Dementia: A pain-barrier to break for a good mate

3 June 2022



How many people would put their body through the torture of a week-long cycle from Brisbane to Cairns for a mate?

That’s exactly what the Adventure4Dementia team of Matt Collard, Heather Fearby-Roberts and Craig Williscroft will attempt when they set off on a 1,700km, seven-day cycle on 3 June 2022.

Not content with that effort, Matt will then compete in the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship – just two days after arriving in north Queensland.

The lung-busting, leg-sapping trek is part of the team’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for dementia research at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

500,000 Australians suffer from dementia

Now in its third year, Adventure4Dementia is aiming to raise $50,000 dollars for dementia research at QBI’s Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR).

Adeventure4Dementia map
The route the Adventure4Dementia team will take on their journey to Cairns.

And it’s all being inspired by one man – good mate Al ‘Midget’ Forsyth.

“Al’s the sort of bloke who never knocked anyone, he always supported them in whatever they did,” Matt said. 

“He was a very fair and just someone that I always looked up to.”

Al – an ex-serviceman who spent significant time with the Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment – was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2011-12.

He is one of 500,000 Australians who suffer from the disease.

Matt said watching his friend who, following his time with defence, dedicated his life to trekking across the world had been heartbreaking.

“To see a man who could punch out 100 deep push-ups at the drop of the hat to now not being able to tie his shoelaces has just been crippling,” he said.

Taking inspiration from his mate, Matt changed his mindset, and instead of watching helplessly from the sidelines, began to actively pursue change by raising much-need fund for research with Adventure4Dementia.

Philanthropy lifeblood of dementia research

“A lot of our research is actually funded by philanthropy,” QBI’s Dr Tara Walker said.

Dr Walker, who is studying the effect of exercise in creating new brain cells, a process called neurogenesis, said people like Matt are the lifeblood of research.

“We couldn’t do our research without this kind of investment,” Dr Walker said. “We are extremely grateful.”

Dementia advocate and fellow philanthropist Janice Rushworth said greater awareness promoted better research, giving hope to those living with the disease.

Janice lost her husband, Alastair, to dementia in 2016, and set up the Alastair Rushworth Scholarship Research Fund in his honour at QBI.

“Once Alastair was given his diagnosis, it was basically, well, ‘good luck’,” Janice said.

“But there is research, there is hope that we believe over time we will find ways to treat (dementia).

“And the research is all moving in that direction.”

And while Al might be at the forefront of the team’s mind as they click through the gears and churn up the highway, they know their efforts to promote dementia research could make a lasting impact on countless lives.

“There’s some ground-breaking technology that hopefully can help those who are suffering from dementia or the early onsets of dementia,” he said.

“Give them more time with their loved ones to actually enjoy some of the things they wouldn’t be able to due to this disease.”

Support the Adventure4Dementia team by donating to its JustGiving page or visit to help brain research at QBI.

Media: Matt Collard + 61 (0) 414 741 118, Elaine Pye + 61 (0) 415 222 606, Merrett Pye + 61 (0) 422 096 049

The Brain: Dementia QBI