Prof Kerry Carrington

Head of School of Justice Faculty of Law at Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane Queensland
Business and Law,
Senior Leadership
Industry Engagement
Learning Innovation

Kerry Carrington is passionate about education, equality, and translating knowledge and making it widely accessible for the benefit of all. For the past eight years, Kerry has held a position as Head of School of Justice at QUT, where she leads a team of 29 academics and is responsible for several thousand students.

Challenges in her childhood years have made Kerry very resilient. The youngest of six children from a dysfunctional and disadvantaged family, Kerry was left to fend for herself in the world when she was just 15. Kerry persisted through hardship, put herself through high school, and ultimately was privileged to attend university, thanks to the changes made by the Whitlam Government.

Kerry had her first child while undertaking her PhD, which she completed in record time. Six years later, she had second child with new partner, and at 40 was surprised by a third child. This made her rethink her career entirely, and she took on a role in the Commonwealth Government as a Senior Researcher in Social Policy based in Canberra.

Kerry’s work in government gave her new insights into policy, decision making, and the machinery and workings of government. However, she began to feel stifled by government policy and operations: she couldn’t have ideas or be passionate, and there were restrictive limitations on activities she could undertake and how she could communicate them (for example, the words ‘equality’ and ‘poverty’ were banned from reports under Howard regime). She realised she was bending her values to the vision of the enterprise, and her integrity led move back into the university sector and eventually to her current role at QUT.

This role came with significant inherited challenges, including high attrition rates, underperforming academic and research programs, and major cultural issues from staff with backgrounds in military, army and special police services as opposed to academia and research. Kerry found herself at the centre of a misogynistic culture, and she was actively bullied and the subject of a hate campaign and a witch hunt. During this time she received little support from university, and could not speak publically on the issue. In the face of this challenge, she rallied her experiences and her networks, and never gave up on her vision of what could be. Her protagonists did not succeed in their ill-fated attempt to destroy her career, and none now work at QUT. After four years, she started to see significant changes happening. After eight years the school has been totally transformed under her leadership, from an under-performing unit with the worst degree in the university, and some of the most difficult staffing issues, into an all round high-achiever. The student load has increased three-fold, student attrition decreased dramatically, and research performance is at or above world class standard.

Kerry is passionate about the importance of networks and alliances; she believes it's important not to just see yourself as an individual, but as part of a team. She sees mentoring as a two-way street, and she's just as excited about what she can learn from mentoring as she is to help someone on their journey. Kerry is highly empathetic; she's an excellent listener and tries to understand people's frames of reference. She wants to connect her mentee with their passions and what drives them. She uses a coaching approach, helping her mentee identify their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, how they can leverage skills, identify resources required to reach goals.