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Making employment more inclusive

11 May 2023 at 9:22 am
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
Understanding the impact of disadvantage first-hand inspired Karina Davis to dedicate her career to creating social change within the education and employment sectors. She is this week’s Changemaker.

Ruby Kraner-Tucci | 11 May 2023 at 9:22 am


Making employment more inclusive
11 May 2023 at 9:22 am

Understanding the impact of disadvantage first-hand inspired Karina Davis to dedicate her career to creating social change within the education and employment sectors. She is this week’s Changemaker.

Education was not an accessible part of Karina Davis’ community. Growing up working class, she helped her family earn an income by cleaning office buildings at just 12 years old. Davis went on to become the first in her family to finish high school, receive a university degree and undertake postgraduate studies. 

Intimately understanding the impact of disadvantage influenced Davis to pursue a career in social change, and she has spent the past ten years developing innovative educational and training programs to make the system more inclusive.

“I entered the field aware of the systemic barriers I faced [and with] first-hand experience of the impact of those barriers for myself and for my family” Davis explains. “Over time, I educated myself on barriers facing others so I could continue to learn and grow and carve out further opportunities for people.”

Davis started her career researching how inclusive teaching and learning can operate within educational settings, and the pathways this can open for children and families from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including Indigenous Australians. 

Working in various education management roles at Melbourne Polytechnic and Monash College expanded this focus, and Davis concentrated on the support required by students to stay in school. “The retention of people once they entered a system was essential, and is not always well understood or resourced,” she says.

The move from inclusive education into inclusive employment happened organically and Davis now leads Jobsbank Australia, a not-for-profit organisation tailoring solutions to increase employer inclusivity, fill workforce gaps and create positive social procurement outcomes.

In this week’s Changemaker, Davis reflects on the progress of Australian businesses in areas of diversity, inclusion and equity; the importance of building a close and skilled network of peers; and how she channels her life experiences into her work.

What does this role mean to you?

This role provides me with a unique opportunity for massive collaboration across a really large ecosystem – collaboration between employers, priority cohorts, government, local communities, academia, service providers, social enterprises and First Nations businesses. 

The opportunity to do this and create lasting change doesn’t happen often and this is the most meaningful part of the role for me.

Take us through a typical day of work for you.

The first three months of the job were dedicated to understanding the Jobsbank team and meeting our industry, business, event, research and supplier partners – practically everyone in the Jobsbank ecosystem.

I am finding that no two days of work have been the same! From visiting inspiring social enterprises like Green Collect and Ability Works; to liaising with other partners in the cause like ICN Vic, SenVic, NESA or NORTHLink; to talking with the Victorian government on the realisation of the social impact goals they have; to finalising our new strategy with my leadership team; to meeting with our researchers that have been doing impressive work in the background.

My job across all this is to pull the tendrils of these parts together to create and support the impact and outcomes we all want for people often locked out of employment.  

How do Australian workplaces stack up when it comes to inclusivity?

A lot of good work has been done. We are observing the emergence of workplaces that have developed functional systems across the last few years. They have policies and procedures that make sense, a roadmap with specific targets and ongoing training for their employees. It’s not enough yet to become the mainstream, but it is enough to create a long term shift with the help of organisations like Jobsbank.

Australia also has great researchers and we have good research reports and publications of practical tools that help navigate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in employment from organisations like our partners at Diversity Council Australia. 

Still for many workplaces, DEI remains a process of ticking the box or it is the legacy and/or vision of one leader. That’s where we come in – to support the embedding of inclusive employment change across an organisation.  

This comes down to a few key things. It’s about connecting the dots and creating meaningful collaboration; it’s about sharing the learnings of those who are figuring it out with the corporate world; and it’s about translating this learning into something that makes commercial sense; and then it’s about rolling that out.  

What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your career and how did you overcome it? 

This is an interesting question because there have been lots of challenges from my perspective. For me, it’s not so much about the one or two challenges I could talk about. Rather it’s about the learnings I have taken from them so I can move forward having improved an aspect of my life, leadership, skills or grown in understanding and resilience.

One thing I do experience though, and it’s a common experience for people who have been first in their family to finish school or step into job roles and job levels that are unfamiliar, is feeling settled with the gap that exists because the study, work and role I do now has not been one I observed by people in the communities I grew up in.

I have had to be determined and planned in building a close and skilled network around me that is encouraging and reminds me of my skills and purpose. This network has been essential for me to safely unpack how work environments, relationships and politics work, what the ‘rules’ are, and how to manage increasingly complex organisational problems and tensions. 

This unpacking isn’t to simply then mimic the status-quo but to understand it and then make thoughtful and wise decisions about how I, as a leader, want to operate, what I want to push against, and how I remain consistent with my values and sense of purpose. 

If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself as you first embarked on your career?

Don’t worry or doubt yourself so much. You have valuable insights and contributions to make because of your background and life experiences.

How do you stay motivated to work in this field? 

By staying close to the ground, and seeing and hearing about the changes that happen when you open opportunities for more people to be included and valued for their perspectives and contributions. 

How do you unwind after work? 

After work I do some exercise, hang out with my family and watch TV or read fiction. I usually go to bed early.

What was the last thing you: 

  • Watched? Broadchurch, Little America, Ted Lasso, Welcome to Wrexham. The second season of Schmigadoon is coming out too – I can’t wait!
  • Read? Sixty-Seven Days by Yvonne Weldon, The Seamstress of Sardinia by Bianca Pitzorno and CEO Excellence by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller and Vikram Malhotra.
  • Listened to? The Jobsbank Getting it Right podcast of course, and then any 80s or 90s pop music, played loud!

Ruby Kraner-Tucci  |  @ProBonoNews

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist, with a special interest in culture, community and social affairs. Reach her at

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