Students should prepare themselves for a challenging yet extremely rewarding journey across one of the world’s greatest treks, taking in not only the beauty of the Papuan terrain but learning what life was like as an Australia soldier stationed in Papua New Guinea (PNG) during WWII.
It will be an experience never to be forgotten, as Australians will never forget those that served so courageously.
Throughout their journey students will not only learn about the history of WWII and the battle between Japanese and Australian forces in 1942, but will also experience some of the appalling conditions Australia’s young soldiers had to endure in order to keep Australia free from the prospect of a Japanese invasion.
The Kokoda School Treks Program includes the following four elements:
1. Research: Step one encourages all students to research two soldiers from the 39th Battalion (one living and one who was killed during the Kokoda Campaign) prior to embarking on the trek. Learning about the men of the 39th Battalion, who fought to keep Australia free during the Kokoda Campaign, will provide students with a truly emotional connection once out on the Kokoda Track.
2. Fundraising: Step two of the program invites students to participate in fundraising efforts in support of Kokoda School Treks (KST’s) porters, their families and the wider communities situated in the Northern Beaches of PNG. Kokoda School Trekkers can choose to either fundraise money or equipment, both of which will support the Buna School and the Buna Medical Aid Post.
KST also strongly recommends fundraising to cover the cost of students’ treks. Not only will students have prepared physically and mentally, they will have prepared financially too.
3. Fitness: Step three requires students to undertake an intensive trek preparation and training program in order to sufficiently prepare both their mind and body for the challenge ahead of trekking the Kokoda Track. Trekking Kokoda is a challenging experience, with extensive uphill and downhill sections. A high level of fitness is required although students do not have to be elite athletes.
4. Trek Time!: The final step of the program is Trekking the Kokoda Track where students will ‘Walk in the Spirit of a Digger‘ as they cross the Owen Stanley Range. Students will spend eight nights trekking Kokoda, one day volunteering at the Kokoda College, two nights in Home Stays and Guesthouses on the Northern Beaches of PNG in Buna & Sanananda and the final night relaxing at the luxurious Loloata Island Resort.
Step 1 – Soldier Research
Learning about the men of the 39th Battalion, who fought to keep Australia free during the Kokoda Campaign, has been proven to provide students with a truly emotional connection once out on the Kokoda Track. Kokoda School Treks provide all students with the name and service number of two soldiers that were part of the 39th Battalion; one living and one who was killed in battle. It is then up to the students to conduct research and discover who, exactly, these men were.
From past experiences, many of the living members of the 39th Battalion are often happy to provide students with either a face to face, or over the phone, interview. Past school groups have invited their Diggers into the school, where they have taken part in assembly events. Note that students are required to be mindful that these gentlemen are getting older and health problems may present some issues.
Throughout their research, all students are encouraged to ‘dig deep’ and discover who exactly their soldiers really were, as this will provide the greatest insights into how the Kokoda Campaign affected them personally, their families and more.
Once students are out on the Kokoda Track, they will be ‘Walking in the Spirit of a Digger’; students will trek across the Kokoda Track, in honour of the soldiers they just completed their research on.
The team at KST have previously suggested students focus their research around:
Area of residence
Employment status etc…
When did he arrive in PNG?
What were his initial thoughts, feelings & concerns?
At what point did it all become real?
What are his most vivid recollections?
Did he lose close friends in battle?
How long did he serve in PNG? etc…
*We would obviously ask all students to be respectful and sensitive in the questions they ask of the diggers.
What happened upon his return to Australia?
How did he cope fitting back into society?
Where did he find employment?
What thoughts, feelings & emotions did he feel once back on Australian soil? etc…
Step 2 – Fundraise
Although Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour, locals, particularly those in rural areas, do not always have access to warm accommodation, a quality standard of education or sufficient healthcare services.
Education standards are low and many children are not able to start, let alone finish, school for financial reasons.
Many villages do not have a building to hold classes. Others do, however they are made with bush materials; if the roof leaks and it is raining, classes are cancelled. Some buildings lack proper facilities, and if the kids cannot go to the toilet, they cannot go to school.
The level of healthcare available to locals is far below that which is available to the majority of the Australian population. I.e. a doctor may be several hours walk from a village.
Dental care is also not always available, particularly in remote locations. A minor toothache, left untreated, can lead to serious future health implications.
Step two of the program invites students to participate in fundraising efforts in support of KST’s porters, their families and the wider communities situated in the Northern Beaches of PNG. Kokoda School Trekkers can choose to either fundraise money or equipment, both of which will support the Buna School and the Buna Medical Aid Post.
Schools in the past have raised money from various sources: selling chocolates, sausage sizzles, fetes, free dress day at school, car washes, etc.
All cash collected is contributed to KST’s charity partner, the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF).
As an alternative option to donating money, some schools in the past have preferred to donate sporting equipment, clothing, text books, pens/pencils, medical supplies, toothbrushes etc. This is equally appreciated and always brings a smile to the faces of the children in the Northern Beaches.
All equipment will be donated to the local village elders during the ‘Welcome Cemerony’ in Buna.
Obviously everything to be donated needs transportation across the track. As part of KST’s contribution, the services of an additional porter will be provided to carry student donations*
Fundraise for your Trek:
The most valuable experiences are often those worked hardest for. KST also strongly recommends fundraising to cover the cost of students’ treks. Not only will students have prepared physically and mentally, they will have prepared financially too.
Weather students chooses to donate money or equipment, they can feel happy in the knowledge that they will be making a significant difference to the lives of those less privileged living in the Northern Beaches of Papua New Guinea.
*Weight restrictions apply.
Step 3 – Fitness
Students will be required to undertake an intensive trek preparation and training program in order to sufficiently prepare both their mind and body for the challenge ahead of trekking the Kokoda Track.
Trekking Kokoda is a challenging experience, with extensive uphill and downhill sections. A high level of fitness is required although students do not have to be super fit or Olympic athletes!
A strong core will assist in traversing the Kokoda Track successfully. Core muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back. In addition to building core strength, it is recommended to include hill walks, as well as stair climbing, to improve general fitness levels. Dependant on current fitness levels, students would benefit from at least 2-3 hill/mountain climbing sessions per week, followed by a 6-8 hour hill level walk on a weekend.
Once a Kokoda Trek has been booked, a detailed training schedule and recommended Nutrition Plan devised by an accredited Nutritionist, formerly of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) will be provided to all participating students.
Step 4 – Trek Time!
As students have now conducted their research, undertaken their fundraising efforts and physically prepared both their mind and body, the historical adventure can really begin! Students will now embark on the trek, ‘Walking in the Spirit of their Diggers’ which were researched during Step 1 of the program. At various points on the track, students will have the opportunity to share what they have learned about their Diggers. If possible, a memorial service will be held where it is thought that the fallen Diggers may have been killed battle.
In addition to ‘Walking in the Spirit of your Digger‘, our trek involves the following 7 steps:
Step 1: Meet in Port Moresby where the group will catch a ferry to Loloata Island for the first night’s accommodation.
Step 2: Trek the Kokoda Track in South-North direction from Owers Corner to Kokoda, spending eight nights on the track.
Step 3: On completion of the trek, the group will spend a day volunteering at the Kokoda College which is currently being built. Once the facility has been completed it will provide training for teachers and community health workers.
Step 4: The group will travel north to Buna where students will provide the Village Chief with the items they obtained during their fundraising efforts after enjoying a traditional village welcome. ‘Bloody Buna’ and ‘Maggot Beach’ as they were known during the war, saw some of the bloodiest battles of the campaign. It is a little known fact that Australia lost twice as many soldiers here than on the track itself.
Step 5: Students will take an hour and a half walk along the beach and spend the day and night in Sanananda where they can visit some museums containing artefacts from the campaigns. This village also holds history from the war, but will also have time to swim and relax.
Step 6: The group will travel back to Loloata Island where they will spend the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Step 7: Return to Australia..
For further details on the itinerary, please take a look at our Trek Itinerary and download the Brochure.
The following support materials can be provided to every student participating in a Kokoda School Trek:
The name and contact details of a living veteran of 39th Battalion
The name and service number of a fallen 39th Battalion soldier
Conduit can be created for students to contact the Australian War Memorial to gain war records of both soldiers
Contact details for local reserves unit to allow students to understand the importance of reservists to Australia and its defence
Referral to research material specific to involvement of the 39th Battalion
Further research material specific to battles at Northern Beaches
Fundraising Promotional Posters that can be displayed at fundraising events
Certificate of Fundraising achievement on completion of the trek
Fitness Training Program: On registration, each student will be provided with a guide for training for this trek. If the participating school is located in one of the areas where KST hold their regular training sessions, KST will ensure students are included in these. If not, regular contact will be made between the school and KST leaders, to discuss progress and provide support.
Nutrition Plan (generic): For a fully personalised nutrition plan, KST can provide you with the contact name of an accredited Sports Performance Dietician, formerly of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). This Dietician will develop a plan specific to participants’ own individual goals, fitness level and exercise output. Please note that a personalised nutrition plan is not included within the trek cost.
KST offer monthly training walks in Melbourne, Cairns and Adelaide, which students are encouraged to attend if possible. There is no cost to participate – KST simply want to ensure that every student has the best preparation possible.
Payment plan options: KST recognise that families often have different demands on their finances. It is for this reason that payment plans can be discussed to assist where possible.
Group Airfare rates: KST’s dedicated Travel Manager will ensure that the school has the best group travel arrangements possible. Once advised of the preferred departure date, steps will be taken to put in place the appropriate bookings, ensuring all students are travelling together and arriving at the appropriate time.
How to Enrol
Enrolling in the program is a straight forward process for students. Simply follow these four steps – skipping 1 & 2 if already participating:
1: Students will need to highlight the program to their teacher/s and invite the school to peruse the website.
2: Once teacher/s and/or year level co-ordinators have visited the website and determined that the program has merit within their curriculum, they simply need to phone the KST Customer Service Team who are always happy and willing to discuss the program in further detail.
3: The next step is typically for the school to host an information session. Where possible (geographically), a member of the KST team will present at the school and talk to students, parents and the teachers about the program in more detail.
4: If, after the information session, the school decides to proceed and secure a place in the program, KST simply require students to fill out an online registration form & following these payment terms;
Airfare deposit: $250
Travel insurance: $140 (approx.)
From there the program can begin! From a fitness and research perspective, there is generally at least a six month lead up from the time of booking, however KST understand that many schools will need a longer lead time than that. KST will work with students and their school to meet all requirements.