Paediatrician and children's rights advocate Sue Packer has been named the 2019 Senior Australian of the Year.

Dr Packer - a leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse - received the award over the weekend.

The 76-year-old has worked as a paediatrician since 1972 and has been involved with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect for decades.

She has treated generations of child abuse victims and championed a number of children's health causes.

Dr Packer says adults need to improve the lives of Australian children.

“We need to notice children, be curious about their lives, whether it's our own children, children in the neighbourhood or the children on Nauru,” Dr Packer told the ceremony at the National Arboretum.

“My dream is that one day Australia will be recognised as the best place in the world to be a child.”

Dr Packer advocates for the importance of early childhood environments for the developing brain, and has been a key proponent of child-friendly spaces in hospitals and the value of play in recovery.

“Her dedication to protecting young lives has brought about practical change in treating children and has directly improved the lives of untold children,” National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche said.