Young people doing cool things: Madeleine Madden

Get inspired.

At the age of 13, Madeleine Madden addressed the nation as part of the Generation One equal rights campaign. Pretty impressive, hey? Well, that’s just the beginning of her resumé.

The Indigenous actress and activist, now 19 years old, is an ambassador for Oaktree and Live Below the Line. Madeleine now spends her time inbetween acting (she’s starring in the new Tomorrow When the War Began series) and campaigning for a better world.

Yep, she’s doing some pretty cool things. Want to know how she does it all? Read on.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sydney, around the Inner West.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I have a moment to myself, I enjoy going to art galleries and seeing live music. I find both experiences very therapeutic. I also enjoy snuggling and watching Netflix! 

How and when did your acting career begin?

I basically talked my way onto a short film when I was about 10 [years old]. My career actually began professionally a year later and I have been working ever since. 

Tell us about your Generation One address to Australia at 13?

At the time, I don’t think I could fully grasp an understanding of what I was doing. I obviously knew the issues I was addressing, and the overall message. But the idea of an actual address to the nation, at only 13 years old, and being the first person to ever do that in Australia, it’s pretty overwhelming. Not only was being on television a milestone in my career, it also was an opportunity for me to become a political figure and voice my opinion on issues I’m passionate about.

How did you become a campaigner for equal rights at such a young age?

My grandfather is Charles Perkins, who was an Aboriginal Activist and Freedom Fighter. So as you can imagine, I come from quite a political family. I’ve always admired his years of hard work – growing up in such a racist era and, like many others, fighting for our equal rights.

My mum, Hetti Perkins, works in the arts, which is also another medium for political and social discussion. I have always been influenced by artists and their work. I feel so fortunate to have grown up with the diverse group of people I know.

Can you tell us about Live Below the Line and your role?

Live Below the Line approached me and asked if I’d like to be an ambassador for their campaign and I was so stoked. One of the things that really grabbed my attention was the fact they’re Australia’s largest youth-run anti-poverty campaign. So I knew their work would be really progressive and ethical. I like to think of myself as a political person and try and voice my concerns about inequality and related issues. To be an ambassador for a cause I feel so passionately about was just a dream and an honour. 

In May, myself and thousands of Aussies will eat on $2 a day, for five days, to raise funds and awareness for those living in extreme poverty. No matter where they are born, young people around the world deserve the same education opportunities.

What do you think is the most important issue facing young Indigenous Australians today?

Racism and hate speech on social media is certainly up there. We are the generation of technology and so much of our communication and ideas are expressed online. To be confronted with racism every time you go online is certainly challenging and can lead to a host of other issues, including self-harm and substance abuse.

Do you face any struggles as an indigenous actress breaking into mainstream media?

I was over in the States late last year and there is so much diversity in mainstream media. It made me realise that we still have a long way to go in Australia.

However, change is happening. Last year, I was cast in Tomorrow When the War Began.  The series airs on April 23 on ABC3. The character I play, Corrie McKenzie, is written as a fair skinned, redhead – the opposite of me. Knowing the series has a such a big fan base, I thought it was very forward and brave of production to cast me and give me the role.

Have you faced any personal challenges?

I never really felt like I fitted in during my school years. I actually hated school. I have three older siblings and I was always trying to be on their level and trying to keep up with them. So I matured quite quickly. No one my age had the same interests that I had, so I turned to my career and there I found friends that came in all different shapes and sizes. People that know me know I’m not a shy person, but some people mistook me for being shy when I was in school. I never said much because I wasn’t interested in “who hooked up with who,” scabbing booze and getting pissed in a dark, damp park.

I definitely found my crowd in my later years at school and through my work. It’s pretty mad, me and my older siblings all go out together and are really tight, they’re my best mates. We have a lot of fun.

What kind of women inspire you?

Independent, funny, hard working women that stick together!

What does 2016 hold for you?

2016 has already been a big year for me, professionally. I just finished touring Sydney Theatre Company’s remount of The Secret River which taught me so much, professionally and personally. I want to focus on my political work as well and really push forward with LBL and their work.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I have no idea. I don’t even know where I’ll be next week! 

One message to the world?

Power comes from the people.

To donate to Live Below The Line, click here

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