Experiencing a little of Australia’s wartime history is a unique opportunity that we at Kokoda School Treks want to make available to all secondary school students and their teachers. The innovative program provides a supportive environment in which students will gain a more profound appreciation for Australia’s history, while also developing intercultural understanding, personal and social competence and ethical behaviour.
Together with the Association of the 39th Battalion, the first unit sent to halt the Japanese on the Kokoda Track, KST will provide the name and War Service Number of two soldiers to each student in this program. One will be a living legend of the 39th, the second will be his fallen mate. KST encourages students to research their soldiers in preparation for trekking the Kokoda Track. By personalising their research, the intention is that the students will develop a deeper understanding and respect for those who gave their lives in service of their country.
Following their research, students will be required to both participate in fundraising efforts and complete an intensive trek training program. The fundraising efforts will help to cover the cost of their trek and also provide a donation to the village communities of Northern Beaches in PNG. An intensive trek training program is also required to ensure each participating student has the fitness capacity to successfully cross the Kokoda Track.
Once out on the track, students will have the opportunity to ‘Walk in the Spirit of a Digger’, whereby they will trek across the Kokoda Track, in honour of the soldiers they completed their research on prior to departure. At various points on the track, the students will have the opportunity to share what they have learned. Memorial services will also be held at various points of importance, including Brigade Hill and Isurava Battlefield. A visit to Bomana War Cemetery will also provide the opportunity for the students to visit the war graves, reflect on their knowledge of the Kokoda Campaign, and of the outcome for these soldiers who fought, and died for their freedom.
On completion of the trek, students will spend a day volunteering at the Kokoda College, which once completed, will provide training for teachers and community health workers. The final two days of the tour takes students into the Northern Beaches of PNG to Buna and Sanananda where they will experience village life and learn more about the history of the Kokoda Campaign.
Please note: KST does not intend for the research component of this program to be completed within school hours, however should teachers choose to include a Kokoda research assignment as part of the Year 10 Australian History Curriculum a range of Kokoda specific resources can be provided. Please refer to the ‘Teacher Support’ tab for further information.
As a teacher your role will predominately be centred around co-ordinating the following elements of the KST Program:
Initial contact with KST: It is the teachers role to make the initial contact with KST’s Customer Service Team where they will provide as much information as required regarding the Kokoda School Treks Program.
Information Night: It is also the teachers role to co-ordinate the information night between students, their parents and the team at KST. Once the teacher has organised the evening, KST will come along and present to all in attendance and provide each student with a kit including the KST brochure, registration forms and information regarding the nutrition plan.
Research, Fundraising & Trek Training: The responsibility for each of these components of the program really falls with the students themselves, however KST suggests teachers co-ordinate a fortnightly meeting with their students to ensure each person is on track with their research, fundraising & training. Past experience shows that students will need some support in organising fundraising events, particularly team events. KST recommends that teachers also co-ordinate group training sessions and monitor the developing fitness levels of the group. If the teacher feels that there are students who may require additional training or support with their preparations, KST team members are always happy to help where possible.
Trek Time!: Teachers will accompany their students from their home port to Port Moresby, where the group will be met by a member of the KST team. Once in PNG, KST staff will run the logistics of the trek, and take responsibility for track safety. Though KST staff are Wilderness First Aid qualified, any medical situations will be dealt with in consultation with the teacher. Aside from that, teachers also get to enjoy the experience! Please Note: It is important that school guidelines in relation to medications, first aid treatment, etc. and any other relevant school protocols are established with KST leaders prior to the trek. Past experiences have generally found that administering first aid in consultation with school staff covers most scenarios, however individual schools do sometimes have strict protocols in this area. Clarification before and not during the trek is extremely important.
What teachers are not responsible for:
Questions: KST understand that teacher schedules are often incredibly hectic, therefore KST team members are more than happy to answer any questions, concerns or comments that students and their parents have at any time. KST’s dedicated Customer Service Team are always happy to chat about the program and answer any questions that may arise. In addition to answering questions over the phone, a ‘group’ will be created on the KST Facebook page specifically for individual school groups. This will provide a familiar forum in which students can ask questions and raise concerns. This also means that an answer or information from the school or KST will be consistent across the group, eliminating the ‘Chinese Whispers’ syndrome that can become quite troublesome.
Student Paperwork: All student paperwork can also be directed straight through to the Customer Service Team so teachers won’t have to worry about collecting any documentation. A reporting structure will be developed between the teacher and KST team members to ensure teachers are kept in the loop regarding outstanding items.
Aside from the historical importance of the Kokoda Track, the trek is an experience on many levels which will provide a range of learning outcomes for both students and teaches participating in the program:
Discipline: This is a challenge requiring a strong physical preparation; a journey of goal setting, training and discipline.
Ethical Behavior: Developed through visiting another country with vastly different cultures, and understanding appropriate behaviours in a physical and cultural sense.
Personal & Social Competence: Developed through group travel, understanding of group dynamics and other member’s rights and needs. Assisting and supporting group members and relating to others from different backgrounds.
Intercultural Understanding: Developed through interacting with local guides and villagers. As descendants of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who gave Australia’s soldiers such support during the Kokoda Campaign, trekking guides continue the tradition in providing assistance across the track, with the same care and attention as their forefathers.
Empathy: The experience of ‘walking in another’s shoes’, provides an appreciation of the lives of soldiers in conflict situations.
Empowerment: Personal development rarely occurs without discomfort, and this trek is most definitely outside most people’s comfort zones. In addition, trekking through a jungle can provide moments of wonderful clarity and great trust between group members. KST team members have witnessed trekkers between the ages of 15 and 80 experience life changing moments during their time on the track.
For a student, trekking with Kokoda School Treks is a fantastic opportunity. This also applies to teachers, however of course there is a level of responsibility that goes with the experience.
KST offers one Free of Charge (FOC) trip for one teacher per ten students, and two teachers FOC per fifteen students or more.
KST also provide one research trek for one teacher per school at a significantly reduced cost, and in fact, it is encouraged that teachers take up this option. Safety is not something to be taken lightly when trekking the Kokoda Track. KST recognises that teachers have a duty of care to ensure that the operator they choose to trek with does not just talking about safety, but in fact delivers on their promises. The team at KST would love the opportunity to show every teacher who is interested in trekking Kokoda, just how well they do actually deliver.
Ideally KST would like to offer a research opportunity at no cost. Unfortunately, past experiences have shown some teachers view this offer as a ‘free trip’ and as such have not booked in a group upon their return to Australia. With this in mind, KST offers teachers the following opportunity:
KST will cover all other track costs, including accommodation, food, general porters and all transfers.
Teacher will cover their own international airfare, hotel costs in Port Moresby and – if they choose – the services of a personal carrier.
Should the school book a group of minimum numbers within 12 months, all costs incurred by the teacher will be refunded.
For Australian History Teachers, if required KST can also*:
Create a conduit for the students to contact the Australian War Memorial to gain war records
Provide contact to local reserves units** to allow students to understand the importance of reservists to Australia, and the importance of the Kokoda Campaign in Australian history
Provide referral to research material specific to involvement of 39th Battalion
Provide referral to research material specific to battles at Northern Beaches
* KST understands that not all students within a history class will participate in the trek. However the research tasks that can be provided (if the school opts to run them as a history unit) will improve most of, if not all, students knowledge of the Kokoda Campaign.
** Where possible
When deciding to take a school group deep into the jungle of PNG, KST understands that individual schools are going to need varying levels of support from the trek operator. In order to ensure that teachers, parents and students are armed with the right knowledge, the following support materials can be provided where required:
Information nights for individual schools
Information kit which highlights: trekking equipment requirements, accommodation, food & facilities overview, cultural expectations, track conditions, communication, safety etc…
Purpose written Trek Fitness Training and Nutritional guide
Customer Service – all questions from parents and students can be directed to the KST Customer Service Team
How to Enrol
There are a number of steps for teachers to take prior to actually enrolling, however KST aims to make this process as simple as possible. The following steps are usually undertaken by teachers wanting to participate in the program:
1: Teachers will need to make the initial contact with the KST Customer Service Team, where the program will be discussed in full detail. At this time questions will be asked in relation to the school’s goals and objectives with regard to the program, in addition to their overall focus and values. The more information that can be provided by teachers, the better the outcome will be for everyone.
2: Next KST will need to establish the school’s requirements: for example, preferred departure date, number of trekkers, how many teachers are included and on what cost basis. From there, a full presentation including content, pricing, inclusions and exclusions will be provided.
3: Once the school has been provided with the finalised content, pricing, inclusions & exclusions, the documentation will need to be approved by the appropriate governing school bodies, before it’s distributed to students and parents. Once the concept and pricing structure has been approved and there is significant interest by students and their parents, an information night will be held. A member of the KST team will provide parents, teachers and students with all the information they require in order to make an informed decision.
3: All being well, the enrolment process can then begin. Those who have decided to participate in the program will be required to fill out KST’s online registration form & pay the following:
Airfare deposit: $250
Travel insurance*: $140 (approx.)
Once the deposits have been paid, the program can begin!
*Some families have annual travel insurance that includes dependent children. If not, KST recommends this is taken out sooner rather than later, to protect against unforseen injury or illness.
Trekkers need to complete a registration form providing medical history, dietary restrictions, etc. This must be signed by a parent or guardian. Forms are generally collated by the school and forwarded to KST. KST will also need a copy of the travel insurance certificate, and will require a medical certificate from the trekker’s family doctor confirming there is no known reason why the trek should constitute a physical threat to the students health.
KST will handle trek payment directly with student’s families. There is no need for the teacher(s) to become involved with this process unless KST requires assistance.