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 and work in this space.
“My caring role has shaped the person that I have become today, and pushed me towards a life in the medical field,” Heidi says.
The 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% of primary Young Carers in Australia, Heidi didn’t 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.
Heidi’s story highlights the significant impact that caring responsibilities can have on young people, particularly those who face additional barriers such as living in rural areas or having a disability themselves.
And Heidi’s story is not unique.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Carers Australia, one in ten young people in Australia are Young Carers. Unfortunately, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters mean that this number is rising faster than our welfare system can keep up with.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of carers in Australia, with many reporting increased caring responsibilities and reduced access to support services. The recent natural disasters in Australia, including bushfires and floods, have had a particularly significant impact on carers and the people they care for.
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% increase year on year in Young Carer engagements with their programs, and they have encountered a 300% increase year on year in Young Carer applications for support. Even with a staff of 56 across Australia, Little Dreamers is seeing demand for their 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 9,000 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 OAM.
“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. We must all do more to support Young Carers like Heidi and ensure they can thrive in all aspects of their lives.
“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.” Says Heidi.
To learn more about how you can support Little Dreamers and the Young Carers they serve, visit www.littledreamers.org.au/icaredoyou.
- Name: Emma Woodward
- Phone: (03) 7036 8148
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