MATTHEW Aldridge will be pedalling across two states and up the country’s highest mountain – Mount Kosciuszko – in an effort to raise much-needed funds for farmers and veterans suffering from mental health issues from May 8-12.
The farmer from Northwood, just outside of Seymour, in Victoria tragically lost a good friend, who was his sister’s partner, to suicide on Christmas Eve in 2017.
‘‘It still doesn’t even feel real. He was a really good up-and-coming farmer. He could throw his hands at anything and just had the world at his feet,’’ Matt said.
‘‘When he passed away, I wanted to turn a negative into a positive to help our farmers along the way in honour of him.’’
The Coo-Wee Ride will kick start in Cooma, NSW, on Tuesday, May 8.
Matt will also pedal up 2228m of Mount Kosciuszko on May 9 and will finish at the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour on Saturday, May 12. Overall, he’ll ride more than 380km in five days.
In 2017, rural suicide rates were more than 50 per cent higher than in the capital cities of Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
‘‘Suicide rates amongst farmers really goes unheard of. There is more news about ball tampering nowadays,’’ Matt said.
In May 2017, Matt travelled more than 1800km in the annual Coo-Wee Ride which raised $15,000 for veterans suffering PTSD.
‘‘Farmers and veterans are unfairly stigmatised. There’s a perception out there that they’re too big and tough to talk about how they’re feeling,’’ he said.
‘‘If we can start raising more awareness around the issue and let them know that it’s okay to talk to people then we will all be much better off.
‘‘Our veterans keep us safe and our farmers keep us fed so it’s really important that we look after them.’’
Concurrently, on the other side of the world, from May 5-7, Sarah Watson, a fellow Coo-Wee Ride supporter, will ride from Aix-en-Provence to Alpe d’Huez in France to honour our fallen military heroes and to raise awareness for the horrendous rates of suicide in our ex-serving community.
For information, or to make a donation, visit cooweeride.org.au