VIC Local Hero in the 2018 Australian of the Year Awards
Mat Bowtell’s incredible work in the prosthetics and assistive devices industry, saw him named as the 2018 VIC Local Hero at the Australian of the Year Awards. Having learnt he would be made redundant with the closure of the automotive industry, Mat was spurred to turn a negative situation into a positive. Using his experience and extensive engineering knowledge, Mat began volunteering to make and produce prosthetics and assistive devices, giving them to those who cannot access or afford them for free.
Inspired by the likes of Nikola Tesla and Fred Hollows, Mat’s vision is to create a world where all people have the same access to prosthetics and assistive devices, regardless of where they were born or their financial circumstances. Utilising his experience in lean manufacturing and 3D printing, he now designs and makes low-cost open-source prosthetics that are available to anyone who needs them. By making his designs open-source, Mat estimates that he has saved people over $7 million around the world so far. He is currently developing a multi-function bionic arm that he hopes will be equivalent to a $40,000 arm for as little as $100 in parts.
Mat does not charge for his hands. He believes as a society that we have a fundamental responsibility to look after those who are less fortunate than ourselves. If he charged $10 for a hand, then to him it would only be worth $10. But when you give it to someone for free, then it becomes priceless. Mat could never charge a cent for any of his devices because that is the way it should be. Mat dreams of a world where access to devices that improve the lives of others is not dependent on how much money you have in the bank. All people in this world are born equal and deserve the same. Through what Mat is doing, He is hoping to encourage prosthetic and bionic developers to innovate, use smarter engineering, and make devices that are accessible to all.
Mat now lives with his wife and two children on Phillip Island in Victoria, working as a full-time volunteer from his workshop. He sustains his volunteer work through crowdfunding, support from the community and public speaking engagements. He also provides pro-bono support and gives motivational talks to Victorian schools to implement 3D printing into their STE(A)M programs.
Mat has received a lot of media attention throughout his journey, including features on The Project, Weekend Sunrise, Catalyst and ABC radio Conversation Hour. He recently received support from Westpac Bicentennial Foundation through a Social Change Fellowship to travel around the world sharing his ideas and learning from leading bionic and prosthetic arm developers.
Mat’s inspirational journey will have listeners on the edge of their seats, leaving them with a renewed faith in humanity.
Mat's incredible work has seen him recognised with several awards including the Commonwealth Points of Light Award recipient for Australia from Her Majesty The Queen in 2019, the 2018 VIC Local Hero recipient at the Australian of the Year Awards and was the recipient of the 2018 Westpac Social Change Fellowship.