They were barely more than babies when the September 11 attacks occurred, toddlers when Facebook was launched and just starting primary school when the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth was released.
So what does the world look like now for someone born in 2000?
We spoke to five Australians turning 20 this year to find out what issues have shaped their lives and what they think the future holds.
Ryan Nindra was born on January 1, 2000: the first day of the new millennium.
He says the most memorable world event in his lifetime is the election of US President Donald Trump.
Ryan was at school refreshing news sites and social media feeds as he watched the results pour in on his smartphone.
“No-one really knew what to expect,” he says. “We had a very bad image of Donald Trump.”
When it became clear that Trump would win the election “it was just a shock to everyone,” Ryan says. “I’ve never seen that many people terrified.”
Trump’s election was a defining moment for Ryan and the reason he’s now studying politics at Macquarie University in Sydney.
“Leadership is about taking initiative and focusing on issues rather than the politics around it,” he says.
He disagrees with Trump’s hardline views on immigration, arms control and climate change and says he has seen the effects of Trump’s politics first hand.
“There has been a change in the way people think,” he says.
“Leadership is no longer about empowering the people to lead a better society, but rather pandering to a specific audience to keep power intact.
“The ideal leader for me is one who puts the people first and strives to better people’s lives, not their own political agenda.”
Sabrina Katay, a 19-year-old social work student, says the discussion around climate change is most important to her.
“Everyone, no matter where you are, has an opinion on climate change and on global warming and that has brought a lot of people together globally,” she says.
The current bushfires in Australia have brought that to a head, she believes.
Sabrina wants to do all she can to preserve the environment, but she says her faith informs her opinion on climate change, motivates her to take action and gives her hope.
“As a Christian, I think it’s difficult to say that it’s entirely in our hands,” Sabrina says.
“I’m not saying that I’m ‘off the hook’, but that I trust God has a plan for climate and for our world.
“I also believe he chooses to action that plan through me.”
That means “being conscious of my electricity and meat consumption, staying informed about what’s actually going on and donating where I think it’s most needed”.
“This gives me a real sense of peace,” she says. “Even though my own personal contribution might be considered small in the grand scheme of things, I know that the God whom I believe to have power over everything has it under control, whatever my own limited perspective on it is.”
The global, youth-led climate strikes of 2019 indicate Sabrina is not alone in feeling concerned about climate change.
Sina Aghamofid, an arts/law student and mental health advocate, says participating in the climate strikes is something he’ll never forget.
“We study social movements in school, but being a part of it is a whole different experience,” he says.
“Marching with other young people for an issue that I’m passionate about is one of the most memorable moments in my lifetime so far.
“It makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel more passionate about what I believe in because I know so many other people believe in it.”
People born in this millennium are the generation most concerned about climate change.
“While we still have time to realistically solve whatever issues we’ve created,” Ryan says.
“I think the solution would be to start pushing for targets, start pushing for subsidies, start pushing for real reform to our legislation to help firms move towards renewables.”
Ryan takes personal responsibility too. He’s cutting his energy use by buying energy efficient light bulbs, and using his computer and television less, and he uses E10 petrol for his car.
Jacqueline Stark believes more people and resources need to be directed at dealing with the impact of climate change in years to come.
She wants greater focus on working out ways to make crops sustainable and accommodating people who will be displaced by rising sea levels.
She also thinks that young people should be taken seriously when it comes to climate change.
“Despite all the strikes that have happened, nothing really has shifted in that ideology, and so I don’t think that we’re impacting as much as would be good,” she says.
Nandini Sharma remembers a snapshot of time before texting and social media.
“If I wanted to meet a friend, I’d have to call them using a landline,” the finance and accounting university student says.
“Now, if your friends are busy, you just send a text or tag them in a meme.”
Technological advancements have made it easier to stay in touch with friends, but it’s also made it easier to avoid face-to-face interactions.
“There are a lot of physical cues you can pick up from social interactions,” she says, “and it’s easier to ‘pretend’ how you feel online rather than in person”.
But there are some benefits, such as convenience.
“Before, if you were meeting a friend, you would have to arrange a spot to meet before, and plan ahead,” she says.
“Today, you can ask them where they are and get a reply within seconds.”
Being able to talk to multiple people at once is another benefit. “That really makes communication efficient,” she says.
If Nandini could pick another time to be born, it would be the 1980s or 1990s.
“There were definitely really good inventions that sort of helped you get by, but you would still be forced to step out of the house and go and meet them instead of today, where you can just stay in bed and interact with your friends,” she says.
Social media is at the centre of what Sabrina likes best about society in this millennium, but also one of its flaws.
“What I really like about our society is that I think we’re passionate,” she says.
“Particularly this is seen in social media where people are very comfortable to talk about issues and make their opinions well known.”
However, Sabrina also believes social media has “made it harder to act”.
“People are less willing, I think, to make an effort to action those opinions because they’re fired up online and that seems like enough,” she says.
Social media has also become a breeding ground for bullying, hate speech and cancel culture. Sabrina prefers to take conversations about issues that are important to her offline.
“I don’t think anyone is ever kind online because it’s so impersonal,” she says.
“I try to engage in the discussion outside of social media because I think it’s more impactful, more helpful, productive, and leads to greater change.”
Sabrina’s passion for making a positive contribution through conversations and action is the reason she chose a degree in social work.
“The goal for my career is to walk away and say that I’ve changed even just a small fraction of our society for the better,” she says.
Jacqueline also has mixed feelings about social media — even as the founder of a tech start-up that’s developing a social media platform for kids in hospital with rare diseases that prevent them connecting with others.
“It’s important these children are able to talk to people who can empathise with them,” she says.
However, her own early experience with social media was not positive.
“In year 7, girls were saying things online about me and that got fed back to me by others,” she says.
That experience helped Jacqueline build resilience and awareness of the downsides of social media.
“I’m not a huge poster and I’m unwilling to share every detail of my life,” she says.
Her experience informs the social media platform she is developing as she believes some social media companies have little motivation to stop cyber bullying, “especially when they are looking to make a profit”.
Terrorism and racism
Ryan was only one year old when the September 11 attacks happened, but he’s experienced the flow-on effects of racial profiling and discrimination.
“Sometimes, I’ll just be walking down the street and people will shout out, ‘you don’t belong here’,” Ryan says.
He remembers one incident clearly. He was 15 years old and crossing the road outside his house. A man standing nearby shouted “Go back to Afghanistan!”
“I was like, what would push you to say that? You have no idea where I’m from and I’ve done nothing to impede upon your freedoms,” says Ryan, whose background is Indian and Sikh.
Following the 2014 Lindt Café siege in Sydney Ryan was afraid to go into the city.
“I didn’t know how people would react,” he says.
“I thought people would be frightened and I didn’t like the idea of being frightening to someone.”
Australia is the most multicultural it’s ever been.
According to the 2016 census, nearly half of Australians had either been born overseas, or one or both parents had been born overseas.
“People are becoming more accepting,” Ryan says, “but social media scare campaigns, and the fear that leaders like Trump have created, mean that the stigma surrounding us still exists”.
“To them it’s just a conversation, but to us it really hurts because it’s not something I’d expect to hear about myself.”
Terrorism has also hit close to home.
Curtis Chen was shot dead in Parramatta in 2015, just a mere 20-minute walk from Nandini’s home.
“I was in this little bubble, it’s all fine,” she says, “then all of a sudden something happens so close to you”.
The shooter was a 15-year-old school student, and the police called it an act of terrorism.
“I think that was really shocking as well, that someone my age could do something like that,” Nandini says.
There are many predictions of what the world will look like in 2020 and beyond.
If they are accurate, humans will arrive on Mars in 2020; robots will be increasingly used as assistants, therapists and even friends; and you will no longer need a device to access the internet because you can access it directly through your brain.
But how do people born in the year 2000 feel about the future?
Nandini is hopeful about continued progress for women’s rights and gender equality.
“Growing up, I remember thinking, what’s so different about a man and a woman that we should get paid less?” she says.
But she believes society is now addressing these issues and her career goal is to work for an ethical company that empowers women, promotes equality and a sustainable future.
Sina has already seen a shift in attitudes around mental health.
“I work in a primary school and the kids nowadays talk about mental health quite openly and are seeking support,” he says.
“When I was in primary school, I didn’t even know what mental health was. I didn’t know what anxiety, depression, or any of those things were.”
Jacqueline is mostly optimistic about the future.
“I think the way we’re dealing with issues and able to adapt, I think that’s just getting better and better.”
She cites improved mortality rates and longevity, more people having access to electricity, and a decline in global poverty.
“In reality we’re living in the best world at the moment,” she says.