Social Change Champion: Mathew Townsend
Mathew Townsend is an advocate, keynote speaker & environmentalist. He obtained a Master of Environmental Management degree at UQ in 2016 and founded his social enterprise Nature Freedom in 2017. Nature Freedom aims to connect and introduce young people with disabilities and/or mental health difficulties to meaningful access, participation and leadership with local Bushcare and environmental groups. Since his own difficulties finding the right employers after he graduated at UQ in 2016, he established Nature Freedom for young people with similar experiences. We sat down with Mathew to hear more about his work!
What is your social enterprise elevator pitch?
Nature Freedom‘s impact focuses on young people under 35 with disabilities to find meaningful access and participation in mainstream environmental activities. Unlike our networks that natural environment is not socially inclusive nor physically accessible for people with disabilities. We are seeking impact and support to help us to scale our organisation to sponsor participants attending to the programs.
What are your biggest personal and/or professional challenges as a social entrepreneur in Australia?
Living with disabilities, not everything is inclusive nor accessible for me. I have Autism and hearing loss. Not everyone understands me. It slows me down on progressing my personal and professional leadership development. This reflects my performance leading Nature Freedom.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received so far since starting your own social enterprise?
Always focus on the impact, and keep it succinct with what you want to do. Best to share your story and personal experiences, seeking advice from experts and external networks that enable your initiative to grow and scale.
If you were to start over, is there anything you would do differently?
The disability sector here in Australia is a very difficult challenge to deal with as it is not a well resourced industry. I would have started advocating for disability entrepreneurs before going into my initiative.
Where do you see the future of social enterprise in Australia?
Social enterprises provide so many solutions for individuals and communities on the social, economic and environmental front. The growth of the sector is important, and I am very optimistic the government will consider the importance of growing and scaling social enterprises.
What appeals to you most about Social Change Central?
Looking for opportunities and seeking support.
The Social Change Central changemaker community is growing at a fast rate. How can our members learn more about you and help support your organisation?
Learn about the personal side of disability advocacy and awareness. Social enterprises is best key for people with disabilities finding opportunities in social and employment areas. I have background in Inclusive Language, Social Model of Disability and consultancy
And finally, what would you do if you found a lottery ticket that ended up winning $10 million?
I would invest half of that amount to Nature Freedom where we enable to start paid employment and project off the ground. Rest of it to pay off debts on my HECS-Help, my family support and $1mill in my investment bank. I have another idea about running a philathropy organisation for disability entrepreneurs program.