Our Founder’s Journey
Mathew Townsend has disabilities. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism). His other disability he lost his hearing at 18 months old. He grew up living in beautiful Northern Rivers region (Northern NSW) before he moved to Brisbane in 2015. He developed passions about outdoors and nature when he was participating at annual Deaf Camps through his district network for deaf and hard of hearing school age students. From extracurricular activities from the camp, he founded enjoyment from being outside to experience the beautiful green lush bushlands, watching the weather and canoeing.
His passions grew into a hobby before considering a career at high school when he did some projects on sustainability around reducing energy and water consumption. However, his other passions is Meteorology which is a study and forecasting weather. He went to James Cook University at Townsville campus in 2010 to start maths and physics. Unfortunately, he did not pass his first year. Despite living first year in Townsville, he saw the beauty of tropical landscape, and caught attention of climate change impacts on this. This was the beginning of his environmental science journey. He went onto to complete the Bachelor of Environmental Science at end of 2012.
After his completion of the course, he went on a long 8-month journey across the United States of America in late 2012 to July 2013. It was his first international travel experience and being independent. His journey across the country has stunned him about the environment, and its impact from climate change. They have beautiful National Parks and wildlife. This trip inspired him to do something about it once he gets back home.
He thought life continues to succeed when he came back home in middle of 2013. He became lost and got caught with anxiety and depression due to lack of employment opportunities. Although did not last as he decided to move on to move to Brisbane in 2015 to Master of Environmental Management at University of Queensland in 2015-16.
Finding meaningful and secured employment was his major challenge because of his disability. His life went through a difficult path because of his disabilities is not well understood by many employers, especially within the industry. He could not maintain his happiness and being ambitious due to ongoing job rejections and social isolation within the environmental and sustainability fields where he is passionate and qualified for.
The lived experiences of his disabilities are often ignored in employment recruitment processes and an ability to participate in local environmental community groups where disability challenges are not recognised among his peers.
Mathew took the next step to fight the challenges in maintaining his passions about nature while finding employment in familiar field. Nature Freedom was founded in May 2017.
When Nature Freedom was founded, his story has spread out in the communities. He found out that he is not alone in creating and maintaining passions in finding employment in environmental field. Mathew’s story became a community story where others finding same challenges and journeys.