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By Andrea Andres
30 May 2023

Being a parent is the most important job in the world. It's a special role that sees parents and caregivers nurturing and protecting their children, and it even has its own special day of celebration, with 1 June marked as the Global Day of Parents.

A mum who cherishes every moment with her three children is none other than UNICEF Australia Early Years ambassador Erica Packer. We recently spoke with Erica about her precious memories of her children and why she's doing all she can to support children around the world with their early development. 

1. As a mother of three, why are the early years an area of passion for you?

Erica: The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most important for their development, with more than a million neural pathways forming in their brain every second. I remember when my three children were this age, I was in awe of their curiosity and how they grew and learnt minute by minute.

Erica Packer with her young three children
Erica and her three children.
© UNICEF Australia/Supplied

Sadly, millions of children around the world miss the developmental opportunities they need during this critical window. That’s why I’m so passionate about supporting early childhood development. Ensuring children have the best care possible in these early years sets the best foundations for their whole lives. Young children who are safe, healthy and learning can grow up to contribute to strong, connected communities.

2. Tell us about the fond memories you have from your children's early years?

Erica: I remember the blur of constantly bouncing between the slowness of the smallest moments and the haste of rushing through the hour/day/week with three young children. Those small moments are my most fond memories; reading a book (and never skipping a page!), long cuddles, endless questions and answers, getting lost in tiny details about inconsequential things; leaving my rationale adult brain behind and seeing things from the point of view of a young child is refreshing and heartwarming.

3. From the trips you have been on with UNICEF, have there been any stand-out moments with the programs you experienced?

Erica: After we travelled over six hours in a canoe along the Mekong River to access some of the most remote villages in Laos, the first thing I thought was: “How on earth are we ever going to bring education to these communities?”

This is where you really feel the weight of UNICEF. They're able to execute something that seems impossible at first glance. Partnering with them to provide education in areas as remote as where we were in Laos gives me so much hope that there really will be no child left behind.

Erica taking part in a UNICEF program in Cambodia.
Erica taking part in a UNICEF program in Cambodia.
© UNICEF Australia/Supplied

4. Why is improving access to early childhood development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children important to you? 

Erica: I love Australia, and I feel lucky to have grown up in a country where so many of us have access to quality healthcare, education and freedom. But that isn’t the case for every child in our country. In remote communities, for example, more than 20 per cent of First Nations children are not enrolled in early childhood education. Early childhood education is so important for young lives because it helps them to develop the critical skills they need to thrive in school, and they are less likely to leave school early.

5. Is there anything you wish to share about some of the challenges you’ve been made aware of since being a UNICEF Australia Early Years ambassador?

Erica: Every single child should have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and nurturing educational environment. That’s why I support UNICEF’s Early Years programs like Indi Kindi. It's an early childhood program where UNICEF partners with the Moriarty Foundation to provide children under five in remote Aboriginal communities with education, as well as health and wellbeing support.

Building futures together

From birth to early childhood and adolescent development, UNICEF is there for every child. And you can be too.

By joining our Global Parent network, your monthly donation means we can be there for children in need across the globe. As a Global Parent, you'll help to deliver life-saving and life-changing care and support to children in more than 190 countries around the world, with transformational impacts for communities and entire countries.

"I wanted to be a Global Parent so that I could provide support for UNICEF to deploy wherever they see the need is most crucial at the time. Having seen the work of UNICEF first-hand motivates me to continue to be a Global Parent, as I trust them to make pragmatic decisions about where the support will be most effective."

Erica Packer
UNICEF Australia Early Years Ambassadors and a UNICEF Global Parent for the last 15 years

Together, we can work to build a better future for all children.

Become a Global Parent

Help reach children as soon as an emergency hits with medical supplies, safe drinking water and life-saving therapeutic food.

A woman smiling at the camera© UNICEF Australia/Supplied

About Erica Packer

Erica Packer is an Australian model and philanthropist. Originally from Gunnedah in rural NSW, she is passionate about children's early years and has funded incredible programs in Cambodia and Laos through the Erica Packer Project.