Irene Kemeridis has a long history with Kew Primary School which began in 1974 when she started as a little Preppie in room 019 of the junior school hall. After KPS she went on to Kew High School and has lived in the area her whole life. Now, her own two children attend the school, Nicholas in Grade 2 and Keira in Prep.
Irene is co-owner of a local business, Persé, (named after Persephone, the Greek goddess of spring and the harvest) which produces and markets organic, 100% natural Australian made skincare products. I caught up with Irene recently to talk about Kew, the community, and an important event she’s organising.
Jacqui: There aren’t many current parents who went to Kew Primary themselves. How do you remember it?
Irene: My overall memories of KPS are happy ones. I was very involved in sport and I remember playing the recorder for the last few years I was there. I remember every Monday morning we would play God Save the Queen and then Advance Australia Fair in front of the whole school at assembly. I was a good kid, but a little chatty, which wouldn’t surprise the mums who know me now.
Jacqui: You support a number of local causes and charities through your business?
Irene: Yes, we’ve supported all the schools and kindergartens in the local area for many years. Persé is an on-going supporter of the Learning for Life Autism Centre, the Warwick Cancer Foundation and Child Wise.
Last year, Sophie Freestone, (another KPS mum) and I were part of the Ride to Conquer Cancer for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. We had to raise $2,500 each and ride 200km over two days. It was hilly and very gruelling and I’d started training too early and ended up with an injury, so I did most of the ride on pain-killers!
It was an emotional ride because I had lost my dad to cancer and Peter McCallum were wonderful to my dad. We reached our target and more. Sophie, Stella (another friend in the team) and I raised $10,000 for the cause which we were very proud of. Sophie and Stella had both lost loved ones to cancer so it was pretty emotional all round.
We will do the ride again next year, and this year we are raising money for the Smith Family on the Around the Bay in a Day ride in October.
Jacqui: You also have an on-going commitment to Child Wise. Can you tell me about them?
Irene: Child Wise is Australia’s leading international child protection charity and we became aware of them from one of our regular customers who was also a supporter. Child Wise work in Australia, Asia and the Pacific and their main objective is to stop child abuse before it occurs.
They work with organisations, with parents and teachers, to raise awareness of child abuse – and particularly of child sexual abuse. They educate the community and empower adults and kids to tackle what is a very difficult issue.
Jacqui: Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is still quite a difficult subject for people to talk about, almost taboo even?
Irene: Yes, absolutely. We want to bring awareness to as many people as we can and to encourage people to start talking about the problem and not burying their heads in the sand. It is a very important cause, especially with the rates of child abuse currently at 1 in 5 and the consequences lasting a life-time.
I understand it is a very difficult subject, but I think that prevention is so important rather than a life time of pain. I have recently been to a free seminar run by Child Wise about how we can keep our kids safe. As a parent, I walked away with more awareness and knowledge about how to protect my kids.
Jacqui: So tell me about this event you are organising?
Irene: We are holding a fun, light-hearted evening fundraiser for Child Wise at the gorgeous Via Verona on High Street, Kew on Friday 6th September at 7.30 pm. It will be a relaxed evening of drinks and chat, with a silent auction, some prizes, wine tasting and finger food.
We’ll have a guest speaker from Child Wise on the night and a portion of the entry fee will go directly to Child Wise.
In the past, we’ve found that it was really easy to get people to fund-raisers for cancer or other charities, but it’s always much more difficult to fund-raise around this issue. We’re hoping that lots of people from the broader KPS community will come, have a drink, catch up with friends and support a really good cause.
Tickets are $35.00 and you can book by phone: 03 9818 8700 or by email: email@example.com
It will be great to see lots of KPS mums and dads there. Thank you.
Jacqui Tomlins and Irene Kemeridis
You can check out Child Wise at: www.childwise.net
They have a confidential and anonymous toll free National Child Abuse Helpline on 1800 991099 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by direct bank deposit at: Westpac BSB 033050 Acct 264777.
Irene’s business is at: www.perse.com.au