Our Founder’s Story: Mathew Townsend
Mathew Townsend grew up in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and moved to Brisbane in 2015. He has always been extremely passionate about getting outdoors into nature and preserving nature’s beauty. Eventually Mathew decided to turn his passion for environmental sustainability and nature into a career. He went on to obtain a Bachelor of Environmental Science at James Cook University and Master of Environmental Management at University of Queensland in 2012 and 2016, respectively.
However, finding meaningful and secure employment in his chosen field proved to be a major challenge for Mathew because of his disabilities. Life was difficult with many prospective employers not understanding his disabilities. Time and again Mathew’s hopes of finding work within the environmental sustainability space were dashed by a lack of understanding and inclusiveness. Mathew became acutely aware that something needed to urgently change for people with disabilities.
In 2017 Mathew founded Nature Freedom to provide inclusive access to the natural environment, decrease social isolation and provide employment training opportunities for young people with disabilities and/or mental health issues. Since the inception of Nature Freedom Mathew has become well respected, in the outdoor recreational and environmental sustainability space and for his knowledge of inclusiveness. He uses his lived experience to increase understanding of inclusiveness throughout communities through education, raising awareness of the challenges people with disabilities face and breaking down barriers to meaningful participation for people with disabilities.
Since founding Nature Freedom Mathew has gone from strength to strength. He and Nature Freedom have been nominated for and won many accolades. Mathew is a sought after advisor and speaker for his knowledge of inclusiveness and breaking down barriers. His dreams of pursuing a career in the Environmental Sustainability space and participating in nature based activities have come to fruition and he is paving the way for others with disabilities and or/mental health issues to be able to do the same and live their best lives.
David Toohey: Executive Director – Treasurer
Daniel Maloney: Executive Director – Secretary
Lesh Prasad: Non Executive Director
Thomas McKenna: Non Executive Director
Liesl Fillippi: Non Executive Director
Zara Craggs – Marketing Coordinator (Volunteer)
Mathew Townsend- Founder