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Associate professor, Chair in Intellectual Disability Behaviour Support, UNSW Sydney

Leanne Dowse is Associate Professor and Chair in Intellectual Disability Behaviour Support [IDBS] at UNSW where she has been a researcher since 1995 and an academic since 2008. She has been a scholar, practitioner, supporter and ally in the area of intellectual disability since the beginning of her professional career as a Speech Therapist in the 1980s and has been involved in the development and promotion of disability studies in Australia beginning in the 1990s.

Her role as Chair IDBS, a joint initiative of UNSW and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (Ageing, Disability & Home Care) works to expand the body of knowledge and increase workforce capacity in the delivery of appropriate and effective services to people with an intellectual disability with complex and challenging behaviour through a focus on training and education, enhanced policy and service models and targeted research.

Leanne’s research and publications apply models of critical inquiry to the study of disability and in particular, intellectual or cognitive disability. Her work utilises a multidisciplinary approach to investigate social justice issues for people with complex needs. In particular her work addresses the intersections of disability with mental illness, acquired brain injury, homelessness, social isolation, early life disadvantage, experience of out of home care, substance misuse and violence. Her work is particularly concerned with the ways these intersect for Indigenous Australians with intellectual disability, for women with disabilities, those in the criminal justice system, and people with complex behaviour support needs.


  • 2007–present
    Associate professor, Chair in Intellectual Disability Behaviour Support, UNSW Australia


  • 2007 
    University of New South Wales, PhD in Social Work

Grants and Contracts

  • 2015
    Lost in Transition: supporting young people with complex support needs
    Lead CI
    Funding Source:
    Australian Research Council
  • 2014
    A Future Beyond the Wall:Improving Post: release Employment Outcomes for People Leaving Prison
    Funding Source:
    Australian Research Council