Published by Catalogue Magazine, 03/01/2017
It’s a classic Aussie stereotype: a four-bedroom house with a garden and a verandah and maybe even a gum tree out the back. For our parents and grandparents, the Australian Dream was the belief that home-ownership could lead to a better life and was an expression of success and security. Which was cool, for them.
However, home ownership is now decidedly out of reach for many young people, regardless of how much brunch we eat, due to skyrocketing prices when compared to average incomes. This housing bubble is partly driven by negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions that encourage investors, rather than first homeowners, to buy property. The flipside of all this, however, is that maybe we don’t even want to own a house to begin with. We’re fighting back and changing the conversation.
It’s no wonder Millennials are feeling a little defensive, because criticising Millennials is a sort of national pastime for politicians and traditional media in modern society. Recently, this practice has become predictable to the level of comedy, like the front page of the Daily Telegraph from September 14th entitled “Young, Able and Unwilling to Work… Meet the New Breed of Bludger.” Predictably this headline-grabbing story turned out to be a genius and mysterious hoax concocted by ‘Ashleigh’, the 21 year old interviewed by the newspaper. The Federal Government has also turned Millennials into a scapegoat for policies that benefits older, wealthier Australians, like restricting access to Newstart welfare payments in order to provide budget surplus that can be allocated elsewhere.
We are repeatedly portrayed as selfish, stupid and unambitious, when in fact we are the most educated and socially aware generation in history. (Not to mention we’ve been saddled with impending economic and environmental crises thanks to the consumerist excesses of previous generations.) As a 22 year old trying to figure out this world I know we’re not lazy; we want different things from our predecessors, that’s all. Millennials have grown up in a much more interconnected world. We don’t bat an eyelid at the so-called sharing economy, epitomised by Uber and Airbnb, and see freelancing as a completely viable career choice. We share much more of our inner lives too, through social media, connecting to people all around the globe instantaneously. Our world is both smaller and larger than the one our parents knew at our age, which means there are so many opportunities we often don’t know where to start.
We know we need money to live, but in general we don’t want to work the same 9 to 5 office job for our entire lives. So we’re finding more creative ways to go about it by becoming our own bosses. We’re buying fewer durable consumer goods, like cars and washing machines, and instead connecting with our local community. We don’t get married, and we are more likely to end up living in a non-traditional family structure, whether that means adopted kids, same-sex parents, extended family or friends living together. We value the baby-boomer labelled cliché of ‘experiences’ because we view our world as much more temporary than those who grew up in the golden age of capitalism. We understand that there is a plurality of options available to us, and that each individual has the right to choose for themselves.
Whenever I hear myself complaining about hipsters and worry I’m turning into my mum, I always think of Lindsay Weir in Freaks and Geeks, adamant that she will never want the white picket fence lives her parents have lived. I suppose young people have always felt like this; misrepresented and misunderstood by older generations.
My Australian dream is to live in a place that makes me happy, surrounded by friends and family and creativity and diversity. I know this means I will have to work hard. By choosing to pursue a career in media, I have pretty much guaranteed I won’t be able to afford a house in any major city, but I don’t mind because I appreciate the flexibility of renting and travelling for the foreseeable future. I don’t dream of ownership, instead I want excitement. I want to be able to change jobs or even countries whenever I feel like it.
And yeah, maybe that is idealistic. But isn’t that what being young is all about?
Image: Chloe Sevigny. Image Source.