She’s got a big job, two young kids and, like any working mum, her plate is overflowing, but for Sylvia Jeffreys, that’s all the more reason to give back.
Sylvia Jeffreys knows how lucky she is. Two healthy sons. A “fabulous” husband in Peter Stefanovic. And a job she adores. So even though life is busy and, like so many, they’re constantly seconds from coming unstuck, right now, life is good.
“I was just saying to a friend the other day I feel like we’re always a whisker away from the wheels falling off at any given moment,” she laughs.
“You know, if one cog doesn’t turn the right way, it all falls apart.
“But I’ve got no reason to complain.
“Life is golden.
“I’ve got two beautiful healthy boys and a fabulous husband, a great happy, healthy family, and then a job that I love and adore as well – I’m as happy as a clam basically, which is why it’s nice to give back a little bit.”
Give back she does. Inspired by her social worker mum Janine back in her native Queensland, Jeffreys has been the ambassador for disability housing charity Youngcare for the last six years. Every year she hosts a Sydney lunch for the cause close to her heart – this year’s, at Barangaroo on September 8, is almost sold out. And with her controversial brother-in-law Karl Stefanovic as her ‘barrel girl’ drawing out raffles, dear friend Tim Gilbert doing the auction and fellow Nine personality Richard Wilkins doing his best to win a year’s worth of Joh Bailey blow-dries, what’s not to love, she laughs.
But, most importantly, her proud mum will be front and centre, as she has been every year.
“Mum played a huge role in me aligning with Youngcare – she was a social worker for her entire professional life, working in various forms of social work, and for a long time worked closely with people with disability, but also people in rehab, in hospital, And in so many encounters in her career, she directed people to Youngcare support,” she says.
“But I also had a beloved uncle, Uncle David, who lived with an intellectual disability and was cared for by my grandmother for his entire life. So I had a front-row seat to her lifetime of devotion to him. Caring for him, but also advocating for him.
“So I’m very aware and appreciative of the importance of advocacy in the disability space, and that’s what Youngcare does so brilliantly.”
A very busy Oscar, 3, is riding his bike around their nearby park when the 37-year-old talks to Insider. The Today Extra host is a working mum like any other – but with Sky News host Pete next to her, she’s still able to push two-year-old Henry on the swing while we chat. Sometimes, the balance works.
“I don’t take for granted the fact that I do manage to get quite a bit of balance in that respect in my life,” Jeffreys continues.
“Because more than anything, I just want to be with my kids, especially while they’re this age.
“I know that’s the most important thing in life, so I try to make sure I squeeze as much out of those hours in the day as I can, every day.
“There’s always an imbalance every now and then and you feel like things are tipping the wrong way or whatever, but we do pretty well overall.”
Her boys are constant reminders of how lucky she is. And that’s perspective she got from Youngcare.
“Life is precious and it’s fragile,” she says.
“And if there’s something that Youngcare has given me, it’s perspective on life. It’s that life can change in an instant – and your 18-year-old brother or son could be involved in a rugby accident or a car accident, or a horse riding accident – and in that split second, their life is changed forever, and so is yours.
“And we all want to know that if that happens, that loved one is going to get the best care possible, and be able to live a life that is appropriate for them.
“And that’s what Youngcare’s mission is – to make sure that a young person can live a young life, no matter the disability that they’re living with, so they’re working hard to create choice and independence and freedom for every Australian.”
This year, the national organisation has branched away from its Queensland roots and opened its first two share houses in Jordan Springs, in Sydney’s west.
“I’m really proud and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it,” she says.
“And that is a major milestone for Youngcare to have a physical footprint in Sydney, beyond its Queensland roots, and we’ve been talking about that for as long as I’ve been running this lunch in Sydney, so it will be great to gather everyone around this year to thank them for their ongoing support – the support that led to the opening of these two new share houses is really significant.
“Six lives will change as a result of that.
“And it’s not just about building homes and providing grants for home modifications, it’s about advocacy, and being a voice and a champion for people living with disabilities.
“There are four million Australians living with disabilities, so they play a crucial role in our country.”
While aiming to raise as much as they can, her annual lunch is always a lot of fun too, she laughs – and never short of a friend wanting to help.
“It’s a real grassroots charity and that energy comes through on the day – there’s no stuffiness,” she says.
“It’s very relaxed, very fun – a little bit loose, as well as you would expect.
“But everyone always walks away with such an appreciation for the amazing work that Youngcare is doing in the community and the way in which they’re changing lives.
“And there are a lot of Channel 9 personalities as well,” she laughs.
“My dear friend Tim Gilbert turns out to do the auction every year, Karl Stefanovic sets up as my barrel girl every year, my husband Pete and my mum’s been to every one of them, and this year my sister will be there for the first time too.
“So it’s always a family affair for me as well, which is really special. It’s a lot of work, but it’s great work and it’s super rewarding.
“It’s just a matter of multi-tasking and making the most of every minute of the day and I’m so happy to be able to, and to have the opportunity to do it.
“And it’s all worth it to see Richard Wilkins outbid everyone else for six months of Joe Bailey blow dries at the auction – that was a priceless moment at last year’s event, so I look forward to that,” she laughs.
The Eastern suburbs couple recently sold their Double Bay terrace before auction – so now a new life awaits.
“We’re not sure what the next step is yet. We’re on the hunt, so we’ll see what comes next,” she says.
“But otherwise, it’s nose to the grindstone and head down to the end of the year, basically.
“We’re actually heading up to Queensland for my mum’s 70th birthday before the lunch, so that will be a special family occasion.
“September’s going to be a great month.”