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15 Years of Impacting the Lives of Young Carers!

May 15th, 2024

Categories: Blog,News

15 years ago, three teenagers stood in a room in Melbourne and asked people to care about Young Carers. We spoke about the prevalence of young people with caring roles in their families: 2-3 in every classroom. We also shared stories about some of the challenges that Young Carers face – increased rates of poor mental health, educational and financial disadvantage, and unemployment. We implored the room to ensure that young people with caring responsibilities in their home, also have access to the childhood that every child deserves. 

15 years ago today, on the 16th of May, those three teenagers launched Little Dreamers, a not-for-profit organisation designed to support siblings and Young Carers between the age of 4 – 25. 

So what does the world look like 15 years later? There are still 2-3 Young Carers in every classroom, we know that 2 in 3 Young Carers experience mental health challenges, 50% of Young Carers report having difficulty attending school every day, 50% of Young Carers live in households that are close to or below the poverty line, and Young Carers are one of the four most at-risk groups of young people in Australia. 

But we also know this is not inevitable. Young Carers are exceptional humans with a wide range of skills which any community, university or employer would be lucky to benefit from. Young Carers need to be identified and supported so that caring doesn’t stop them from having the same opportunities as other young people.

In the beginning, we launched with just one program, our signature Dream Experiences, to recognise Young Carers and acknowledge the role they play. We now deliver a range of direct support programs that have been built by Young Carers, for Young Carers. From day and overnight respite, through to tutoring, leadership programs, job readiness support, peer support, coaching, counselling and professional development for teachers; we now support close to 6,000 young people per year across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and we play a key role in championing the need to improve recognition and support for Young Carers right across Australia.

This year, for the first time, we will deliver over 12,000 hours of direct and impactful support in a 12-month period. This is no small feat and we have a lot to celebrate over the past 15 years. 

We have seen new legislation for Young Carers in the Carers Recognition Act; the development of state-based carer strategies that are inclusive of Young Carers; worldwide recognition for both Young Carers and Little Dreamers; improvements in identification of Young Carers and the introduction of education-specific policies that support teachers in how to support Young Carers in the classroom. We are proud to have been a part of some Young Carers’ stories for over nine years, watching them grow up into absolute game-changers in their chosen fields. To date, Little Dreamers has raised over $13.5 million to improve the quality of life of young people taking on unpaid caring roles in their families.

It’s easy to be distracted by how much there is still left to do, how many Young Carers still haven’t received the support they need, how much policy work is left to influence, how important widespread recognition and identification is in sustainably changing the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Young Carers who live in Australia. 

Today instead, we take a moment to celebrate the thousands of people who have helped us get to where we are:

  • Everyone who has come along to a Little Dreamers fundraising event;
  • Those organisations, government departments, community partners and individuals both in Australia and around the world who have shared our messages and championed Young Carers;
  • Our volunteers who have delivered direct support to Young Carers and helped out behind the scenes for over 15 years;
  • Every team member who has ever worked at Little Dreamers – past, present and future – where we are today wouldn’t have been possible without you;
  • Our board members – current and past – who have contributed their time, networks and funds to improve the efficacy and efficiency of our organisation; 
  • The funders who have contributed millions of dollars pioneering and recognising the needs of Young Carers; and
  • Most importantly, to our Young Carers and your families who have come along to our programs, become a part of the Little Dreamers family, and helped to shape what the future looks like for Young Carers for years to come. 

A personal thank you from me to our two other co-founders, Rebecca and Ash, for recognising the needs of siblings and Young Carers, for the many late nights we spent developing what Little Dreamers would look like 15 years ago, and for championing Young Carers from the very beginning. 

Finally, to the people who showed me what caring looked like – my beautiful family. From late-night ambulances to weeks in hospitals, hundreds of doctors appointments and even more hours spent advocating for fair and ongoing treatment and support, you showed me that anything is possible and that it should all be done with kindness, love and a tinge of sarcasm to keep even the heavy things feeling light.

So from me, and the entire Little Dreamers Family, to you, thank you for joining us on this crazy journey. The past 15 years have been filled with blood, sweat, tears, and so much passion, hard work and love for what we do. Here’s to the next 15 years, I am pretty excited for what’s to come. 

Maddy, Founder and CEO

Reading this and want to play your part in making a difference? We’re always on the hunt for new volunteers and for people to share the word about Young Carers, and if you’re in a position to do so, we would love for you to donate a multiple of $15 for our 15th birthday. 

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