Influential Greek Australian females unite to launch ‘Women in Philanthropia’

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By Mary Sinanidis.

A gathering of influential Greek Australian women took place at the prestigious Ritz-Carlton in Melbourne, Victoria on Friday, May 26, marking the launch of the ‘Women in Philanthropia’ movement, under the aegis of The Hellenic Initiative of Australia (THI Australia).

Led by Freda Miriklis, Chair of ‘Women in Philanthropia,’ the event symbolised both a new beginning and continuation of existing foundations.

At the launch. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Mary Sinanidis.
Attendees.

With a profound understanding of the challenges Greece has faced following years of economic downturn, with high unemployment rates and reduced public services, Freda, a global leader in advocating ethical businesses and trade opportunities, delivered an impassioned speech on how the movement would extend its reach globally to assist Greece’s most disadvantaged.

“Something needed to be done and it was almost like a ‘calling’ to bring it all together,” she said, highlighting the urgency and purpose behind the movement. It was a call the other women paid heed to with the new movement raising $10,000 in its first 24 hours.

Influential Greek Australian women.
Everyone enjoyed the launch.

Alongside Freda stand a formidable taskforce comprised of her CEO sister, Cherrie Miriklis, insightful Strategic Advisor Penny Sahinis and founder of Meleros Cosmetics Melissa Pateras. United by their unwavering commitment to social impact, they met just two months prior to this event. A serendipitous coincidence as the new Ritz-Carlton was concurrently launched to celebrate “the convergence of ancient stories and vibrant cultures,” according to its website.

Within the elegant surroundings, the room was filled with well-coiffed CEOs, academics, former politicians, and influential figures such as Melbourne fertility specialist Dr Lynn Burmeister.

Ioanna Nikoloulea from the Psaltries Choir of Melbourne also opened the night with her ethereal performance.

Yet, beneath the glamour, the attendees were acutely aware of the hardships Greece has endured following the debt crisis. Memories of our own migrant hardships transcended the dazzling jewellery, softly curated flowers set at each table by Cherrie’s company, Flowers Vasette, and opulent décor with touches of gold by artist Natalia Rompotis.

During his brief appearance, Andrew Liveris, a prominent figure, shared his Castellorizian-born grandmother’s story upon her arrival to Darwin in 1918.

Andrew Liveris spoke at the event.

“She lost her husband, my grandfather, soon thereafter. And that woman, she did everything. She washed clothes for minors, she cooked food for them, she worked day and night to give them a pathway,” Andrew recalled, reminiscing about his grandmother’s resilience and determination.

Her sacrifices laid the foundation for Andrew’s father and uncle to establish Darwin’s largest construction company.

Before making his exit, Andrew shared how Greek Australian women – his grandmother, mother and wife – have shaped his values of giving back and paying it forward.

“It was a very natural thing for me in the way I was moulded by these amazing women,” he said.

All smiles.
‘Women in Philanthropia’ was launched in Melbourne on Friday night.

His wife, Paula, the inaugural ambassador of ‘Women in Philanthropia,’ also shared her personal journey, reminding the audience that privilege is not inherited but earned through hard work and determination.

“I was born into a very humble home in Broken Hill, Australia. I didn’t get to go to college because there was no money and life was very tough, but here I am speaking to you, a very esteemed group here in Melbourne, and who would have thought?” Paula said.

She reflected on her own journey and urged women to become catalysts for change, drawing inspiration from MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, who pledged to donate most of her wealth, including a generous divorce settlement, to charity.

“MacKenzie Scott. She’s not Greek, but she could be,” Paula stated, emphasising the potential of every individual to make significant impact.

Attendees.

A hundred meticulously manicured hands raised fluted champagne glasses to toast Paula’s journey and the shared commitment to philanthropy.

Freda acknowledged the brain drain experienced by Greece, as many young individuals sought opportunities abroad. She highlighted the resilience of those who chose to return, driven by a deep-rooted connection to their homeland and a desire to contribute to its progress.

“They are the ones we support; they are the ones we back. We back their vision because they know the terrain, they know what they are going through, and they know what their country needs. They are the NGOs,” emphasised Freda, highlighting the significance of supporting these exceptional individuals.

A family affair. Sisters Cherrie and Freda Miriklis and Natalie Rombotis with her mum Elena.

Ms Sahinis added that “the fund will advance the needs of young people in Greece facing continued challenges” and underscored the movement’s commitment to supporting and empowering the next generation.

Jenny Mikakos, former health minister and a passionate advocate for Greek language programs, said she marvelled at the collective strength displayed by Greek women. She applauded the visionary women behind the movement, recognising their unwavering commitment to spearhead significant social and economic initiatives that would forever change lives in Greece.

More attendees including Jenny Mikakos (left).

Freda left the women with an edible impression. She stressed they were part of history in the making – a powerful force destined to reshape the narrative of Greece’s future.

United in purpose, a rallying cry resounded through the room. “Together. Όλοι μαζί!” was the catchcry women were called to state. A testament to the enduring strength and resilience of the Greek spirit.

Freda said it was a historic moment beginning in Melbourne with the opportunity to spread across the world. Anyone interested in hopping on board can find out more by visiting shoutforgood.com/fundraisers/womeninphilanthropiathiaustralia.

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