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Starfish Associates

Starfish’s sustainability specialists bring extensive professional experience, expertise and passion for rural and regional sustainability. The breadth of Starfish’s initiatives and services reflects this.

SF_Email_AssociatesStarfish Associates are freelance contractors as well as collaborators in creating Starfish itself ~ its services, systems, methods, intellectual property and initiatives.

Fit-for-purpose teams are formed for each Starfish initiative or engagement. This is to achieve high quality results by ensuring the necessary capabilities are involved. While Starfish Associates are the core pool of professionals engaged in our work, they are often joined by other professionals and partners. Starfish has engaged 228 contracts for professional services since its formation.

The benefits of becoming a Starfish Associate include:

  • Leveraging Starfish’s track-record and reputation in rural and regional sustainability
  • Utilising Starfish’s Supporting Systems (detailed below)
  • Creating, leading and implementing rural and regional sustainability initiatives, and more specifically:
    • Providing professional services on a fee-for-service basis to support others
    • Developing and leading their own sustainability initiatives and enterprises
    • Contributing to rural and regional sustainability more generally
  • Having the flexibility to work independently of Starfish, as a freelance contractor
  • Holding a preferred supplier status for sub-contracted work generated by Starfish.

To date, Starfish has developed the following systems and supports for Associates:

  • Fund Raising
    • Tax deductibility for grants and donations through the Starfish Foundation
    • Income tax exempt status for grant and government funding
    • Access to subscription services with regular updates regarding grants and tenders
  • Governance & Strategy
    • Strategic oversight by Starfish’s Board of Directors, particularly to ensure the financial and legal integrity of all sustainability initiatives and services
    • Independent financial audit by Roberts & Morrow
    • Mechanisms to manage multi-party collaborations and contracts
    • Access to expertise and peer support from other Associates and their networks
    • Access to Starfish’s Auspice Service (refer separate policy) to manage contracts and hold intellectual property, licences and other assets in trust
    • Banking, finance, accounting, reporting and administration
    • Insurance coverage for initiatives led through Starfish Initiatives
  • Profile & Branding
    • Co-branding, and the associated recognition and reputation arising from Starfish’s track-record with grants, tenders, contracts and delivery of projects and services
    • Communication systems including email (with cloud back-up), websites, social media and subscriber databases
    • Collateral, such as business cards, web presence and car decals
  • Library of templates, open-source software, policies, etc. for project coordination

Contact us  if you are interested to find out more about becoming a Starfish Associate.

“The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life.

“And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.”

~ Henry Moore

“It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.”

~ Arnold Toynbee


Starfish Associates apply their professional capabilities and passion to bring about the essential changes needed for sustainability.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

~ Socrates

“When an old culture is dying, the new culture is created by those of us who are not afraid to be insecure.”

~ Rudolph Bayo

Kathryn Brooks

Kathryn Brooks

Social Developer

Kathryn has strong roots in the country, is passionate about community building and purposeful impact.

Kathryn has broad experience in the community sector including in youth, disability, seniors, rural and regional, mental health, community capacity building and with human rights issues.

Kathryn has a Bachelor in Arts (Peace Studies) and Laws, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and Certificate IV in Cultural and Community Development.
m: +61 (0) 400 336 091

Chris S Harris

Chris S Harris

Sustainability Strategist & Specialist Generalist

Chris brings a breadth and depth of experience in senior and strategic roles across wide range of nationally and internationally significant environmental and social campaigns. This experience underpins Chris’ specialty in strategic and senior leadership organisational and project roles.

Chris’ work has included water issues, land management, planning, climate change, forests and mining. Chris has a degree in in Economics and Politics and is a journalist by training.
m: +61 (0) 411 509 322

Pete Arkins

Pete Arkins

Design & Creative Collaboration

Pete has extensive professional experience in communication design across the Vocational Education, Commercial and Community sectors. He has been involved with Starfish from its very beginnings and contributed to a number of high profile initiatives.

Pete has a Master of Design from RMIT and holds qualifications in Communications (BA), Information Technology and Multimedia (Cert III).
m: +61 (0) 431 268 534

Liz Gardiner

Liz Gardiner

Renewable Energy &
Sustainable Business Specialist

Liz has leading project coordination roles with Zero Net Energy Town, Farming the Sun and New England Wind plus co-facilitates the Northern Inland Sustainable Business Network.

Liz has also been involved with many of Starfish’s youth-focused initiatives.

Liz holds qualifications in Economics (Honors) and an Advanced Diploma in Arts (Peace Studies).
t: +61 2 6778 7249

Kev Hartley

Kev Hartley

Founder & Marketing Director
Earth Funerals

Kevin Hartley is founder and Marketing Director of Earth Funerals.

Kev brings more than 20 years of practical experience in the funeral industry, is recognised as an authority, and advocate, for natural burial, and has won awards for his novel innovations.

Kev holds a degree in Psychological Sciences from UNE, studied in Europe as a Vice Chancellors Scholar, and is a natural born problem solver with a unique ability to analyse and de-construct complex issues.
t: +61 (0) 401 206 342

Bob Neville

Bob Neville

Micro Business Facilitator

Bob is one of Australia’s longest serving Economic Development Practitioners and is passionate about small communities and the micro-economy. Bob has identified, tested and documented a Natural Science for Small Community Regeneration ~ resulting in the Community Gold Program which supports community and economic development with the untapped ‘seed-ideas’ that exist in every small community.
m: +61 (0) 428 976 882

Susan McMichael

Susan McMichael

Communications Support

Susan is deeply passionate about social justice ~ particularly for women, children and Australia’s first peoples ~ and environmental issues such as climate change and the degradation and loss of natural areas.

Sue pursues this passion through her extensive voluntary involvement with numerous local charities and community services, including the Armidale Women‘s Centre, Neighbourhood Centre, Women in Black, Writer’s Centre and Uniting Church.

Sue is also an author, writing poetry and prose, utilising her Bachelor of Arts in english language and literature from the University of New England.

Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa

Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa

Project Director
Biochar for Sustainable Soils

Ruy leads Starfish‘s Biochar for Sustainable Soils initiative and is passionate about the potential of biochar to improve soil fertility and sustainability.

Ruy’s experience includes biochar, carbon markets, life cycle analysis and the uptake of appropriate technology in less developed countries. Ruy has a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, a Masters of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology and Bachelor of Science in Mechanical with Electrical Engineering.

While born in Mexico, Ruy’s life and work have taken him around the globe and he is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Swedish.
m: +61 431 571 732

Adam Blakester

Adam Blakester

Executive Director &
Community Entrepreneur

Adam is a community entrepreneur and social change strategist with diverse environmental, community, business and government experience.

With qualifications originally in accounting and taxation law, Adam blends strong business and organisational acumen with expertise in leadership, management, community development, facilitation and communication.
m: +61 (0) 419 808 900

Bruce Gardiner

Bruce Gardiner

Resilient Agro-Ecosystems & Farming Enterprise

Bruce specialises in the resilience of farming enterprises and has a degree in Agricultural Economics. Bruce is a freelance consultant, however has worked with Border Rivers Gwydir Catchment Management Authority, NSW Department of Agriculture and the FarmBis program.

Over the past 20 years Bruce has has worked with more than 3,500 farmers and in parallel has worked extensively to develop the theory of resilience in agro-ecosystems.

Bruce is also a farm planning and farm business resilience lecturer with the University of New England for post-graduate and external students.
t: +61 2 6778 7249

Ian Gesch

Ian Gesch

Technology Solutions Innovator

Ian is a creator and implementer of innovative technology solutions and holds qualifications in science, renewable energy, engineering and business analysis.

Ian’s work career is similarly diverse, including satellite operations, technical support for scientific instruments, building secure communications products for the Australian Defence Force and managing secure information systems for geographically dispersed users.
m: +61 0 447 564 246

Susanna Carpi

Susanna Carpi

Community Coordinator
Lismore Community Solar

Susanna is coordinating Starfish’s Farming the Sun Lismore Community Solarfarm projects.

Susanna brings extensive experience with start up enterprises and a long standing commitment to community sustainability and wellbeing, with a career spanning community organisations, entreprenuers, business, boards; in and out of Australia; in industries as diverse as medical, training and development, the arts and renewable energy.

Susanna’s holds a Bachelor of Business (Swinburne University of Technology), Life Coaching (The Coaching Institute) and Certificate IV Horticulture (TAFE NSW).
t: 0401 956 710

Chris Serow

Chris Serow

Legal & Charity Specialist

Christopher is the founder and Principal, Solicitor Director of Legal Minds.

Chris has extensive experience in the practice of civil litigation, employment and industrial law, family law, estate planning, equity and trusts, administrative and business law, education law, wine law, consumer law, notarial practice and migration law matters.