Alumni Award Winners

Kimberley Abbott Alumni Awards 2015


Young Alumni Award Winner 2015

Kimberley Abbott

Bid Manager, Thales Australia | Founder and CEO, Roka
Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) Honours / Bachelor of  Science (Exercise Science) 2012


Citation orated by UOW alumnus Mr Silvio Rivier

Real reformers see a spectrum of possibility and recognise the opportunities to better their communities. They do not see the world in black and white. Kimberley Abbott is such a person. She is an entrepreneur and is passionate about social change. She is a fine example of the qualities of the UOW graduate in action: a fearless and determined problem solver, making an important contribution to society.

The University of Wollongong can take pride at being there at the beginning of a very special career. In 2010, as one of only five women in her engineering class, Kimberley co-founded ‘Yes WE (Women Engineers) Can!’ which aims to educate young girls about engineering and inspire them to consider a career in the engineering and science fields. The program has been so successful that it has since been endorsed by the University and has been implemented as a credited subject of the Engineering curriculum. A pattern was emerging and it had to do with not only initiative but durability. Kimberley Abbott is a natural engineer.

Kimberley was still an undergraduate when she took up an offer from the University in 2012 to travel to India for a month as a volunteer with the ‘40K Foundation’. Seeing the poverty and hardship of the workers in the quarries around Bangalore, she used her university-honed skills and knowledge to become a catalyst for change. She founded and designed all aspects of the social business ‘Roka’, which engages women to fashion beautiful pieces of jewellery from the waste product of the granite quarries. They are then sold on the Roka website. Roka gives women a means of income and a way to support their families by turning ‘rubble into rupees’. The company profits have contributed to the building of a $40,000 education centre which will be available to all village children in the area. Although centred on a social cause, Roka is still a business and Kimberly exemplifies the emerging movers and shakers of today’s ventures – young, socially aware and altruistic.

Gail Kelly, former CEO of Westpac and now Care Australia Ambassador, recently said: “Help one woman out of poverty and she’ll bring four with her”. A young Kimberley Abbott intuitively grasped this concept. The Roka women are now taking ownership under Kimberley’s guidance. They are seeing the power of enterprise and education to help break the poverty cycle.

Since passing over the reins for Roka, Kimberley has founded two new social enterprises: SheBuild and GenBuild.

In 2013 she was named in The Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence list. In 2014, Kimberley was a finalist in the NSW Young Woman of the Year Awards and was selected by the Australian Government this year to attend the ‘United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’.

Acting as an Advisor to the Minister, Kimberley brought to the UN forums her insights into gender equality and her experience in engineering and social business, and the importance of economic empowerment of women. Kate Wallace, Senior Adviser in the Office for Women, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet speaks of Kimberley’s “remarkable contribution to the Australian delegation [which] has been acknowledged by the Minister and the Australian Mission in New York”. She hails Kimberley as a “very authentic speaker, who is able to share her own inspirational efforts in an accessible way that really challenges others to think outside the square”. Kimberley has spoken at a number of notable events, including TEDxYouth@Sydney in 2013. She inspires others by matching action to her words.

Kimberley completed her Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering Honours and Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science) in 2012. During her last year of study in conjunction with her related Honours thesis, she undertook an internship with BiVACOR to assist in developing and testing their mechanical artificial heart. She is currently employed full-time as a Bid Manager for Thales Australia and also provides knowledge and expertise for the company’s Global Corporate Social Responsibility Framework.

Kimberley Abbott is only 25 years old yet her record of achievement is extraordinary.

In her own words “Sometimes you gotta create what you want to be a part of...”

Chancellor, it is a pleasure and privilege to present Kimberley Abbott for the Young Alumni Award.


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Last reviewed: 22 March, 2016