Dr Karina Hamilton-Peel says she can trace many of her successes over the last 15 years "to the generosity of the Renouf family", who awarded 17-year-old Karina a life-changing scholarship to help her pursue her uni dreams. She now generously contributes to UniSC giving days to support the next generation of students.
Long before Karina became Dr Karina Hamilton-Peel, she was a high-achieving high school student with dreams of attending university as the first in her family to do so.
When she graduated from school at the age of 17, she didn’t know how it would happen, but she knew “university was always going to happen.” University was a complete unknown, something her parents “didn’t have a lot of experience in.”
After much research and visiting universities across Queensland, Karina chose to attend UniSC due to its relative proximity to home, and an accelerated honours program which aligned with her goals.
The next hurdle was finding out how to make uni work financially.
In researching potential scholarships, Karina came across the Renouf Family Scholarship for high achieving students commencing their first undergraduate degree. She thought she might fit that bill, and applied for it.
"When I found out I’d received the scholarship, it felt like a massive load had been lifted off myself and my family… it meant I could move to the Sunshine Coast from Hervey Bay and concentrate on my studies, which is why I wanted to go to uni in the first place,” Karina said.
“It was a real privilege to get a scholarship, I'm really grateful to the Renouf family and I owe a lot of where I am now to them.”
Karina received the Renouf Family Scholarship in the first year it was offered. In 2008, Sir Clem Renouf AM established the Renouf Family Scholarships, in memory of his parents for their sacrifice in giving him the best education possible, under challenging circumstances.
“It did change my life… it took that financial pressure off so I could focus on my studies and achieve, which opened new doors including other awards and jobs,” she said.
“Knowing there were people who saw my potential, and contributed to it, created that impetus to do well and go far, to prove their investment was worthwhile."
After completing her undergraduate accelerated Bachelor of Biomedical Science in 2009 and Class I Honours in 2010, Karina went on to complete her PhD in Pharmacology in 2015. During her time at UniSC, she was awarded numerous prizes and research scholarships, including receiving the Chancellors Medal in 2016. She’s now a senior medical writer at Springer Healthcare in Brisbane, writing clinical trial research for pharmaceutical corporations.
“The Renouf family and I have stayed in touch over the years, Sir Clem, Firth and Judy (his wife and daughter) have attended all my graduation ceremonies… they have a vested interest in what all the scholars they support are up to,” she said.
“I was amazed when I was talking to Judy recently, she rattled off half a dozen names of scholarship recipients over the years and knew what they were up to and what jobs they've got now… they really care and want to see everyone they support do really well.”
Sir Clem passed away in 2020, at the age of 99, though his two children Noel and Judy Renouf remain committed to carrying on the family’s legacy. It’s a legacy that inspires Karina to pay forward the kindness and generosity she was shown, creating a circle of giving.
“Clem established the Scholarship in honour of his family, and the sacrifices they made, so I'd like to pay that kindness forward, pay homage to them and to my family as well.”
Karina was recently part of a panel who spoke at UniSC’s Sunshine Coast Celebration of Philanthropy on 18 October. The event brought together our donor community, student scholarship recipients and researchers who spoke about the impact of giving to research.
Speaking as part of the philanthropy panel, Karina told guests that what might seem like a small act of kindness from one person, can have an incredible impact on another.
"When I look back on the last 15 years, I can trace much of it back to the generosity of the Renouf family."
“I was 17 when I started university and I didn't have the kind of life experience to fully understand how generous their gift was, though it still meant a lot to me to get a small portion of it to help me along. So, when I'm at a point I can do the same, I want to pass that kindness on.”
Once a recipient of philanthropic support, Karina now generously contributes to UniSC giving days supporting the next generation of students.
“I hope more people are inspired to help students, especially now with the cost of living and the rental crisis,” she said.
“It’s worthwhile donating a little bit to help students achieve, and coming from a medical research background, donations that go to research are just as important too.”
UniSC Student Relief Giving Day is on Tuesday, 28 November. Donations will go directly towards study support bursaries, relieving financial stress, so that our students can focus on their studies, futures, and a better tomorrow.
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