Holly Louise Northam, SFHEA (Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy)

Dr, OAM, Churchill Fellow, Convenor, the Canberra Restorative Community

Accepting PhD Students


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Dr Northam brings over 30 years of clinical experience to her research and teaching practice. Holly has a strong social justice focus that is underpinned by her professional identity as a nurse and midwife. Her PhD study, ’Hope for a peaceful death and organ donation’ identified that more must be done to alleviate suffering caused by communication failures in healthcare. Holly played an instrumental role in setting up and running the ACT Organ and Tissue Donation Service and has been recognised for her expertise in this specialisation.

Holly’s research and teaching approaches are framed using the lens of hope and restorative practice to identify and support vulnerable people in health settings. The University of Canberra Collaborative Indigenous Research Initiative have provided more that $100,000 in grant money to support the work of a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers (guided by Aboriginal Elders with Holly as CI) to identify restorative practices in healthcare to close the gap on inequitable Indigneous healthcare outcomes.

The work of this team is centred on the University of Canberra Hospital and Whanganui Hospital in New Zealand. The work explores the idea that culture leads practice, and by privleging vulnerable voices it is possible to improve healthcare outcomes including performance measures such as clinical indicators, patient and staff satisfaction, staff retention and the budget 'bottom line'. Authentic voice of the most vulnerable voice in health care systems clearly heard throughout those systems are seen as pivotal to improved outcomes. 

This work also informs a cardiac rehabiitation program provided for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as a research project seeking to create a culturally safe program in an out of hospital environment.

In a related area of consumer vulnerability, bereaved families of organ donors are working with a team of academic leaders led by Holly to explore a closed online community of donor's and recipients, and the impacts of their relationships. This work will be publically shared by the consumers in a first of its kind conference scheduled at UC for October the 4th and 5th this year hosted by Donor Families Australia.

Other research work that she is currently engaged in includes working with Elders and using Yarning Circles as a restorative practice in teaching health students about contemporary issues related to Indigenous healthcare. 

Several other projects relating to end of life care, critical care nursing practices and neuro intensive care are also underway in Holly's research portfolio.

Holly works with healthcare consumers, vulnerable communities, professionals and academics that are alert to recognising and responding to healthcare inequity. Holly is honoured to work with the ACT Restorative Practice Community, part of an International Learning Community of Restorative Practice. Holly is an active advocate working in leadership roles on several NGOs that seek to address healthcare inequity and elevate the voices of vulnerable people.

Areas of Teaching

Holly is passionate about ensuring that healthcare professionals are supported by excellence in education to enable a flourishing community.

HDR Completions: 

Dr Jane Frost (2017). First student to graduate with a Professional Doctorate in Australia, ‘Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioners and Patient Enablement’

  • HDR supervision, Postgraduate critical care nursing courses
  • Undergraduate health degree courses- including Contexts of Healthcare (Social Determinants of Health); Indigenous Health: Contemporary Issues; and Ethics and Law for Health Professionals; and units across the Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery degree programs.



Order of Australia Medal


Recognition on the Digital ACT Women’s Honour Roll. http://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/women/act-womens-honour-roll/2008 


Donor Families Australia - Award ‘in appreciation for outstanding organ donation awareness’.


University of Canberra Nurses Society - Special Commendation, Nursing and Midwifery Awards


ACT Chief Minister’s Awards for Organ Donation Awareness - The Ben Wiseman Award for Healthcare


ACT Chief Nurse - ACT Health Certificate of Appreciation ‘a true champion in times of enormous challenge’


ACT Health: Quality Improvement Programme Award, ‘The Clinical Trigger’


Australian National University Medical School - Award for significant contribution to teaching during the 2008 academic year


ANU & the Canberra Hospital Grand Rounds & Clinical Advances Program: Award: Best Grand Rounds of the Year


Australian of the Year - Finalist, Local Hero Award



Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship ($~22,000)

‘The introduction of ethical guidelines and information about the benefits of organ donation after cardiac death’—UK, Spain and the USA. https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/fellows/detail/3012/holly+northam


ACT Government - Commissioner of Public Administration Award


The Canberra Hospital - Employee Award for ‘the establishment of a ‘quiet room’ for families in the Intensive Care Unit’



Australian College of Critical Care Nurses  - NSW Branch Scholarship ($1,000)


ACT Health - Scholarship Master in Critical Care Nursing Course


ACT Health - Scholarship Postgraduate Critical Care Nursing Course

Research interests

  • Communication
  • End of life care in acute and home healthcare settings
  • Organ and tissue donation and transplantation
  • Donor Recipient communication
  • Resiliency
  • Enablement of children/adolescents with chronic disease
  • Patient and family experiences of healthcare
  • Health Justice approaches to ‘closing the gap’ on inequitable health outcomes
  • Restorative practice in healthcare
  • Decolonising approaches
  • Qualitative methodologies
  • Cultural safety
  • Ethical healthcare
  • ‘Whanau Ora’ (Family and person centred care)

Related Links

2018 - Research into the use of restorative practice to close the healthcare gap for Aboriginal Peoples

2018 - Recognition on the Digital ACT Women’s Honour Roll

2008 - Australian of the Year - Finalist, Local Hero Award

2006 - Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship ($~22,000) - ‘The introduction of ethical guidelines and information about the benefits of organ donation after cardiac death’—UK, Spain and the USA.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Nursing


Master, Master in Critical Care Nursing, Nursing


External positions

Graduate Diploma in Critical Care Nursing


Midwifery Certificate , Gosford District Hospital


General Certificate of Nursing , General Certificate of Nursing


AHPRA Registered Nurse

AHPRA Registered Midwife, NMW 1374563


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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