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Entrepreneurship journey empowers and changes lives

04/08/2023 by Carmelle Wilkinson

Curtin graduate and The Underground Collective Founder Katie Liew

The Underground Collaborative founder Katie Liew.

Seven years ago, Curtin Commerce graduate Katie Liew was crunching numbers in her accounting job when she suddenly realised this career path wasn’t for her.

Despite a love for English while at school, Katie said she chose to study accountancy with the belief it would lead to greater employment opportunities.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished high school, so commerce seemed like a versatile degree, and something all businesses needed so it felt like a safe option,’’ she said.

“Looking back now my degree has certainly proved to be incredibly valuable since starting my own business.”

In 2017 Katie walked away from her 10-year accountancy career to launch The Underground Collaborative.

Through its café Ground+Co in the Perth CBD, the social enterprise provides training, mentoring, employment and wraparound support for women and young people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

Curtin graduate Katie Liew pouring coffee

Katie at work at Ground+Co.

Katie said stepping away from a secure role to brave the not-for-profit sector was a risk she was willing to take.

“I’ve always been passionate about helping others, and while working in the mining and resources industry as a management accountant, I was actively volunteered with organisations including Starlight, State Emergency Service, Camp Quality and Youth Affairs Council WA,’’ she said.

“Looking back now, leaving my job was the best decision because it allowed me time to visit Africa, something I had always dreamed about.”

Katie said camping and overlanding through Africa for two months was the catalyst for change and ignited a strong desire to make a difference to the lives of those in need.

Curtin graduate Katie Liew while travelling

Katie said her experience in Africa changed the trajectory and purpose of her life.

“I rediscovered my passion for volunteering and social impact following my trip to Africa and from there, began my social entrepreneurship journey with the dreams of driving and instilling positive change in the lives of others,’’ she said.

“Leaving behind my accounting career to launch The Underground Collaborative was a huge gamble, but I was no longer feeling fulfilled in my job and knew I wanted to make a difference.

“During my travels, I saw how disempowered communities in Africa were and I realised I could help in some capacity back home. At the café there is a huge focus on providing employment to empower people who are experiencing hardship.”

With her social justice fire ignited, Katie spent time volunteering at a friend’s social enterprise café on her return to Perth, which donated profits to their international aid organisation.

“It was through their partners in Indonesia that I had the opportunity to travel to Jakarta, where I came face to face with poverty,’’ she said.

“There were families and children living in garbage dumps with no access to sanitation, toilets, or clean water.

“It was heartbreaking. And it was then I made up my mind that I wanted to come back home and do something meaningful.

“When I returned, I was experiencing a mixture of emotions. I was completely dissatisfied, angry and deflated with the state of our world and I was also frustrated with the thought of spending the rest of my life doing something I didn’t really care for.”

Katie said it was this renewed sense of direction that led her to starting the Underground Collaborative.

“I wanted to give life and a sense of freedom for people who did not have the privileges I did growing up,’’ she said.

“My parents worked incredibly hard to provide for our family and I always felt I wanted to make them proud and do something meaningful with my life.”

Through the Underground Collaborative, Katie provides employment for women impacted by domestic violence and young people at-risk and helps them find sustainable housing solutions.

Curtin graduate Katie Liew speaking at an event

With a passion for international aid and social impact Katie is dismantling the stigma of homelessness.

With no regrets of giving up corporate life, she is focused on empowering women and young people.

“You don’t have to change the world, to change the world. Change your world, to change someone else’s,’’ she said.

Katie said a key component of successful progress in the homelessness sector was collaboration.

“The recognition is that we are stronger when we unite forces, share successes stories and struggles and create a true picture of the issue we’re trying to solve,’’ she said.

“One of our beautiful employees who previously worked at Ground+Co, has transitioned to permanent employment where she had saved up enough money to enter the private rental market.

“She has broken the cycle of homelessness and is an incredible inspiration to not only myself but to so many.”

Armed with a passion for international aid, social impact and human rights Katie is breaking the cycle of homelessness and dismantling the stigma surrounding society’s perception to raise awareness and create change.

“The goal at the end of the day is to educate, empower and employ.” she said.

___

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Congratulations to Helping Little Hands CEO and Co-Founder Joanne Beedie on being named our 2023 John Curtin Medallist. 👏🎓

Determined to use her own lived experience to help others, Joanne set up a charity to help support the thousands of WA families with premature and sick babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Helping Little Hands focuses on stepping in when families fall between the gaps in government services, such as providing petrol vouchers, cots and car seats to raising hundreds of dollars to fund essential medical equipment.

Joanne, we are so grateful for the significant impact you are making to help improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community! 💛

Discover more about Joanne’s inspiring work via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #AlumniAwards #JohnCurtinMedal #Leadership #Community #NotforProfit #Charity #Premature #Neonatal #Health

Congratulations to Helping Little Hands CEO and Co-Founder Joanne Beedie on being named our 2023 John Curtin Medallist. 👏🎓

Determined to use her own lived experience to help others, Joanne set up a charity to help support the thousands of WA families with premature and sick babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Helping Little Hands focuses on stepping in when families fall between the gaps in government services, such as providing petrol vouchers, cots and car seats to raising hundreds of dollars to fund essential medical equipment.

Joanne, we are so grateful for the significant impact you are making to help improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community! 💛

Discover more about Joanne’s inspiring work via link in bio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #AlumniAwards #JohnCurtinMedal #Leadership #Community #NotforProfit #Charity #Premature #Neonatal #Health
...

This #WorldGratitudeDay, we are thankful for those in our community empowering others to become confident members of society. 💛 

Thanks to a generous donor who struggled with a stutter throughout her life, Curtin PhD Speech Pathology student Rachel Michael was gifted a scholarship to explore the lack of support for school-aged children who stutter. 

Rachel was motivated to pursue Speech Pathology after watching a loved one get bullied at school and seeing the frustration this can bring to a child and their family. 

“I’m so grateful to have met my donor and thanked her personally. Hearing how stuttering had impacted her life, has made my work in this area so much more real and purposeful,” she said. 

Read more about Rachel’s story and the life-changing research being carried out at Curtin’s Stuttering Treatment Clinic in #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆

#WorldGratitudeDay #CurtinAlumni #CurtinCommunity #CurtinResearch #GivingBack #Gratitude #Stuttering #Research #SpeechPathology #Psychosocial #SpeechDisorder

This #WorldGratitudeDay, we are thankful for those in our community empowering others to become confident members of society. 💛

Thanks to a generous donor who struggled with a stutter throughout her life, Curtin PhD Speech Pathology student Rachel Michael was gifted a scholarship to explore the lack of support for school-aged children who stutter.

Rachel was motivated to pursue Speech Pathology after watching a loved one get bullied at school and seeing the frustration this can bring to a child and their family.

“I’m so grateful to have met my donor and thanked her personally. Hearing how stuttering had impacted her life, has made my work in this area so much more real and purposeful,” she said.

Read more about Rachel’s story and the life-changing research being carried out at Curtin’s Stuttering Treatment Clinic in #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆

#WorldGratitudeDay #CurtinAlumni #CurtinCommunity #CurtinResearch #GivingBack #Gratitude #Stuttering #Research #SpeechPathology #Psychosocial #SpeechDisorder
...

Curtin Masters graduate Valentina Sanchez travelled more than 16,000 kilometres from Colombia to pursue her Master’s degree at Curtin. 🎓🌎💛

Since graduating with her Master’s in Commerce of Information Systems and Technology, Valentina shares her favourite Curtin experiences and exciting future plans.

𝗤: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁?
A: My best memory ever was when I met my awesome friends. We all ended up in the same class and, bam, instant connection! Now, they're like my family here in Australia, and that's honestly one of the coolest things that can happen when you're far from home in a new country.

𝗤: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗻?
A: I faced significant challenges as an international student which included being away from my family, overcoming language barriers and adjusting to a new culture. At times, I was uncertain if I could make it work. However, this taught me that we are never fully prepared for every challenge life throws at us. Instead, we learn and grow by embracing opportunities as they arise.

𝗤: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗳𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗿 𝗴𝗼𝗮𝗹?
A: My ultimate dream job would be to work for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I know there is a long journey ahead, but you know what they say – every big accomplishment starts with a dream.
 
Want to connect with other like-minded graduates on a mission to change the world? Update your details to get access to alumni opportunities via #linkinbio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #Graduations #DataAnalysis #Economics #University #HigherEducation #Education #Alumni #Perth #PerthisOk #PerthLife

Curtin Masters graduate Valentina Sanchez travelled more than 16,000 kilometres from Colombia to pursue her Master’s degree at Curtin. 🎓🌎💛

Since graduating with her Master’s in Commerce of Information Systems and Technology, Valentina shares her favourite Curtin experiences and exciting future plans.

𝗤: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁?
A: My best memory ever was when I met my awesome friends. We all ended up in the same class and, bam, instant connection! Now, they`re like my family here in Australia, and that`s honestly one of the coolest things that can happen when you`re far from home in a new country.

𝗤: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗻?
A: I faced significant challenges as an international student which included being away from my family, overcoming language barriers and adjusting to a new culture. At times, I was uncertain if I could make it work. However, this taught me that we are never fully prepared for every challenge life throws at us. Instead, we learn and grow by embracing opportunities as they arise.

𝗤: 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗳𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗿 𝗴𝗼𝗮𝗹?
A: My ultimate dream job would be to work for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I know there is a long journey ahead, but you know what they say – every big accomplishment starts with a dream.
 
Want to connect with other like-minded graduates on a mission to change the world? Update your details to get access to alumni opportunities via #linkinbio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #Graduations #DataAnalysis #Economics #University #HigherEducation #Education #Alumni #Perth #PerthisOk #PerthLife
...

Did you know when you become a Curtin graduate  you automatically get access to many incredible career and learning opportunities, including our various Curtin Credential short courses. 📚🎓

The opportunities are endless – learn how to leverage new and emerging technologies in the workplace or even discover how to increase your job satisfaction and productivity. 

That’s not all, Curtin grads receive a $40 discount on all Curtin Credentials by using the discount code 728OAC at the checkout. This discount is valid until 22 December.

Find out more about the endless variety of Curtin Credential courses on offer via the #linkinbio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #Graduate #Alumni #Perks #LifelongLearner #Learning #LearningOpportunities #HigherEducation #Upskilling #Opportunities #ProfessionalDevelopment #CurtinCredentials

Did you know when you become a Curtin graduate you automatically get access to many incredible career and learning opportunities, including our various Curtin Credential short courses. 📚🎓

The opportunities are endless – learn how to leverage new and emerging technologies in the workplace or even discover how to increase your job satisfaction and productivity.

That’s not all, Curtin grads receive a $40 discount on all Curtin Credentials by using the discount code 728OAC at the checkout. This discount is valid until 22 December.

Find out more about the endless variety of Curtin Credential courses on offer via the #linkinbio. 👆

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #Graduate #Alumni #Perks #LifelongLearner #Learning #LearningOpportunities #HigherEducation #Upskilling #Opportunities #ProfessionalDevelopment #CurtinCredentials
...

Watching bombs rain down on her home country of Ukraine during Russia’s invasion was like watching a horror film for Curtin Journalism graduate Daryna Zadvirna. 🎥🎓
 
While millions were attempting to flee the war zone, @abcnews_au Cross-Platform Reporter Daryna packed her bags and headed to Ukraine to share the untold stories of those on the frontline.
 
Little did she know, a year later her documentary, ‘My Ukraine: Inside the Warzone’ would earn her a prestigious Walkley Award for Young Journalist of the Year.
 
But behind the camera lens and shiny awards, nothing could prepare Daryna for what she saw unfold in Ukraine.
 
Read more in #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆
 
#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #CurtinCommons #Journalism #CrossPlatform #Reporter #TheWestAustralian #Ukraine #Russia #Storytelling #Documentary #Leadership #InternationalAffairs

Watching bombs rain down on her home country of Ukraine during Russia’s invasion was like watching a horror film for Curtin Journalism graduate Daryna Zadvirna. 🎥🎓
 
While millions were attempting to flee the war zone, @abcnews_au Cross-Platform Reporter Daryna packed her bags and headed to Ukraine to share the untold stories of those on the frontline.
 
Little did she know, a year later her documentary, ‘My Ukraine: Inside the Warzone’ would earn her a prestigious Walkley Award for Young Journalist of the Year.
 
But behind the camera lens and shiny awards, nothing could prepare Daryna for what she saw unfold in Ukraine.
 
Read more in #CurtinCommons via link in bio. 👆
 
#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #CurtinCommons #Journalism #CrossPlatform #Reporter #TheWestAustralian #Ukraine #Russia #Storytelling #Documentary #Leadership #InternationalAffairs
...

We have some exciting news! 🎉👏

Curtin has been named as WA’s top public university for undergraduate employment in the latest Good Universities Guide.

For the fifth year in a row, Curtin has outranked all other WA public universities for undergraduate outcomes in full-time employment, starting salary and staff qualification.

We are thrilled to hear that 74 per cent of our undergraduate students secured full-time employment within fourth months of finishing their degree, earning the highest median starting salary among WA public university graduates.

This incredible result would not be possible without our outstanding educators and strong industry connections that have helped us produce our career-ready graduates!

📸: @sharaan_muruvan 
	
#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #GoodUniversitiesGuide #Education #HigherEducation #Rankings #Employability #University #WesternAustralia #Graduates

We have some exciting news! 🎉👏

Curtin has been named as WA’s top public university for undergraduate employment in the latest Good Universities Guide.

For the fifth year in a row, Curtin has outranked all other WA public universities for undergraduate outcomes in full-time employment, starting salary and staff qualification.

We are thrilled to hear that 74 per cent of our undergraduate students secured full-time employment within fourth months of finishing their degree, earning the highest median starting salary among WA public university graduates.

This incredible result would not be possible without our outstanding educators and strong industry connections that have helped us produce our career-ready graduates!

📸: @sharaan_muruvan

#CurtinUniversity #CurtinAlumni #GoodUniversitiesGuide #Education #HigherEducation #Rankings #Employability #University #WesternAustralia #Graduates
...