Dr Jen Couch - Nat Sch of Arts (Faculty of Education and Arts)

Fully accredited supervisor - Can supervise as principal supervisor


I am a senior lecturer in youth work and international development.
I came to ACU in 2005 with a professional background in international community development, youth work and working along side displaced and marginalised communities particularly in refugee contexts and in South Asia.
My PhD was a transnational ethnographic exploration of global justice activism focusing on activists in the US, Australia, the Zapatista movement in Mexico and the Narmada dam movement in India.

I am passionate about social resilience and how to strengthen and rebuild this following experiences of community upheaval, violence, and trauma.
My experience as a qualitative researcher and practitioner offers me a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical and practical challenges facing vulnerable and marginalised communities.
I have published widely in the area of young people, communities and marginalisation and I am particularly interested in working in hopeful and positive ways to change social inequalities and exclusion. I have recently completed the first longitudinal ethnographic study to explore refugee young people and homelessness in Australia.

I have conducted ethnographic and qualitative research in Australia, USA, Mexico, Thailand, India and Tibet. I am experienced in a range of empirical research methods including in-depth interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, photography and ethnography and have used these in a range of fieldwork situations from global justice activism in India, USA, Australia and Mexico, working children's movements in India and Indigenous communities in the Northern Philippines. My current research is focused on the lived experience of refugee young people during COVID 19 and the way that youth workers have responded during the pandemic.

I am an accredited supervisor for Honours, MPhil and PhD students. I have supervised postgraduate students working on an array of projects that focus on marginalised communities often with the aim of readdressing social injustices.


Phone :(03) 9953 3560 (Melbourne)
Email :Jen.Couch@acu.edu.au
URIs : Staff Directory ProfilePersonal Website

Research Interests

Youth work in post conflict areas ; Decolonizing Youth Work Practice ; Young people in international development ;

Methods Expertise

Qualitative and mixed research methods, ; Ethnography ;

Research Projects

Completed Projects

  • Muslim Attitudes & Experiences Regarding Accessing Mental Health Services (PhD) (Co-Supervisor)
  • Survival Stripped Bare: An ethnography of Street Sex Work in Dandenong (PhD) (Principal Supervisor)
  • Improving Livelihoods of Nepali Youth: Social Enterprises in Nepal (PhD) (Co-Supervisor)
  • Listening to young people in out of home care (Master) (Principal Supervisor)
  • The Youth Work Relationship: working between ideals and reality, factors that impact the dynamic (Undergraduate) (Principal Supervisor)
  • From strength to strength y'know?! Young women of refugee backgrounds doing youth participation (Undergraduate) (Principal Supervisor)
  • Hanging out in the concrete jungle: exploring the culture of youth homelessness in Melbourne (Master) (Principal Supervisor)
  • The Community Development Concepts of the Igorot Community, Benguet Phillipines (PhD) (Principal Supervisor)
  • Representations of the San in Botswana (PhD) (Principal Supervisor)
  • Shacking up: Australian Housing Workers Perceptions of women's romantic pathways out of homelessness (Undergraduate) (Principal Supervisor)
  • Re[searching]4Sex: An exploration of Contemporary Sexual-Relational Research Involving Young people in Australia (Undergraduate) (Principal Supervisor)

Selected Publications


Ili-based Community Organising: An Igorot Indigenous Peoples Concept for Grassroots Collaboration??? , in Journal of Social Inclusion 9(1)

Together we Walk: The importance of Relationship in working with refugee young people, in The Sage Handbook of Youth Work Practice


The trails to get there: Experiences of attaining higher education for Igorot Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines, in Australian Journal of Adult Learning 57, (2) June 2017

On the borders of Pedagogy: Implementing a critical pedagogy for students on the Thai Burma Border, in Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 57(1) 01 Apr 2017

'Neither here nor there': Refugee young people and homelessness in Australia, in Children and Youth services Review, Vol 74.

We are what we teach: Teaching Youth Work on the Thai Burma Border. , in Journal of Applied Youth Studies, v.2, n.1

Do Immersion Tours have long-term transformative impacts on students? A study of Australian university students in a Tibetan host community in India, in Journal of Applied Youth Studies, v.2.n.2

Its just more, you know, natural: the perceptions of men who buy sex in an emerging street sex market , in SEXUALITIES


Deviance and moral panics , in Sociologic: Understanding Everyday Culture and Society, Oxford University Press


Uncovering Margnalised Knowledges: Undertaking research with hard to reach young people, in International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches


My Life Just went Zig Zag: Homelessness and refugee young people, in Adolescent Wellbeing: Trends, Issues and Prospects, Pullen, D.F and Caroll, A. (eds), Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (2013) Tasmania.

Survival Stripped Bare: Young People's Participation in a Street Sex Market, , in New Community Quarterly


On Their Own: Perceptions of Services by Homeless Young Refugees, , in Developing Practice,

Homeless Twice: Refugee Young People and Homelessness in Australia, , in International Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, Vol. 21, issue 1, pp. 1-23

Young People, Old Issues: Methodological concerns in research with highly marginalised young people, in Youth Studies Australia (print version)


A New Way Home: Exploring refugee youth homelessness, , in Journal of Social Inclusion

My Life Just went Zig Zag: Homeless experienced by young people of refugee background, , in Youth Studies Australia


Our lives, our say: Street and working children talk about their rights in Delhi, in Journal of Social Inclusion

Who Decides work for working children? Exploring Agency and Decision making with young workers in Delhi, in New Community Quarterly

Invisible No More: Considering the participation of Refugee Young People in Community Development, in New Community Quarterly