Researcher biography


Deborah Lynch is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and was the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Program Lead in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work from 2019 to 2021. She is currently Acting Program Lead of the Bachelor of Social Work (Honours). Her program of research aligns with the research theme 'Promoting Health and Well-being in Population Groups' and focuses on children and young people's rights and vulnerable children/young people in community. Deborah teaches group work, community development and international social work. In 2017, Deborah received a University of Queensland (UQ) Teaching and Learning Award and she became a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in recognition of attainment against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning in higher education in June 2019. She 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. Working with East Cork Area Development (ECAD) which is a community partnership between public, community and voluntary sectors; youth organisations in East Cork; and the Health Service Executive (HSE), Deborah collaborated on a community-based project which explored 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 which focuses on children and young people's rights and vulnerable children young people in community:

  • Through a UQ Health and Behavioural Science (HABS) Research Collaboration Seeding Grant, a 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.
  • Through an inter-disciplinary collaboration with nursing within the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work and Indigenous co-researchers within the Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Deborah is CI on a NHMRC Project Grant (Targeted call) submitted in February 2018. Project: Exploring Cultural Safety within Hospital and Community Health Care using a Participatory Action Research Framework: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young Peoples' Experiences. The project aligns with the overall theme of my research which is to promote the well-being of children and young people in community. It recognises the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community.

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, supported 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 grounds her social work teaching in values such as social justice and human rights, critical thinking and working collectively to nurture dynamic, innovative forms of practice that can respond to contemporary community and societal issues. Her current collaborative projects in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning focus on the use of visual pedagogies to develop students' observational skills and critical and reflective thinking in the blended learning environment in a digital era.

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.