Dr Sue Packer named 2019 Senior Australian of the Year

Posted 1 Feb 2019

Story by Her Canberra

The 2019 Senior Australian of the Year is 76-year-old Dr Suzanne Packer AM.

Since starting her career as a paediatrician in 1972, Dr Sue Packer AM has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of children in our healthcare system and in the wider community.

She has been involved in child abuse prevention through the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since its very early days and has treated child abuse victims. Sue has also championed the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain, leading to recognition by education and government agencies.

Sue was one of the driving forces behind the acknowledgement of the importance of creating child-friendly spaces in hospitals and the value of play in recovery. Lecturing internationally and volunteering on a number of boards to improve health and well-being of children, Sue stands up for the rights of children at every opportunity and encourages others to do the same.

Sue’s Words of Wisdom

Interviewed for our HerCanberra Wise Women series in 2017, Sue shared her words of wisdom on several key issues

On how communities can better protect children…

“Children are safest in communities where they are an integral part of that community. They need to be known and noticed by all the people who are part of their daily lives and those people need to feel a fundamental responsibility for all those children.

Children need to be confident of being loved no matter what. The parent’s part is to remain aware that the child is developing and learning and may see the world very differently and make a lot of mistakes as they learn. There needs to be an enduring capacity to delight in the child.”

I am happiest when…

“When I try to “live in the moment” and consciously enjoy good moments now as they happen. I was very happy as a child despite living with some very dysfunctional elements. My family was, and remains, the core of my life. The important things in my childhood were that I was confident of being loved and secure.

My own children and now my very new grandchildren are responsible for an intensity of happiness which can be quite overwhelming. This can also result in intense despair and anxiety when anything appears to threaten these very special people – or if you are out of “sync” with any of them.”

When life presents challenges…

“Life can move you immediately from control to chaos and in these situations, you come to realise we are all fundamentally very vulnerable and cannot always cope alone. We need to muster whatever help we can.

I felt this in a huge way when my husband died suddenly and without warning some years ago. I have an enduring appreciation and gratitude for the caring and resourcefulness of my friends and family because of the steadfast and continuing help I was offered at the time and which endured – and which is still there if I need it.”

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