Astrid is a budding playwright, performer, and disability support worker, but she is also a young carer and has been for most of her life.
Caring for her younger sister with Down Syndrome from the age of nine-years-old, Astrid does not readily use the label of “young carer” to describe herself. For Astrid, the term “young carer” is just something she keeps in the back of her mind and something that’s informed the person she has grown up to become. Astrid’s caring role and relationship with her sister has shaped her values of inclusivity, spurred her sense for social justice and inspired her career path to help people with disability create theatre shows and films through a position with DADAA.
“I felt more responsibility for her, but you know big sister’s always feel responsible for their little sisters, that’s just a sibling thing.”
Growing up as a young carer
Growing up, Astrid was very aware of the exclusion people with disabilities can face because she saw how her sister’s experiences differed from her own.
Astrid felt a responsibility to protect her sister, as any older sibling would but the biggest moments that stood out to Astrid were the stares they would receive when they would walk through a shopping centre.
“When I was younger it was like ‘this isn’t right,’ ‘they shouldn’t be staring at her,’ just a fierce sense of like ‘I want her to be included’ and I hate that society excludes people with disability.”
Over time Astrid has now attributed these experiences to a lack of understanding in our society. Reflecting on herself and her friendships with her peers as a result.
“I’ve had more of an understanding of disability, and it’s made me more inclusive whereas if I didn’t have a sister with disability, I think I wouldn’t have been.”
When asked if there was an understanding of what being a family carer meant amongst her peers Astrid responded, “None of the friends I have made at uni or close friends I have at the moment, there isn’t really an understanding, I think they try to understand but it’s hard to understand if you’ve never been there yourself.”
Astrid didn’t feel like she missed out on much growing up, but she did notice as she grew older being a young carer meant she had a lack of freedom compared to her peers.
“I’ve missed out on going to things with my friends if the timing didn’t work or I’d sometimes have to be home by a certain time, so my sister wouldn’t be home alone.”
“That’s probably the hardest part, I guess, that extra responsibility.”
Getting involved in the Young Carer Program
One thing that helped Astrid in coming to terms with this extra responsibility was knowing there were other young people in WA just like her. Carers WA’s Young Carer Program’s camps and activities reminded young carers like Astrid that they weren’t alone.
“It was really helpful to…be around other people who’ve been through the same thing.”
“My mum was really good making sure I went on camps.”
Drawn to indoor, arts-based workshops the Young Carer Program ran because they gave her a chance to explore different mediums like filmmaking, poems and visual art Astrid laughed when we asked if she had gone to any outdoorsy activities.
“My friends have a running joke where if they ever see me or a picture of me outside, they’re like ‘What? Astrid’s in nature!’”
For Astrid these events also gave her the chance to switch off and relax.
“I didn’t have to worry about my sister for a bit.”
Producing theatre with a difference
Now 23-years-old, Astrid is finding her footing as an artist and performer, using her sense of social justice and passion for inclusivity to be an ally in the disability arts sector through her work with DADAA.
“I’ve always wanted to perform I know that but it’s kind of changed. It used to be ‘I want to be famous but that’s definitely not what I want anymore.
“My sister’s experience has informed my sense of wanting to create theatre that makes a difference.”
If you’re a young person who needs some support, please visit: www.carerswa.asn.au/our-services/young-carers/