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Meet JONES Winter Cover Star, Actress Madeleine Madden

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Meet JONES Winter Cover Star, Actress Madeleine Madden

The ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ star was born to fight for what she believes in.

You only need to spend minutes with Madeleine Madden, the Sydney-born actor and star of the upcoming Picnic at Hanging Rock series, to feel the lion’s heart that beats inside her, a perfect storm of legacy, heritage, youth and passion. As the great-granddaughter of Hetty Perkins, an elder and matriarch of the Eastern Arrernte people of Central Australia, granddaughter of Aboriginal rights activist Charles Perkins, daughter of art curator and writer Hetti Perkins, and niece to filmmaker and founder of Blackfella Films, Rachel Perkins, fearlessness runs in her DNA.



MadeleineMaddenfour

Jigsaw cardigan, $449. Sandro dress, $695. Tods boots, $1085. Meadowlark heart earring, $115 (sold as pair).

“I’m one of six, there are a lot of us,” Madeleine says with a laugh, curled up in her grandfather Charles’ robe, talking to me from her home in Sydney’s inner west. “My family is a melting pot of performers, dancers, artists and musicians; they’re very passionate and they’ve always instilled a very progressive and creative attitude in us all.” From a young age, Madeleine sought ways to flex her imagination – performances, storytelling, playing dress-ups. They were all precursors to her path as an actor (which kicked off at just eight years old) and creative outlets encouraged by her family. “I feel like every child puts on little shows, but that imaginative little kid has always been with me, so I guess acting was a way to keep that child-like imagination or spirit. Becoming a character and falling, diving headfirst into a role or a story – that’s what I loved about it.” Madeleine also credits her family for giving her strength to deal with the often-incessant rejection that comes with a life of auditions – particularly, to be completely frank, when working in an industry that for decades has whitewashed what it means to be an “Australian” character, and only recently has begun to change. “[The rejection] is something you learn along the way,” she says. “But my family are all in the arts, so they understand the competitive nature of it, the big wins and big losses. But it is really important in this industry to have good people in your life.” 

For the 21-year-old, her grandfather’s legacy doesn’t just stop with the bathrobe and warm thoughts – Madeleine also possesses his spirit and passion for social justice. At age 13, she was the first teenager to deliver an address to the nation on behalf of GenerationOne, an initiative to end indigenous disadvantage. She has also been a fervent campaigner to change the Australia Day date and is passionate about bringing indigenous stories to the screen. “If I can have a platform and use that platform as a way to create positive change, then I will,” she says. “For me, it’s about representing my community as best as I can, being an Aboriginal person in the media, and that’s what lights the fire in me: to represent the community.”



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Viktoria & Woods jacket, $1200. Altuzarra top, $849. Dion Lee skirt, $790. Meadowlark pearl earring, $125 (right ear, sold individually), and heart earring, $115 (left ear, sold as pair).

The fact that little girls with dreams of becoming stars now look to Madeleine is also not lost on her. “Every job or everything that I do, I try to do it to do better for the community,” she says. “My main motive behind all of this, [it] also being a job that I love doing, it is a kind of a legacy that you want to live up to and do justice to.”

Despite having starred in a Deborah Mailman-directed short (Ralph), a feature film with Christina Ricci and Jack Thompson (Around the Block), and the TV incarnation of Tomorrow, When the War Began, it’s the game-changing Sydney-based drama Redfern Now, which she had a small role in, that she considers to be one of her proudest early-career moments and her first real exposure to big TV shows. “My family has grown up in and around Redfern, and so many great things have come out of it, like the Black Theatre and Sydney’s Aboriginal Medical Service,” she says. “Redfern has always been a kind of meeting place for Aboriginal people, there’s a community there – which is why Redfern Now was such a fantastic show. It was a great drama for indigenous people, but also non-indigenous people because we weren’t being portrayed in a stereotypical way. I think it was one of the first shows that really viewed us in a realistic way. Yes, we have cultural differences, which is what makes us different and fantastic, but we’re not all that different. So for indigenous people, it was a really proud moment, and for non-indigenous people, it was a really insightful time… Getting to work with those brilliant directors, actors and writers really set me up for a great career.”

Now, it seems that Madeleine’s time has come...

Pick up a copy of JONES instore to read the rest of the cover story.

Picnic at Hanging Rock premieres on Foxtel’s Showcase channel on Sunday, May 6.

Words by Noelle Faulkner

Photography Nicole Bentley

Styling by Marina Afonina

Hair by Koh/Vivien’s Creative

Make-up by Peter Beard/The Artist Group