Social change maker: Mathew Townsend

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Words by Mathew Townsend

Earlier this year Intrepid Landcare posted on their Intrepid Landcare Tribe Facebook Group  about an opportunity to submit an idea for the (2017) Foundation for Young Australian’s Young Social Pioneers (YSP) program – Australia’s premier social change making incubator for young people. This got me thinking, what about an inclusivity idea to allow for young Australia’s with a disability and mental illness to access the awesomeness of Landcare? Having only recently joined the ‘tribe’ at that stage I thought, imagine if other people like me could experience what I am experiencing by being part of Intrepid Landcare. Intrepid Freedom was born – a new program that is in development to inspire, connect, and empower young Australia’s with a disability and mental illness to act and lead with Landcare.

What happened next took me on an incredible journey…

What I did get out of YSP?

The program is about sharing experiences and stories with other participants and the public to get out of your comfort zone. I learned a lot about public speaking strategies, alongside personal development. I am used to being a speaker in front of an audience, however, this program helped me learn the art of thinking about what I should speak out. This also involved presentation training – what are the delivery outcomes and expectations. I discovered through telling my story I could get my key messages across more powerfully, to raise awareness of the importance of Intrepid Freedom.

The importance of networking

The other thing that I didn’t realise was that networking is really important. I noticed that by being out there meeting people in my community, or professionals and businesses, these networks can open doors. If they share my passion, goals and values, together we can make Intrepid Freedom happen. During the 3-month YSP program, my approaches to networking changed. I attended more meetings, public seminars and forums, such as attending lots of government meetings and connecting with local Landcare groups and their related activities. I found this helpful to expose myself, also push myself outside my comfort zone to share Intrepid Freedom. A key highlight was meeting the Director General of Queensland Government’s Environment Heritage and Protection department, Jim Reeves, who then connected me with his senior staff! And being an invited keynote speaker at the Queensland Water and Land Carers regional event held in Brisbane last month.

How Intrepid Landcare opened the door for me?

Intrepid Landcare stands up to inspire, connect and empower young people – what they do is more than encouraging young people to volunteer with Landcare. I soon discovered that Intrepid Landcare focuses on developing young people personally and professionally for them to do stuff that matters. For me, my action with Intrepid Landcare has improved my confidence and awareness about how to work as a tribe, rather than a lone wolf. For many years I tried to raise awareness of disability rights, but until more recently when I connected with Intrepid Landcare I realised that I could also merge my passion for the environment and they have given me the opportunity to expand on this. In a non-political and non-partisan approach to raising awareness, I find it more effective to develop relationships with someone who has similar passions and interests. This approach has already improved awareness of disability inclusion and accessibility for people like myself that aim to have a career in the environment.

What’s next for me?

My experience with FYA hasn’t ended. I am now an alumni for the YSP program and will continually receive opportunities, support and networks to further develop Intrepid Freedom. Intrepid Landcare is also playing this role and I am currently researching ideas for Intrepid Freedom with a suite of new partners who are equally passionate about inclusivity. This is exciting! 2018 is going to be an even better year. I am also keen to continue my personal and professional development experience, which will further enable me to explore new ways of acting and leading in the community.

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