A desire to advocate for disadvantaged women sees CQUni student selected to head to UN Commission

Published: 25 February 2019

Mathew Kennedy
CQUniversity student and Global Voices scholar Mathew Kennedy will attend the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York from March 11-22, 2019.

CQUniversity student and Global Voices scholar Mathew Kennedy is about to embark on a trip of a lifetime.

The Bachelor of Paramedic Science student will head to New York next month after being selected to participate in the Global Voices Scholarship Program to attend the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) (March 11-22).

“The vastly different political, social and economic nature of countries participating in CSW will give an insight into the variety of issues facing women all over the world,” Mathew said.

“I hope that by attending CSW it will open my eyes to issues facing the status of women that I am not currently aware of. I have also been informed by staff of Global Voices who attended last year’s summit that the side events are a highlight. Side events are displays by Member States, UN entities and NGOs that make the public aware of particular issues concerning the status of women,” he explained.

In what might seem to be an unlikely candidate to be fighting for women’s rights, Mathew was once a child safety officer in a regional, Indigenous community and witnessed first-hand the effects that unplanned pregnancy had on the women.

“In 2014 I was employed as a Child Safety Officer on Palm Island where I started as a case worker. The role required me to assist primarily Indigenous families in addressing child protection concerns with the eventual goal of reunification with their children,” he explained.

“This role required intimate knowledge of family’s dynamics including both weaknesses and strengths. My second role as a Child Safety Officer was as part of the Investigation and Assessment Team which Palm Island was a part of our catchment. This role required me to investigate allegations of child abuse made by the public. Within both of these roles, future family planning was not evident which left families, particularly young women, under resourced and at times with no support to raise their children. Unfortunately, there were circumstances were children were taken into care due to their parents’ inability to provide a desirable level of care.”

As a result, Mathew has written a policy paper on the use of long acting reversible contraception in addressing unintended adolescent pregnancy within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“I had the idea to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unintended Adolescent Pregnancy (UAP) through the wide spread use of Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) methods when I was working as a Child Safety Officer. I found it to be a very practical and a common-sense solution that I believe will have significant social, cultural and economic effects,” Mathew said.

“I acknowledge the cultural sensitivities around sexual and reproductive health within Indigenous communities and I understand that if these policy recommendations are applied, I won’t be the face of change. It will be the role of female elders within their respective communities to effect this change. When devising solutions to address social issues within your community, I find taking a humanist perspective to be most beneficial. There are cultural sensitivities pertaining to this issue, however, in its purest form, you do what you can to help people who are suffering regardless of gender or ethnicity.”

Mathew said the paper would explore the nexus between UAP and the social and economic marginalisation of adolescent women within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“It is hypothesised that an increase in the uptake of LARCs will reduce rates of UAP. Barriers in LARC access will be identified and addressed through patient education, mitigation of patient cost and medical staff training,” Mathew said.

Mathew said he’s ‘always had an underlying drive to help people’.

“I completed a degree in Social Science (Criminal Justice/Politics) at Charles Sturt University (CSU) and as CSU was a regional university I became aware of social justice issues pertaining to the rural and remote population and Indigenous Australians,” he said.

But that just wasn’t enough.

“In 2018 I commenced a Bachelor of Paramedic Science with CQUniversity as it allowed me to be at the coal face in assisting the sick and disadvantaged.”