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Widow turns Kiwi family champion

Widow turns Kiwi family champion

At age 43, Kerry Burridge already has a lot of life under her belt. She was widowed at 33 after losing her young husband to a brain tumour, later repartnered and had three children in quick succession just before turning 40 and along the way has conquered life in a number of hard male-dominated industries.

Her CV includes high-level positions in business advisory (including one year spent living in Niue as the Economic Advisor to the Niuean government); industrial relations at Marsden Point and owning a fast-paced Tauranga construction firm.

But now the Tauranga mother is taking on one of her biggest challenges to date – championing the life of all Kiwi families in creating a one-stop shop of information and practical advice for parents at the just launched

This year Kerry has poured tens of thousands of her own dollars into a dream that began in a deceptively simple way: trying to find resources to help her own child with learning problems. Back then she was bewildered at the lack of information available online to help New Zealand parents; now she knows she’s created the solution.

The website features hundreds of pages written by child rearing, health, education and nutrition experts to provide the instant help and advice parents so often desperately need. Kerry’s innovation even allows parents to contribute their wisdom to the site and win online loyalty points that can be exchanged for family holidays.

Kerry has gained support from Plunket and enrolled high profile New Zealanders like family therapist Diane Levy (Super Granny), sporting icon Susan Devoy (Super Mum) and television and radio personality Mark Leishman (Super Dad) for her dream.

Kerry believes the website is an idea whose time has come. “Just our education pages alone are exciting with the information they cover. Also provided is independent, unbiased, professional information on diverse subjects including immunisation, nutrition, natural health and parenting methods for every age.”

Though Kerry’s own initial life plan was to become a lawyer, she instead trained in commerce and economics and began work in industrial relations at Marsden Point and later in personnel for Wilkins and Davies. Next came a move into commerce working for three high profile merchant banks before spending 10 years lecturing at the Auckland University of Technology as one of the youngest lecturers in her 20s.

It was while at AUT that Kerry met her Silicon Valley Californian-born husband Don who was a fellow lecturer. Sudden problems with speech and reading were initially misdiagnosed and treated as a stroke but subsequently found to be a brain tumour. Don died seven months later age 43. Back then Kerry wondered if she’d ever find love again or have children.

Now living with partner Ian McWilliam and a mother of three, Kerry works two days a week as the Business Consultant for the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce. In January this year she and Ian sold their construction company Fix It that they had grown from four to 28 staff within just three years to fund Kiwifamilies.

Kerry is adamant that the Kiwi Families website will reflect the diversity of modern family life – single, foster, step and other configurations across the cultural and ethnic mix. Putting together such a vast website has been a steep learning curve, but already Kiwi Families has caught solid interest with 500 advertisers on board.

“Raising children in 2006 is a different thing from the past,” says Kerry. “Our parents had the guidance of a very hands-on Plunket, help from extended family and the trusty advice of sources like Doctor Spock. Now there is so much conflicting information coming at parents, and combined with the current speed of life, it makes it hard for you to know where to turn.

“The website allows parents to feel part of an online community where in turn their opinions and contributions are valued.”

Kerry and Ian are parents to Abby, 7, Liam, 5 and Sam, 4. Kerry has a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration in Economics and Industrial Relations; a Post-Grad Diploma in Banking and a Master’s Degree in Economic Development.

Kiwi Families experts include:

Diane Levy
A trained psychologist, Diane has been working in family therapy for 24 years. She says: “I’m delighted to join Kiwi Families because it gives me another opportunity to speak directly to parents – this time via the internet. This is the first one-stop-shop for parents of Kiwi children of all ages.

Diane will be writing articles on the common behavioural problems facing parents of children from babies through to teens and young adulthood. “Most of us find ourselves responding to the same situation in the same way – usually a combination of cajoling, nagging, pleading, threatening and shouting, all the while thinking `There must be a better way!’

“I hope to offer parents a pathway that avoids exhausting praise and punishment and gives parents low energy ways of holding their children responsible for their behaviour in an age appropriate way.”

Dame Susan Devoy
World-class squash champion (eight New Zealand Open titles; eight British Open titles and four World Champ titles), Susan and husband Jon are parents to Julian, 13, Alex, 12, Josh, 10 and Jamie, 8. The family lives in Tauranga.

Susan was awarded an MBE in 1986, a CBE in 1992 and Dame Commander in 1998. She is currently the Chairperson of Sport Bay of Plenty. Says Susan: “My contribution to Kiwi Families will be to share my experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly. I hope people will identify with some of the challenges I face on a daily basis and realise that they are not alone in their quest to raise fine young men and women.

“I’m passionate about all children; their future is at stake and to me that’s about the greatest stake of all. I am not an expert parent or a parenting expert; I am a mum who wants just as I did in my sporting career to be the best I can be.”

Mark Leishman

Mark is well known to New Zealanders from his many years hosting the Wonderdog television series as well as fronting a number of other programs. Most recently Mark was the host on The Great New Zealand Spelling Bee. In his other job, Mark runs a program on the popular radio station, The Breeze.

Mark and his wife Jo have three children, Paddy, 13, Molly, 8 and Rosie, 3.

Says Mark: “I feel honoured and somewhat humbled to be included on the Kiwi Families website, especially in the company of the celebrated Dame Susan Devoy and Diane Levy. As far as I’m concerned I’m a pretty ordinary Dad, who has had a fortunate life when it comes to family.

“I’ve tried to make the job of being a loving, giving father an absolute top priority in life and, most of the time, I feel it is such a privilege being responsible for the happiness of our children. There is no doubt parenting is a job for life. It’s the most difficult, most draining yet at the same time, most satisfying, influential and important job you can have.”


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