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Creating real change and being serenaded by music icons at 19

Cerebral palsy and epilepsy haven’t stopped Kate Pemberton from founding her own support movement and lobbying for inclusion.

Kate Pemberton has achieved a lot in her 19 years. She’s founded a grassroots movement now supported by hundreds of campaigners – Kate’s Campaign for Change – which helps people when they are at their most vulnerable. She’s won multiple awards, sat on crucial committees and successfully lobbied Townsville City Council on issues of equality and inclusion.

More recently, she’s learnt to rock’n’roll dance – a passion which lifts her spirits and is all the more remarkable because Kate is a wheelchair user who lives with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and cyclic vomiting syndrome.

Dream team

Kate is thought to be the second person in QLD to receive NDIS planning and has since established herself as an agent of change in the Townsville community where she lives.

While she has spearheaded the popular Kate’s Campaign for Change, she wants to make it known that it takes a team to create change.

“I couldn’t do this by myself,” said Kate, who uses various ways to communicate including speech, sign language and assistive technology.

“It’s a team effort and all about ‘we’. I love sprinkling kindness over my community and providing others with an opportunity to get on board and do the same.”

Feros Care Local Area Coordinator Kristy Dethick is among the many locals who has watched Kate’s journey unfold with pride.

Kristy met the youngster a decade ago, and has spent the past couple of years helping Kate and her family navigate the NDIS.

“Prior to the NDIS there was no funding to support Kate the way she is now living life,” Kristy says.

“Every time she needed a new wheelchair or technology her parents would have to find a large sum of money. She had very little access to support workers and her family were forced to choose which therapies she could have.”

Kirsty says that the supports offered through the NDIS mean Kate receives the assistance she needs, providing help to her family and helping her reach her own life goals.

“The results speak for themselves. To watch her grow from a little girl into this young woman who is doing so much for her community is unbelievable.”

Fulfilling a passion to help others

When Kate’s family members returned from an overseas holiday with a collection of hotel toiletries in 2017, the big-hearted teenager packaged them together for specialist homelessness service, Maria House.

Several years on and that small gesture has grown to become Kate’s Campaign for Change, with local businesses and residents contributing goods, money, gift cards and precious time to create the care packages for people who are homeless or at-risk,
transitioning out of care, impacted by domestic violence or dealing with the fallout of natural disasters.

The movement uses purple donation wheelie bins which are now a familiar sight at businesses across the city where they are located and used as donation drop-off points.

The care packages are not distributed directly to those in-need but rather through local not-for-profit organisations so that they can be used in conjunction with the other services the organisations have to offer.

Kate’s Campaign for Change is also a movement which allows everyone – regardless of their abilities – to achieve a sense of purpose and to discover a way to give back to the community

‘Rock star’ vibe

Kate, who has been an inspiration to others because of her Campaign for Change has received plenty of attention from locals as well as the media. She recently appeared on Channel 7’s morning show, Sunrise, where she was given a surprise serenade
from one of her all-time favourite musicians, Adam Brand.

Kate herself, is a well known icon around Townsville.

“Kate is like a little rock star in Townsville,” her mother, Donna says.

“She can’t go anywhere without people knowing who she is. We’ll go to the shops and strangers will ask ‘Are you Kate from Kate’s Campaign for Change?’. It’s the same when we attend official functions. She’s
connected to all the who’s who in town.”

Along with winning the 2019 John McDonald Community Achievement Award and 2020 NQV Volunteer of The Year – Achievement Award, Kate lobbied council to implement disability access at Townsville’s Tobruk Memorial Baths, leading to an $11.3 million

She is also on a sub-committee to raise funding for an Accessible Adult Change Facility for the new DriveIt North Queensland Driver Education and Motorsport Precinct.

“A kind, generous person”

Kate’s mother, Donna Pemberton, says her daughter has a “beautiful heart”.

“She has always been a kind, generous person so it’s no surprise she’s achieving wonderful things,” she says.

“Society often makes the mistake of assuming people with disabilities can’t make a difference but you’ll often find they have the best sense of humours, are incredibly resilient and have so much to teach people who don’t live their
lives with disability.

“I was about to say Kate is living the typical life of a 19-year-old but the truth is she’s doing a hell of a lot more than most 19-year-olds. She’s actually making a difference to her community.

“A mother recently sent a message to Kate’s Campaign for Change telling Kate she is an excellent role model for her own daughters,” Donna says.

“Hearing a tribute like that you can’t help but think, ‘Wow’.”


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