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Madeleine Buchner OAM

Madeleine Buchner OAM

Image description: Madeleine smiling while out in a park

This month's community spotlight features Madeleine Buchner OAM, the founder and CEO of Little Dreamers. Little Dreamers provides support for young people acting as carers for a family member. Madeleine's first-hand experience as a young carer spurs her on to nurture the wellbeing and education of others who do the same.

1. Tell us a bit about you 

I grew up with one younger brother and two wonderful parents. Unfortunately, my younger brother has had multiple health issues since he was just six months old. As a result, he has been in and out of the hospital frequently and I spent a lot of my childhood accompanying him to medical appointments. Even during my school holidays, I often found myself in the hospital with him. He is currently 29 years old.

Then when I was 14 years old, my mum got breast cancer; she is now in remission. Mum required a lot of care when she was diagnosed. Dad and I were both carers for both my brother and my mum. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents growing up, they practically raised me. Most recently I cared for my grandmother with Alzheimer's Disease. All of this has influenced the work that I do today.

When I was just nine years old, I started a club called Care Net Kids Club. The purpose of this club was to raise money for other organisations that support siblings of children who require care or support. I organised various fundraising events for these organisations. Eventually, Care Net Kids Club became Kidz Club (Caring Independent Dedicated Siblings). I started setting things up for my own organisation in 2008. Then, at the age of 16, in 2009, I founded Little Dreamers.

2. Can you tell us about Little Dreamers? 

Little Dreamers is an organisation that provides support to young individuals between the ages of 4 and 25 who take care of their family members affected by a disability, chronic illness, mental health issues, addiction, or old age. The goal of Little Dreamers is to enhance the quality of life of young caregivers and support them in providing care to their loved ones.

We aim to address four key challenge areas that young carers face, which are: social connection/isolation, sense of identity, health and wellbeing, and education and employment. Our support services are available for both short-term and long-term periods. We offer day and overnight respite programs, job readiness programs, peer support groups, counselling services, in-school training programs for teachers to help them identify young carers, dream experiences (one-off opportunities for a young carer to do something about them, similar to Star Light Foundation or Make-A-Wish), and our Young Carers Festival (which is focused on community awareness and building).

3. What do you love about your job? What are some of the challenges? 

I love that every day I get to embrace my inner child while doing serious work. At our events, we bring a childlike nature to the important work we do. For instance, at our Young Carers Festivals, we have activities like face painting, jumping castles and other fun activities. We manage to combine serious and valuable work with a bit of confetti and sparkle.


I love that my job allows me to meet new people every day. Many of the people I meet are surprised to learn that I was a carer when I was younger. Through my work, I hear and share incredible stories that open people's eyes and minds to a group of young people that they may not have realised existed before. I am proud that my job helps young people to realise what is possible and that it improves the lives of everyday people daily.


The main challenge is feeling frustrated when people don't understand the complexity of what it's like to support young carers, and the resources available to them. It's surprising that more people don't recognise the importance of supporting young carers. Funding is also a complex issue, particularly in the not-for-profit sector.


The demand for Little Dreamers programs is higher than what we can currently deliver. Unfortunately, we have a waitlist, which is not ideal as people do not seek social services to be put on waitlists. However, we need to strike a balance between quality, quantity, and sustainability to ensure that we can continue to operate in the long term.

4. How can someone from the TOM: Melbourne Community get involved? 

When discussing young carers of siblings or young people who are caring for others, it is important to note that many of these young carers do not see themselves as such, whether they are struggling or not. They often identify as a sibling, daughter, or son, rather than a carer. This can be a challenging position for them to be in, especially if the person they are caring for has a chronic or mental illness or addiction. They may not seek out support or resources for themselves.

We have volunteer opportunities available, both hands-on and behind the scenes. We also have a useful resource in the form of a children's book called "My Brother is Sick Again".

5. Any news or anything else you would like to share? 

This year, we are recalibrating and being mindful of our decisions and priorities in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland.


For more information: 

April 2024

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