Madeleine Buchner is a 23-year old Bachelor of Business student at RMIT, and a co-founder of the charity Little Dreamers.
Madeleine and her best friend started raising money for young carers – often the siblings of sick or disabled children – when they were 9 years old. The idea came from Madeleine’s own experience helping to care for her epileptic little brother since she was three, and for her mother who had breast cancer from 15 years old.
Now a registered charity, Little Dreamers grants wishes and runs festivals for young carers.
Madeleine views the freedoms available to her generation with equal excitement and caution. Now in her final year of university at RMIT, Madeleine has experienced for herself how hard it is to get a job as an educated young person.
“Trying to find a job with only a 12-month internship as experience was really, really stressful. I was very aware that I didn’t have the skills or experience listed on the job ads, even for the entry-level positions, so it felt like I would never get a job over someone else.
“I did eventually get a job – a part-time sales and marketing job – but I’ve watched so many of my friends be knocked back for more than a year.
A lot of them are now considering post-graduate studies just to try and get a foot in the door. It’s emotionally and financially stressful for them.”
Regardless of the challenges, Madeleine is optimistic about the paths many of her peers are taking.
“I have met so many young people who are embracing this new world – with all of its opportunities and challenges – and are dedicating their time and energy to coming up with solutions to problems that don’t exist yet. They certainly aren’t traditional career paths, but with technology and globalisation these days, they are attractive options.”
Madeleine is cautious of the possible mental wellbeing downsides of the freedom young people now have, and the plethora of paths available.
“I think my generation is delaying a lot of key life stages, which could lead to a lot of stress in the future. Because it’s so hard to get a well-paying, stable job, we tend to study for longer and choose things like project work and travel to fill our time. In the short term this is fine, but long term we are going to really struggle to afford houses.”
As well as all these ‘real world’ challenges, there is also the unavoidable virtual world to consider.
“I love social media. I love how easy it makes it to see things that are happening on the other side of the world, and to join mass movements that have the potential to change the world for the better.”
“On the other hand, social media and the online world really do let people hide behind their computer screen. Hide from reality, from real relationships with real people, from themselves. It can make you believe that all of your friends are having amazing lives – always travelling and socialising – which can make you feel not so great about your life.”
When life becomes overwhelming, Madeleine looks inward to solve the problem.
“I try to remember that I have the ability to work it out, whatever it is. I try to relax, watch an easy film on Netflix, and mentally work through everything that’s going on.
“And if I can’t figure it out myself, I’ll call one of my friends. We lean on each other a lot for support.
“If I was feeling anxious or unhappy consistently, I’d certainly feel more comfortable asking for help if it was online and anonymous.”
Madeleine feels like it is a disservice to stereotype her generation.
“Just like any group of people, you can’t summarise our experience through one lens – especially if you grew up in a different time or environment. I think it’s so important for organisations to consult young people when designing any sort of initiative or program for us. Otherwise you run the risk of it just not being relevant.”