Dr Abigail Ornellas

Research Officer, Safety and Violence Initiative

Research Project(s)

  • ParentApp
  • Global Parenting Initiative

Research Interests

  • Mental health
  • Social service delivery
  • Maternal health


Dr. Abigail Ornellas is a qualitative researcher with eight years of research and project management. Following the completion of her Masters in 2014, on the role of the social worker in community-based mental healthcare, she was employed through Stellenbosch University as a research associate and management team member for two concurrent EU-funded Marie Curie Research Projects, looking at the impact of Neoliberal Welfare Policy on civil society, vulnerable groups and social work across 11 EU and non-EU countries. In 2016, Abigail began employment as a research fellow for the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI) in Cape Town, with a focus on social protection and service linkage; she was also working on her doctorate part-time. She was the lead research fellow on a Department of Social Development (DSD) commissioned feasibility study exploring pathways for the linking of the Child Support Grant (CSG) with additional services. Alongside this, she assisted in several evaluative projects with UNICEF and WFP on social protection and support in India, Thailand, Swaziland, Lesotho, Bangladesh and South Africa. 

In 2017, Dr. Ornellas completed her social work doctorate, which focused on the impact of national socioeconomic policy on the role and functioning of South African social work NGOs. This was followed by a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with the Department of Social Work at Stellenbosch University. Throughout this time, Abigail consulted on several projects with DSD Department of Education, UNICEF, Black Sash, FHI360, REPSSI, USAID and IRD. She was also lead author for several peer-reviewed publications and presented at international conferences in multiple countries. She has been a guest lecturer run workshops for social work students at Universities in Finland, Portugal, Spain and Belgium. 

In 2021 Abigail was employed as Study Manager for Oxford Research South Africa’s Hey Baby project, a large cohort study on adolescent mothers and their pathways to resilience in the Eastern Cape province. Following a successful capacity building strategy within the East London team, Abigail moved back to Cape Town in late 2022 to begin her postdoctoral research fellowship as the cost effectiveness lead and project management support for the ParentApp RCT trial.

 Dr. Abigail Ornellas CV

Recent Publications 

  • JEHOMA, S., ORNELLAS, A. & NYONKANGI, E. M. 2022. Social Security in South Africa: An Historical Perspective. Social Security Review, Human Sciences Research Council.

  • ORNELLAS, A., ENGELBRECHT, L.K. & ATAMTURK, E. 2020. The fourfold neoliberal impact on social work and why this matters in times of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, 56(3): 235-249. 

  • ORNELLAS, A. & ENGELBRECHT, L. K. 2020. Effective supervision and organisational culture. In: O’Donoghue, K. & Engelbrecht, L.K. International Handbook of Social Work Supervision, Routledge.