James Holland headshot 2

James Holland – Pinnacle alumnus

Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.

My name is James, and my pronouns are he/him and I grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne. I was born into a religious family, and coming out was challenging process. The Pinnacle Foundation provided me a lot of support to get me through that difficult period. I studied a combined Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts at Monash University. For my law degree, my focus was on Constitutional Law. During my degree, I developed a love of public speaking, debating competitions, and mooting. After finishing my degree, I started as a Management Consultant at Nous Group – a strategy consultancy that specialises in public policy and the not-for-profit clients. In this role for two years, my client portfolio included government departments both at the state and federal levels, universities, and national NFPs. As a consultant, I learnt key skills and gained industry knowledge. During this time, a stakeholder from one of Nous Groups’ clients approached me with a job offer within Australia’s National Peak body that seeks to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). In this role, I helped lead policy and advocacy efforts as well as business development. Since 2023, I now work as Senior Advisor for the National Association of People With HIV Australia.

What did you gain from being part of the Pinnacle scholarship program?

The Pinnacle Foundation was so important to my journey. I was a Pinnacle scholar for two years and I was connected to many leaders in my age group, and the wider Pinnacle family which consisted of excellent, smart people who care about LGBTQIA+ leaders within our community. Being a part of this network was delightful. Being a Pinnacle scholar meant I was supported when I experienced a housing crisis during a COVID lockdown in 2020. I was supported by my mentor, the chief executive officer of Pinnacle, my fellow scholars. The support from Pinnacle was essential to me getting through this difficult and stressful time and that support meant that I had capacity to take on a graduate role and get started in my career. Since graduating, I have been keen to become involved in a volunteering capacity with The Pinnacle Foundation and I look forward to giving back to an organisation that gave so much to me. I remember the feeling of excitement when I first found out that I received my Pinnacle scholarship as I knew that this opportunity was such a large investment in time from very important people, people who had been instrumental in the Marriage Equality campaign, people who had years and decades of experience in for-purpose industries who were committed to the success of Pinnacle scholars. There is something to be said about the quality of my scholar cohort, everyone was so driven and were strong leaders in their respective communities and having them in my extended network has been helpful because you are always able to call upon these people for advice, support, wisdom and knowledge.

What was your experience with your mentor like?

My mentor experience was positive. My mentor was able to support me so much during my different experiences as we both shared similar life journeys. My mentor provided not only academic advice, but also advice on my wellbeing and mental health. He was so patient when everything else in my life was hectic. I am so thankful to him for being so supportive and understanding. With the skills that I have learnt and been supported through my mentor, I have been able to take on many opportunities and have been recognised for my work in receiving awards such as the Young Achievers Award issued by Rotary Club of Melbourne and been a recipient of the Out for Australia’s 30 under 30 award to name a couple.

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program?

I would encourage you to apply for a Pinnacle Foundation scholarship. It is a fantastic program where a lot of thought and care has been put into how scholars experience their university careers as Pinnacle scholars. There is a lot of thought put into how your journey through university as a LGBTQIA+ leader and there is a lot of emotional labor that is put into the program. The whole Pinnacle family is tasked with looking after you, and this kind of support is so important during the many surprises that come your way during life’s journey. The Pinnacle Foundation was a safety net when I needed a safety net, even though I never expected the challenges I faced during my time as a scholar.

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