The Kokoda Youth Leadership program is run by the RSL & Services Clubs of Sydney in conjunction with Charlie Lynn’s Adventure Kokoda. A program aimed at creating greater awareness among young people of the Diggers sacrifice on the Kokoda Campaign, and to ensure that traditions live on. At the same time, aiming to instill a commitment to community service and enhancing personal development by providing local youth an opportunity to experience the same conditions under which our Diggers fought. This is a transformational experience encouraging participants to become future leaders in their own communities.
FOUR LOCALS REACH THEIR GOALS IN 2019 IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
In October 2019, 4 local youth successfully took on the challenge of the Kokoda Trek; Australian Catholic University Nursing Degree Student Elise Thornthwaite, Goulburn High School Student Blake Robertson and Trinity Catholic College Students Jack Burke and Alexander Parlett.
It was both a mental and physical challenge for all trekkers, upon returning Jack expressed that it was the closest thing to being in war itself, without the bullets going overhead, he found it hard to comprehend what the soldiers went through and how they fought in the conditions, and he soon came to realise how the events that occurred in Papua New Guinea in 1942 had made its mark in everyone’s lives. Alex also described the life experience as one that he would always cherish, he learnt that no matter how different people are, they need to band together to achieve common goals, making strong friendships with those that were total strangers 10 days earlier.
Blake Robertson, a war history enthusiast had taken a keen interest in the Kokoda Campaign for many years, in particular studying the story of Private Bruce Kingsbury of the 2/14th Battalion from Sydney. When arriving at the exact spot where Kingsbury was killed in battle in 1942 he was overcome with unexplainable emotion, which pushed him to go on and visit Kingsbury and pay his respects when he reached the Bomana Military Cemetery.
After the ten day trek, all four participants made it home safe, delivering a comical and serious presentation to the Board, Management, Staff and their families. This was an extremely well delivered presentation, where the heartfelt emotions of Elise and the importance of this journey for her personal connection with her great grandfather James Gilbert McMahon who served in the 9th Division’s 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion in World War II, was realised to those watching on. Elise found the strength from her ‘Big Pop’ holding her heart and her hand as she walked in his footsteps.
The local family of school teacher Mrs Bev McGreevy also found comfort in this year’s trek, having Jack & Alex visit the war grave of her long-lost uncle, Private Robert Blaydon (Bobby). Bobby passed at Gona in December 1942, and family members have not been able to make the trip to visit him, so Jack & Alex made it their mission to pay their respects and place memento’s on Bobby’s grave, completing the task with such respect and providing photos and video footage back to Bev was very special to the local family, relieving some of their sadness felt over the many years.
Once again the Board, Management & Staff are very proud of our trekkers for what they have personally achieved on this adventure, wishing them all the success for their futures, knowing they will take the most from this experience passing on what they learnt and believing in themselves that ‘anything is possible’.
Trekking alongside me was 40 other like-minded young people, with a shared goal of completing the Kokoda Trek. What we would encounter on those 10 days would not only break and remake us, but would mould our leadership skills for years to come. The challenges we faced collectively, both physical and mental were tremendous, and I could not be more proud of each of us.
The four words forever etched into my core; courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. While my physical journey of the ‘Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge’ came to an end on the 8th October 2019, the leadership trek of my future self, commenced the moment I walked under those arches.
ELISE THORNTHWAITE, OCTOBER 2019
As a war history enthusiast, conquering the trek has been a life-long ambition, connecting with Private Bruce Kingsbury and visiting the Bomana cemetery was one of the most heartfelt times for me. To receive the recognition from Adventure Kokoda founder Charlie Lynn and completing the trek under his guidance made me feel extremely proud.
BLAKE ROBERTSON, OCTOBER 2019
After a 3 hour gruelling climb to the top of Brigade Hill, a memorial rests in honour of the soldiers that fought and died defending their positions. As I read the poem on the plaque and stare out into the eerie views of the mountain ranges below, I sip on a cup of warm milo and let the experience sink in. After the climb I found myself both physically and emotionally stripped and didn’t take much to shed a tear, this picture only captures some of what I was experiencing at the time.
JACK BURKE, OCTOBER 2019
I’ll always cherish the life experience of walking the trail, and the strong friendships formed.
ALEXANDER PARLETT, OCTOBER 2019
LIAM CONQUERS KOKODA IN 2018
In October 2018 local year 11 student Liam Greenwood took on the grueling 147km challenge of Papa New Guinea’s Kokoda Trail. Preparations for the trek began in early 2018 where Liam attended a group workshop in Sydney, learning the task that lay ahead. Liam spent many hours preparing and training for the challenge, ensuring to make the most of the $6,000 plus program that was on offer. Upon Liam’s return, he made a memorable presentation of the experience to Management Staff and the Board of Directors. Liam was our 21st participant since our involvement began in 2008, and along with our past participants, we as a Community Club are very proud of Liam’s achievements and what he has gained from the Kokoda experience.
THE SOLDIERS SEND THEIR 19TH & 20TH PARTICIPANTS TO TAKE ON THE KOKODA TRAIL IN 2017
Xanthe Britton & Tyler Dunbar were part of a 27 strong group who walked the track October 2017. While on the trek, Xanthe & Tyler faced many obstacles, both physically and mentally, challenging themselves to their fullest, but successfully reaching the end of the trail they discovered that they were capable of far more than they could have ever imagined. The Board of Directors and Staff along with the Goulburn Community are very proud of their efforts and their achievements and wish them all the very best for what lays ahead.
THE SOLDIERS SPONSORS TWO LOCAL YOUTHS TO CHALLENGE THE KOKODA TRAIL IN 2016
Matt and Ryan successfully undertook the grueling 147km trek in 2016, they were the 17th & 18th individuals sponsored by the Club since our participation began in 2008. We and the Goulburn Community are extremely proud of the challenge that both Matt & Ryan embarked on at such demanding times in their lives and truly hope that the experience they gained will have a positive impact on their futures.
SOLDIERS SPONSORS $20,000 FOR KOKODA TREKKERS IN 2015.
In 2015 the Soldiers Club sponsored Caitlin Nye, Georgia Basterfield and Jayden Faraday …… we are extremely proud of what they achieved, gained and brought home from the experience.
Kokoda was an amazing opportunity, it was a test of physical endurance and mental endurance that I know will put me in good stead for any challenge that I may face in the future, it provided me with a social challenge in which it tested my ability to engage with other young adults, and will help with my ability to connect with others in my future career path. This opportunity was fantastic in my continued understanding of Australia’s military history, whereby we are now the guardians of this sacred aspect of Australian history. Kokoda was an emotional experience that allowed me to effectively engage with the story of soldiers both in battle and on the home front. I believe walking in the soldiers footsteps has allowed me to forge a deeper connection with these men that gave their lives for their country. This experience was important for the future development of my own leadership skills. However, what makes this experience so unique, is that it forces you to understand ourselves before we lead others. I have learnt from this experience that I have a strong will not to give in and that helping others is something that is really important. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I would like to thank the Soldiers Club for their support…
CAITLIN NYE, OCTOBER 2015
Trekking the Kokoda Trail l gained insight knowledge of what the soldiers had to go through, how they were faced with the weather and the ruggedness of the trail. I learned what mateship is and what l have to do to achieve it and l learned while on the trail you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I met the best people while doing the trail and they will be my mates for life…
JAYDEN FARADAY, OCTOBER 2015
I always knew Kokoda was going to be a challenge but I would have to say it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I was prepared for the physical challenge of Kokoda but nothing could quite prepare me for the mental side of it. It was a confronting experience and I’ve brought home some really important life skills, which some what changed the way I see and approach things. Things that you think are important aren’t. The Natives of Papua New Guinea have so little, yet they were so happy and kind. It has taught me to be more grateful and appreciative. Kokoda has also taught me the values of finishing things that I have started and to never give up…
GEORGIA BASTERFIELD, OCTOBER 2015
PAST PARTICIPANTS SPONSORED BY THE SOLDIERS CLUB
2019 Elise Thornthwaite
2019 Blake Robertson
2019 Jack Burke
2019 Alexander Parlett
2018 Liam Greenwood
2017 Xanthe Britton
2017 Tyler Dunbar
2016 Matthew Hindi
2016 Ryan Upton
2015 Georgia Basterfield
2015 Caitlin Nye
2015 Jayden Faraday
2014 Jordan Brooker
2013 Thomas Foley
2013 James Croker
2013 Jackson Kofod
2013 Braydan Fenwick
2012 Tom Basterfield
2012 Jessica Hayes
2011 Sarah Longhurst
2011 Shaun Larkham
2010 Ashleigh Craig
2009 Richard Joyce
2009 Nathaniel Ryan
2008 Bryan Maunder