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Wise Women: Dr Sue Packer

Emma Macdonald

“Children need to be confident of being loved no matter what.”

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, HerCanberra celebrates 10 outstanding local women who revealing their own wisdom based on the very different paths they have taken in life.

Dr Sue Packer has been a paediatrician since the 1970s and helped set up the ACT’s Child At Risk Health Unit in 1990.

She was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 1999 for her tireless advocacy of child welfare and safety and named Canberra Citizen of the Year in 2013.

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 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.”

Photography: Martin Ollman

This article originally appeared as part of our Wise Women article in Magazine for Autumn 2017, which hits stockists next week. Find out more about Magazine here


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author