creative media) to explore the needs of over 700 young people in Cork, Ireland. Her most recent book is Social Work and Community Development: A Critical Practice Perspective (2015; Palgrave McMillan) with Dr Catherine Forde at University College Cork in Ireland.

Deborah builds inter-disciplinary partnerships through research collaborations which align with, and support her research strategy:

  • Through a UQ Health and Behavioural Science (HABS) Research Collaboration Seeding Grant, a new collaboration between Social Work, Nursing and Psychology that advances knowledge about how practitioners in non-government agencies manage contextual and cultural information in assessing risk with a view to securing the safety of children within their families and communities. The project contributes to increased cultural safety in child protection practice which is needed to address the extreme and growing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection service systems.
  • Through her collaborations with the School of Education and the Humanities and Social Science (HASS) Strategic Research Funding (SRF) Program at UQ, Deborah is pursuing a program of research exploring how a community development approach involving schools and community organisations can support the well-being and engagement of young people in sustainable education. This project achieved recent success in obtaining research funding by competitive tender from Queensland Department of Education and Training (DET). This state-wide research has led to an international conference paper and ARC Discovery Project proposal (Young People, Education and Communities Working Together) as well as fostering new external partnerships to develop an ARC Linkage Project proposal.

Deborah teaches across undergraduate and post-graduate programs in the School and supervises Higher Degree Research students. Central to her pedagogy is modelling professional practice by example, and creating safe, supportive, and enabling learning environments where social work students can build their repertoire of practice skills and capacities which empowers them as learners and future professionals.

Deborah is passionate about social work and the environment. Social work students with an interest in environmental social work who would like to join Debby under the African Sausage Tree near UQ Lakes to grow greener social work ideas for 2018 may email her at She is a member of BrisLETS which is a Brisbane-based local energy trading system.