Matthew Aldridge will be pedalling across two states and up the country’s highest mountain — Mt Kosciuszko — in an effort to raise much-needed funds for farmers and veterans suffering from mental health issues from May 8 to 12.
The farmer from Northwood, just outside Seymour, 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,’’ Mr Aldridge said.
‘‘He was a really good up-and-coming farmer. He could throw his hands at anything and just had the world at his feet.
‘‘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 start in Cooma, NSW, on Tuesday, May 8.
Mr Aldridge will also pedal up 2228m of Mt Kosciuszko on May 9, and will finish at the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour on Saturday, May 12.
He will ride more than 380km in five days.
In 2017, rural suicide rates were more than 50 per cent higher than in the capital cities, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
‘‘Suicide rates amongst farmers really goes unheard of. There is more news about ball tampering nowadays,’’ Mr Aldridge said.
In May 2017, Mr Aldridge travelled more than 1800km in the annual Coo-Wee Ride, which raised $15000 for veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘‘Farmers and veterans are unfairly stigmatised,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s a perception out there that they’re too big and tough to talk about how they’re feeling.
‘‘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 to 7, Sarah Watson, a fellow Coo-Wee Ride supporter, will ride from Aix-en-Provence to Alpe d’Huez in France to honour Australia’s fallen military heroes and to raise awareness of the high rates of suicide in our ex-serving community.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit: cooweeride.org.au