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An inspirational community member: Meet Karina

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Law
Karina Gray Alumni Awards Finalist

After graduating with an Associate Degree of Legal studies from CDU, Karina started her own enterprise in Darwin. Its organic growth and success are testament to her hard work and dedication to others.

Karina’s business was founded from a desire to create community change. Applying her social science skills and legal knowledge she created Starwin, a female-led community enterprise. Starwin was created to provide consulting services to sports and community service organisations, with the goal to invest its profits in developing local talent and young leaders through their TalentEd initiative.

As her business grew, so did Starwin’s investment in the top end. In 2020, Starwin launched MK Eco by Starwin – a vision to grow a Made with Kindness Economy across the tropical north.

Starwin is now actively involved in providing cultural and corporate gifts, career pathways and enterprise development support, with a focus on the development of community initiatives that continue to contribute to wellbeing.

Growing a collective

Located in Darwin’s CBD, Starwin’s shopfront began in 2013 and is now supporting over 70 local makers and creators committed to making a social impact. Further growth has resulted in Karina’s enterprise expanding from Darwin into Far North Queensland, with a second site established in the Daintree region in 2018.

The knowledge gained in her legal studies degree from Charles Darwin University has made it all possible.  

“Initially I was doing a lot of consulting work for not-for-profit organisations and community services and often they need help with improving their strategic operations, like updating constitutions and setting up management practices and policies and procedures,” says Karina.

“My degree gave me a really good foundation for helping clients achieve their goals and was a good grounding for setting up Starwin because I had the expertise and experience around legal procedures and best practice governance.”

Leading the way to change

Karina’s community contributions directly benefit the people involved in Starwin’s collective.

The youth leadership initiatives her team has founded provide mentorship and career pathways development. More recently, they have established Women’s Business Circles, encouraging creative time as a catalyst for connecting and collaborating. Karina’s motivation and can-do attitude is the driving force behind this.

I completed my degrees externally which enabled me to work full-time, whilst working to set up my business.

"Having the flexibility of CDU’s Learnline, a supportive online format, whilst doing my degree gave me a good foundation for independent study and the self-motivation to see things through,” says Karina.  

“I've absolutely needed this discipline in my business because I’m the person behind the scenes, ensuring we are leading the way.”

Opportunities for all

Karina’s initiatives have provided employment opportunities for over 50 women, many of whom have achieved national professional success. However, she’s not stopping there.

Karina now manages a growing team of personnel that develops events such as Women’s Business Circles and Storytimes to address gaps in the community. She also strongly encourages her staff to continue learning.

“I firmly believe in further education and fully support my staff members to pursue further study and training,” says Karina.

My degree has given me a great appreciation of the skills and personal qualities that study can bring to your life. That then translates into an appreciation for ongoing learning and creating a meaningful career.

“For many years, I also gave back to the universities I studies with, working as a tutor through the Aboriginal Tutoring Assistance Scheme. One of my former students now has a Master's degree, going even further than I did.”

Listen and learn

Karina has her sight set on growing Starwin’s collective further with the mission to support the growth of safe places and cultural spaces.

So, what advice could her younger self have benefited from?

“Always start with an open mind and take the opportunity to listen and learn as much throughout life as you can, whether that's through formal study or through informal scenarios and situations in community," she says.

Having a degree gives you a good insight and a good footing, but how you use it to inspire you to develop your knowledge further is what determines the pathways you can take.

CDU has recognised Karina's contributions to the community with an Alumni Awards nomination.

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