We were originally called Headway Queensland and were founded by Alwyn Ricci whose son, Mark, had sustained a severe brain injury. Alwyn volunteered his time to become Headway’s first Director. Headway provided vocational and counselling services, case management, research, family support and referral.


As Headway, we were funded to deliver a research report on the state of brain injury services in Queensland. Dr Elizabeth Kendall, now Director of The Hopkins Centre at Griffith University, conducted this report. It was instrumental in gaining further funding to establish additional services including advocacy, research, education and advice for people impacted by brain injury.


Headway was renamed Brain Injury Association of Queensland and John Dickinson became CEO. We moved towards a more service-oriented role and provided support and housing to people with brain injury in South East Queensland.


We changed our name from the Brain Injury Association of Queensland to Synapse. Our name suggests the value of relationships rather than a label for an injury, and relates to the connections between people, communities and opportunities.


We revisited our original commitment to research, when Dr Clare Townsend commenced, establishing key partnerships with The Hopkins Centre at Griffith University, and other partners, including Quigley Street in Cairns and Mission Australia. Partnerships were an integral part of Headway’s ethos and we continue this approach today.


We amalgamated with the Brain Injury Association of NSW which was established in 1979 under the name Cerebration. It undertook the name Brain Injury Association of NSW in 1991 and in 1999 became the peak body for brain injury in NSW. We continue to focus on the Brain Injury Association of NSW’s peak activities, including advocacy, information and sector training.


We merged with the Stroke Association of Queensland which started in 1983, after a 46-year-old mother of four suffered a stroke. We ensure the legacy of the Queensland Stroke Association by providing support and housing to people impacted by strokes.


In a world-first, we completed a culturally appropriate housing development in Cairns for Aboriginals and/or Torres Strait Islanders impacted by brain injury and disability. To provide the frame-work to expand nationally, we became a not-for-profit company limited by members guarantee. Our 2017-20 strategy provides a roadmap for Synapse to deliver additional services to more Australians of all ages impacted by brain injury nationally.


In late 2018, the Board of Headwest voted on a resolution to dissolve the organisation and transfer all assets to Synapse. Headwest had provided brain injury services for Western Australians for over 30 years. We have continued these services, as well as providing different services that were not yet offered by Headwest. The merger ensured local brain injury services for Western Australia and national reach for Synapse as—Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation.