'I Care. Do You?'

Young carers in Australia need your help

Little Dreamers' new campaign "I Care. Do You?" calls on the community to do more to care for the carers.

Young carer Heidi.
Young carer Heidi.

Young carer Heidi, a proud Aboriginal woman from the Wormi tribe, is the primary carer for both of her parents. At just 19 years of age, Heidi makes the two and a half hour journey to Sydney regularly to bring her parents to medical appointments, whilst balancing her studies to become a nurse, and her passion for dance.

“My caring role has shaped the person that I have become today, and pushed me towards a life in the medical field,” Heidi said.

Her family lives in rural NSW, where welfare and healthcare services are difficult to access. In addition, she doesn’t fit the criteria of a young carer due to her own diagnosis.

“I myself have recently received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), meaning that I cannot receive support for being a young carer.”

Like 96 per cent of primary young carers in Australia, Heidi did not finish high school. The demands of schooling, coupled with a lack of support from her teachers and the unfortunate stigma of caring roles amongst peers, meant that school didn’t feel like a safe or productive environment for her while she was caring for her parents.

Little Dreamers, an organisation that supports young carers explained that Heidi’s story is not unique.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Carers Australia, one in 10 young people in Australia are young carers.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic and increase in natural disasters this number is rising faster than the Australian welfare system can keep up with.

Little Dreamers is Australia’s leading young carer organisation, supporting young people who provide unpaid care for a family member affected by disability, chronic or mental illness, substance use, or the impacts of older age.

Since the beginning of 2020, Little Dreamers has seen a 233 per cent increase year on year in young carer engagements with their programs, and they have encountered a 300 per cent increase year on year in young carer applications for support. Even with a staff of 56 across Australia, Little Dreamers is seeing demand for its services once more outstripping supply.

Little Dreamers’ new campaign “I Care. Do You?” calls on the community to do more to care for the carers.

“In 2023 alone, more than 9000 young carers have participated in our school programs, counselling, tutoring, holiday programs, respite, mentoring and coaching across Australia,” says Little Dreamers founder and CEO Madeleine Buchner.

“Demand has never been greater for our services, but it means that young carers will miss out. And there’s significant risk associated with that.”

Young carers who go unsupported face a myriad of risks in education, employment, mental and physical health, social wellbeing, and financial wellbeing. According to a 2018 report by Carers Australia, young carers are more likely to experience lower educational attainment, unemployment, mental health issues, and low levels of income.

Heidi said, “I completely lost my childhood to being a young carer and I would not wish this on anyone. No child deserves to lose their childhood. I am so grateful for my experiences, but I hope that we can change the support in place so no child has to suffer and struggle the way that so many of us have.”

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