‘There is no greater bond of mateship, or commitment to one another, than that developed between soldiers in the crucible of war.
‘Shared adversity, extreme conditions, privation, reliance on each other and the dry humour that develops in such situations combine to forge lasting personal bonds.’
Our Kokoda pilgrimages for schools incorporate:
- Student-Parent Treks,
- Historical Treks tailored to suit school curriculum, and
- Youth Leadership treks.
There is no greater bond of mateship, or commitment to one another, than that developed between soldiers in the crucible of war. Shared adversity, extreme conditions, privation, reliance on each other and the dry humour that develops in such situations combine to forge lasting personal bonds.
In a similar way, the Kokoda Trail offers the unique opportunity to experience elements of this bonding and relationship building for students and parents in a way that cannot be replicated in normal society. The Kokoda Trail is wilderness trekking in its most pristine form. The pilgrimage is free of the distractions of everyday life that so hinder relationships in today’s busy world.
The relentless terrain, testing climate, perceived dangers (all carefully managed) of unfamiliar jungle, river crossings and grinding climbs will challenge the mental and physical tenacity of participants as they conquer their own self-doubts and replace them with self-confidence. The awe of walking in the very footsteps of our heroic ‘diggers’ who fought and died along the trail will put their own struggle into perspective and inspire them to conquer whatever obstacles they will inevitably face.
For the diggers Kokoda was a profound personal experience that established lifetime bonds: for student-parent groups it offers a similar opportunity to experience the power of a shared struggle in a unique learning environment.
“We have no doubt we are now invincible. We have plummeted to our worst lows and soared to our greatest heights. There is nothing physically or emotionally we cannot endure. We had set off as 34 individuals, half of us Australians and half of us Papuan villagers. When we part we are friends – an indivisible and strong unit for whom farewells come hard. If the spirit of Kokoda is strength in adversity, courage and mateship, that spirit has been seeded in us all.”
Marian Frith, The Canberra Times
Dr Charlie Teo reflected on his trek across the Kokoda Trail in his Australia Day speech in 2012:
‘Initially I saw it as an exercise in male-bonding and a physical challenge. But having walked the track with Charlie Lynn who explains the military history and significance of the track, I honestly believe it is a necessary part of being Australian. Kokoda serves as a cogent reminder of our responsibility to fellow Australians and fellow human beings. Our forefathers sacrificed their lives for our current way of life. Young boys lied about their age to fight for this country. The track is full of stories that illustrate the sacrifice, courage, endurance and mateship that contributed to the success of the campaign and the freedoms that we enjoy today.’
Dr Charlie returned to trek a second time with his teenage daughters, Katie and Sophie, to share the experience with them. At the completion of his trek he met with the Board of the Port Moresby Hospital to offer his services on an annual pro-bono basis and to assist in the training PNGs only neurosurgeon.
Kokoda Historical Treks
The Battle of the Kokoda Trail is perhaps, in the annals of Australian military history, second only to Gallipoli. The privilege of walking in the footsteps of diggers who fought and died along the Kokoda Trail in those dark days of 1942 creates a lasting impression of this historic campaign.
We begin with a presentation on the strategic situation leading up to the fighting on the Kokoda Trail. Participants are then given detailed briefings on the strategic and tactical details of each significant battlesite. The values of leadership, mateship and sacrifice are common themes in each of these presentations.
Each night around the campfire we select a topic for group discussion based on the day’s journey.
Our Military History Treks are led by experienced professionals who know when to make the call to have a ‘leadership’ discussion during the trek – and lead the discussion around the campfire of an evening.
We can tailor our leadership programs to meet individual needs of the history curriculum in regard to formal presentations or guided discussions.
Our Kokoda experience will ensure students develop a new perspective of ‘history’ and a deeper understanding and appreciation of the significance of the Kokoda campaign and its linkage with other campaigns that saved Australia from invasion in 1942.
“I don’t think anybody could claim that it’s not an exercise in personal leadership. But what this week has certainly been about is personal development and challenging people personally. What Charlie has done is show very, very clearly that they could do things that they couldn’t imagine they could do. It’s also clear to me that expectations of ourselves can and must be raised in a constructive way. Charlie has managed to achieve this and it’s an act of creativity of which he should be proud.”
Mr Barry Deane, Head of Executive Development, CRA
Youth Leadership Treks
Trekking Kokoda Trail provides a special opportunity for young Australians to experience the art of leadership in a challenging environment. The campaign involved poor strategic planning, defeat, survival, victory, sacrifice and instinctive teamwork. We discuss various theories of leadership – command, situational, group etc. and relate these to various examples in-situ along the trail.
It is the complete leadership experience for young Australians who don’t only get to learn about it – they get to experience it.
It is a journey of personal discovery where participants will firest experience their own strengths and limitations, and receive guidance in developing character and addressing their own self-esteem. In their group situation, and in the testing nature of the Kokoda Trail’s climate and terrain, participants will discover the elements of group dynamics and, through personal experience and guided discussion, how these can be influenced in a positive way to achieve desired outcomes.
The Battle of the Kokoda Trail provides many leadership examples, good and bad, and through a combination of formal presentation and guided discussion these lessons will be drawn out for students. Additionally, throughout the trek, participants will be placed in leadership positions and situations within the group designed to develop both personal initiative and leadership qualities.
Walking and ‘living’ the aspects of the fighting on the Kokoda Trail provides an experience unlike any other for young people to learn and understand the essential elements of leadership so important for them in taking their place in society.
“I have participated in and experienced many ‘experiential’ and personal growth activities in the past, pushing my emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries. However, the depth of personal learning I achieved from the Kokoda Track experience was much deeper and more meaningful than any past activity. Perhaps the length and difficulty of the track helped to deepen the level of learning and make this the experience that it was.”
Karen Dunshea, BA (Psych)
Village Development Projects
We have established Network Kokoda, a not-for-profit organisation that supports village agriculture, education and health programs and community development. Our agricultural projects at boarding schools on the Sogeri Plateau provide fresh produce for more than 600 boarding students. Our pilgrimages include a half-day visit to these schools and other community projects as part of their learning experience. See www.networkkokoda.org
We have established firm friendships with local clan leaders and villagers over the past 22 years through our support for village community centres, educational scholarships, health programs and the employment opportunities we have created for them.
Our Leadership Team
Our Adventure Kokoda trek leaders are without peer on Kokoda:
- We have a combined total of 135 years military service with extensive experience in expedition leadership which assures your safety on this wilderness experience.
- Our trek leaders have broad training and practical experience in management and leadership at many levels in both military and civil spheres giving them the ability to impart this knowledge in a no-nonsense and realistic way.
- We understand military history – the strategic situation that led to the war in the Pacific, the techniques of the conduct of war, and understand and have a soldier’s knowledge of the tactics of each battle of the Kokoda campaign, thus enabling us to ‘bring-to-life’ this important chapter in our nation’s history.
‘It was such a great experience, I learnt so much from Kokoda, both historically and personally. I especially liked how we were encouraged to set personal goals to change something about our life when we returned. I have come back to Australia and applied for a volunteer internship with UNICEF through my summer holidays and I would never have had the motivation if it were not for Kokoda and the experiences which I had over there. I have also volunteered with Red Cross – it was great how we were encouraged to go back and do something special, as it has made it so much more meaningful to go out and complete volunteer work, hoping that I am helping someone in some small way’.
RSL Services Clubs Association Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge
The Kings School, Parramatta
‘Thank you for making my experience walking the Kokoda Trail so memorable. I believe it will be 10 days that stay with me for the rest of my life.
‘For me it had it all, emotionally moving, physically challenging, historically interesting, breathtakingly beautiful, and really good fun. To have the opportunity to experience all this with George made it all the more special. In saying this it just would not have been the same without your inspirational leadership. Your detailed knowledge, relaxed positive attitude, moving recitals made it a pilgrimage (as you promised) rather than a tough walk in the jungle. But what impressed me most was the life changing education you gave the boys (and fathers) and your interest, concern and positive programmes you have implemented under trying circumstances for the local people.
‘The motivational leadership addresses you gave to the boys will have a big impact on those 17 soon to be young men who were privileged to have the opportunity to hear and spend time with you at such an impressionable age. I believe the young men who’s ‘Endurance-Courage-Mateship-Sacrifice’ we remember as we walk the Trail would be pleased the high example, they set would be used to help educated our young leaders of today. I was very proud of the way the boys (particularly George) handled the tough conditions with enthusiasm, good spirit and the without complaint.
‘A few times stand out for me. The talk you gave us over looking Eora Creek was one. I found it particularly moving. We were fortunate to witness this beautiful location on a stunning day. It’s hard to imagine so many young men died in appalling conditions on that very spot, and as you rightly pointed out our governments have done nothing to recognise their sacrifice.
‘That memorable second day is another. I think it was 12 hours with incredible steep descents, equally tough climbs, and it top it off torrential rain with the last couple of hours in the dark. Looking back, I would have felt cheated not to experience such conditions. But the most memorable moment of that day was the sight of Dick carrying two packs running past me in the pouring rain as I struggled across a swollen creek wondering why he was in such a hurry. Hearing later that after dropping the packs he then ran back to help Bruce and Ben into camp. I think that action sums up the spirit of your porters and the loyalty and dedication you instil in them. They are indeed great ambassadors for their people.
Thank you again for a wonderful, wonderful experience. Next time your down in Cootamundra be sure to give me a call, I’d love to have the opportunity to share another wee dram with you.
Punchbowl Boys High School
‘The trek rates as one of the most incredible experiences. I have traveled many countries and under a variety of conditions, however, never have I felt as satisfied as when I completed this journey. I suppose, two weeks after the event, I have seen the changes in perspective and the way I have approached things in life. The trek was not about the physical aspect; the historical and emotional awakening far outweighed this.
‘I have since recommended to all and sundry this trip and especially with Adventure Kokoda. How fortunate am I ? I experienced something so important to our national fabric and had my own personal historian guide me through one of the most spiritually uplifting experiences of my life. Thank you, Charlie. I will never forget the experience you created for the group and the better person you have helped me become.’
Jihad Dib, Principal