Mathew Townsend is a young man of 25. He’s a campaigner and an advocate, and the proud holder of two university degrees.
Mathew has a Master of Environmental Management – Sustainable Development (2015-16) from the University of Queensland, St Lucia and a Bachelor of Environmental Science (2010-12) from James Cook University, Townsville.
Mathew has a diagnosis of high functioning autism and has profound to severe hearing loss. He says:
“I grew up with lot of communication and relationship challenges. I was bullied during high school. This is because I was different to my peers and led me to develop anxiety and depression during my academic years.”
Overcoming challenges at university has led Mathew to be a passionate advocate for diversity as well as for environmental sustainability.
“My voice is so powerful when I speak out about the challenges I face to my family, friends and the communities I engage with. ”
“I want to make a positive change because I want my future to be healthy and safe.”
“I have prioritised myself and committed to look after myself well and and have made important commitments to do things for my passion and wellbeing.”
But Mathew also is very familar with the challenges that his disabilities present. He says:
“Certainly at times I felt a little more challenged because of having high functioning autism and hearing loss. The influence from my hearing loss also impacts on my lifestyle, consequently it’s more challenging than just being on the spectrum because of the greater communication obstacles.”
Mathew is a passionate communicator and you can find a list of his blogs and Facebook page below. There you can catch up on his latest writing.
“Writing blog articles, sharing stories and media releases helps me to improve my writing. It is also the same impact when I become a socially active person and speak publicly.”
“So, the more I develop personally, the more successful as a person I am. Having disabilities doesn’t mean you can’t do things. Accommodations are needed for my communication strategies, it is just about being a little more aware.”
“The most important thing is to learn about ourselves. I learned that ‘comparing’ ourselves is also a negative attitude. Being yourself is a key to success in life. Being negative doesn’t help, or thinking that other people should give us opportunities. It’s my responsibility to establish the opportunities.”
Mathew has some clear ideas about his direction and goals for life.
“What I am hoping for my future is to make things happen. Since I have graduated with two academic degrees in environmental and sustainability fields. I want to work in these areas.”
“My goal is to be an inspiring person and to make a sustainable and safe world. I am also hopeful that I can be a role model for disabilities and diversity inclusion.”
Mathew has learned that diversity is universal.
“Being different from my peers is challenging because it is difficult to express my feelings and use communication strategies so that people can interact with me. I learned that not everyone in general understands who I am, but I believe this is a common sense issue because it is also applies to everybody.”
“Being different is ‘normal’, that applies to everyone who is being different to each other.”
And we’ll end this post with a couple of questions to Mathew:
What Are Your Strengths?
Research and analytical skills; geography and maps; interpersonal relationships
What is your message to the autism community?
Motivation! Just be yourself and do things of what you want to do. Don’t let other people’s negative perspectives get you. Make your own world and that will attract people to be with you.
Mathew currently volunteers as a community organiser with Oxfam Australia, an advocate for disabilities and diversity inclusion awareness through the Greens Party, and many like-minded organisations in Brisbane.
Mathew is very keen to find regular employment and we will discuss that with him next time. It’s proving very challenging.
In the meantime, you can find Mathew here:
Thanks, Mathew. We look forward to hearing more from you on Launchpad.
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