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Northern Institute

Realist research, evaluation and learning

People of NI
Gill Westhrop & Emma Williams against orange Indigenous painting by Linda Ford
Professor Gill Westhorp

Professorial Research Fellow

Professorial Researcher Gill Westhorp

: +61 8 8389 4590

:  Mount Torrens, SA

CDU Research portal


  • Developing realist research and evaluation methods and tools, including Realist Economic Evaluation;
  • Developing evaluation and research in markets new to the university:
  • Building the University’s capacity for high-quality evaluation and high-impact research;
  • Developing a supportive environment for evidence-informed policy and programs by building capacity of partners and collaborators

Gill leads the Realist Research Evaluation and Learning Initiative (RREALI). The role of RREALI is to establish CDU as an Australasian centre for excellence in realist methodologies by developing realist methods, researching and enhancing the utility of realist methods, and enhancing the University’s research impact (RREALI business plan 2016-18).

Associate Professor Emma Williams

Research Associate
Ph.D (Physics), B. Sc.(Hons)

Researcher Emma Williams

: +61 413 283 268

:  Sydney, NSW

CDU Research portal

  • Evaluation
  • Research and evaluation ethics
  • Observational research
  • Research impact
  • Evaluation utilisation
  • Projective techniques
  • Small group experiment design

Emma Williams has had a long career in evaluation, research and program development in Canada and Australia, moving between academia, public service and private practice. She is a Credentialed Evaluator with experience in realist, observational and participatory evaluations on topics such as throughcare, family violence, service access, employment, environmental issues and international development. She has also conducted innovative research in areas such as urban design and language acquisition and has a special interest in child empowerment and in evaluation ethics. She is a member of the RREALI (Realist Research, Evaluation and Learning Initiative) team.  

Kerryn O'Rourke

Senior Research Fellow
PhD, MHSc, MPH, GradDip (Health Promotion), BNurs

  • Program evaluation and realist methodologies. 
  • Equity and dignity in public health
  • Social equity for health equity
  • Health and social care
  • Health promotion
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Maternity care

Kerryn joined the realist team at the Northern Institute in early 2022 where she conducts commissioned realist evaluations and methodological development. Kerryn completed her PhD at La Trobe University in Victoria – a realist evaluation of Birth for Humankind’s doula support program for women experiencing socioeconomic adversity. Kerryn is an alumnus of the Victorian Public Health Training Scheme and has extensive work experience in the public health sector, with a strong interest and expertise in promoting health equity. In addition to her PhD, she has a Master of Health Sciences (Public Health Practice), Master of Public Health (International Health), Graduate Diploma in Health Promotion, and a Bachelor of Nursing. Kerryn lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

Liz Meggetto

Senior Research Fellow
PhD candidate, MPH, PostGradDipHlthProm, BNutrSc.

Senior Research Fellow Liz Meggetto

:  Victoria

CDU Research Portal

  • Realist review and evaluation
  • Health literacy at an organisation and systems level
  • Patient empowerment and person-centred care
  • Health equity and health promotion at a population level
  • Evaluation of continuous quality improvement in healthcare
  • Evaluation of partnership approaches for interventions
  • Evaluation techniques and methods

Liz Meggetto is in the final stage of a PhD to understand how health services operationalise organisational health literacy. Liz is experienced in realist review and evaluation, as well as other evaluation methods. Liz has a long history in healthcare, working as a health executive in Victoria for 10 years leading partnership approaches in health promotion and health system integration.

Cara Donohue

Research Fellow
BA Anthropology, MA International Development

Research Fellow Cara Donohue

: 0423 475 977

:  Melbourne, Victoria

CDU Researcher Portal


  • Realist research and evaluation
  • Evaluation use
  • Design, Monitoring and Evaluation in International Development
  • Participatory Approaches to International Development

Cara Donohue has been a research associate with RREALI since October 2020. She specialises in evaluation, research, and program design, particularly using realist and theory-based approaches. Cara has a work background in the international and community development fields, and has worked in university, international and domestic NGO settings. She has experience with programs serving at-risk youth, low-income, disabled, refugee, Indigenous, and rural populations. 

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