Wakerley Local Mathew Townsend Advocates for Inclusivity in Sports Ahead of the 2032 Paralympic Games

Mathew Townsend, a Wakerley local and the CEO of Nature Freedom, is advocating for inclusion for people with a disability ahead of the 2032 Paralympic Games through his participation in the Inclusive Sport and Recreation Communities project of Carers Queensland.

Mathew, who has hearing loss and autism, is one of nine members of the project’s Beyond the Sidelines Reference Group, which aims to boost the representation and participation of people with disability in sports and recreation, both on and off the playing field. 

Part of the group’s task is to raise awareness and help identify best practices in sports and recreation for people with disability. The group is also tasked to develop strategies to stimulate social change towards new and better outcomes through inclusive practices.

His life experiences and background with Nature Freedom, a start-up organisation supporting outdoor recreation and tourism, have prompted him to become involved with Carers Queensland’s latest initiative. The timing has been ripe since Brisbane is preparing for the Olympics and the 2032 Paralympic Games. 

“My passions and involvement with my start-up organisation with lived experiences with a disability in this area of activities and engagements will be hugely important and beneficial for the group to learn from.” 

“I am hoping to see the group recognised with our intentions and support in increasing awareness of inclusion and accessibility in outdoor activities for people with disabilities. 

“It is critical for our work to be recognised so we can contribute to change ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Games.”

Mathew believes that Nature Freedom aligns with the goals of Beyond the Sidelines Reference Group and that he and his company could reach out to more people about inclusivity and accessibility. He discovered the project as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant through Carers Queensland’s NDIS Local Area Coordination Partner in the Community Program for the Brisbane region.

Mathew uses NDIS support, not only for his business but also as part of the Beyond the Sidelines Reference group.

“I use captions, for example, if I need a caption for my board meeting when the team is virtual or sometimes in person, but it has been virtual a lot lately,” he said.

“At a conference, I have a support (worker) with me to take notes; it’s like when I used to be at university I’d have a note taker in the class for me, so I have access for that. It’s helped me to not miss out the information so I can learn from more. So it’s a lot about communication.

“I also receive capacity building support around my journey of being an employee and accessing the community with that resource as well.”

Mathew said accessing the NDIS has made a big difference to his life as it is helping him to “keep the ball rolling forwards.”

“It gets me going, because if I feel like I’m missing out something, I don’t feel like I’m moving to something,” he said.

“And it makes me feel like I’m not left out as well; it makes me feel included, involved and more engaged, making me feel more productive.”

Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.

If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can help you identify and link to options for support in your community. You can also contact Carers Queensland on 1300 999 636, or cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au

Find out more about Carers Queensland’s Inclusive Sport and Recreation Communities project and Beyond the Sidelines Reference group at the official site.

Published 30 March 2023