IN FOCUS: WALKING THE KOKODA TRAIL AT 17

IN FOCUS: WALKING THE KOKODA TRAIL AT 17

SAMANTHA JUBB GREW UP IN THE SMALL TOWN OF YOUNG IN CENTRAL WEST NSW – AT 17, SHE TRAVELLED TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA TO WALK THE KOKODA TRAIL, AS PART OF A YOUTH PROGRAM OVERSEEN BY THE RSL AND SERVICES CLUBS ASSOCIATION

Simone Norrie

In September 2010, Young local Samantha Jubb packed her bags for a journey in to the unknown – having been sponsored to participate in the esteemed Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge, she was unaware she was about to embark on an experience that would change her life forever.

Now a student at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Miss Jubb reflects on a program that, since the first trek in 2005,  has challenged a number of teenagers from across the Central West.

With thirteen youth from the region now preparing to undertake this year’s trek, Miss Jubb said her memories of the experience have come flooding back, as she ponders on how her life has changed since undertaking such an emotional and physical journey.

“It’s our youth that will keep Australian history relevant in the future, and make sure that it isn’t forgotten,” Miss Jubb said.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you can reflect on for the rest of your life…I think people who participate in the program learn how to gain the most out of their future.”

A peer group leadership program aimed at youth between the ages of 17 and 25, the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge is a ten day trek, developed with and run by Adventure Kokoda, which pushes the physical and mental boundaries of each participant.

Miss Jubb said her connection with trekkers from her local region who also took part in the 2010 program was comforting during the experience, and helped her to handle the challenge.

“Before we left, I didn’t know any of the other country kids, even though some of them were from the Central West, but there was a sense of familiarity there in an unknown place…especially on the more challenging days, we really supported each other,” she said.

“As a young person, the knowledge of our history is so important, because without it we can’t fully appreciate the lifestyle we have and it’s often taken for granted…it is youth that will keep our history alive, and I think there is a worrying lack of education regarding the Kokoda campaign, so to take part in a program like this is very special, and to share it with other young Australians was so rewarding.”

Miss Jubb always had a strong family link with the Kokoda campaign – with two of her great-grandfathers serving in Papua New Guinea, walking the Trail was something close to her heart.

“Like many returned soldiers, they didn’t speak of their time over there…so their full stories will never be known,” she said.

“After learning more about the campaign though, I know what they experienced would have been nothing short of horrific.”

The only remaining link to her family’s wartime history is a letter, sent home by one of her great-grandfathers during the war, while he suffered in hospital with malaria.

“I read this letter some time ago…its intensity continues to overwhelm me to this day…and walking Kokoda has given me an unparalleled insight in to my family history that lives there,” she said.

“I still read a lot about the campaign and, in the future, informing the youth in our community about our war history is the most important step of all…there are many families with a similar story to mine.”

Miss Jubb admits undertaking the arduous journey at just 17 was confronting – but something that will live with her for the rest of her life.

“The program as a whole illuminated my pride and respect I have for those who fought for our country, and I now have a strong interest in researching and understanding the people who fought for our freedom, and rights,” she said.

“My age definitely played a major role in my understanding of the history, as I was the same age many of the soldiers were when they fought along the Trail…I think it helped me to realise, on a deeper level, the massive obstacles, sacrifices and hardship they were faced with.”

With a dream to return to a rural or remote area to practice as a healthcare professional post university, Miss Jubb maintains that the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge sparked her motivation, and has allowed her to pursue her tertiary studies with commitment.

“Australian rural and remote health needs to be addressed, and this is a cause I am very passionate about,” she said.

“The program really allowed me to realise the potential of my mental strength and determination, as ultimately it is all about manipulating and understanding your mind, your thought processes and your willpower that will lead you to success in the future.”

“I am certainly more motivated in everything I attempt in life now…I consistently reflect now on my lifestyle, and it’s something I will never take for granted again.”

RSL and Services Clubs from across NSW, ClubsNSW, ClubsSA, ClubsACT and ClubsWA, and Cashcard, all sponsor participants of the program.

The Central West will be represented well this year, with various RSLs from across our region awarding sponsorships to allow young locals to participate in the program.

  • Dubbo RSL and Sub Branch: sponsoring two trekkers
  • Narromine Services Club and Parkes Services Club: joint-sponsoring one trekker
  • Club Mudgee Soldier Club: sponsoring two trekkers
  • Orange Ex-Services Club: sponsoring three trekkers
  • Goulburn Soldiers Club: sponsoring five trekkers

To find out more about the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge visit the RSL & Services Clubs Association website.

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