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travel were genuinely injured or sick because our packs were already full with the gear of someone who had not adequately trained. We arranged a roster of who would stay at the back to try to motivate and assist this individual to keep going and get through it. Myself and 2 or 3 others, as the eldest, decided to step up to this role. What particularly got to me was a lack of gratitude or of apology to other team members. For example, I remember one day where we were significantly behind the rest of the group and we were all out the water as an expected refill site had run dry. We were aware that the rest of the group could not have lunch or move on to refill water until we arrived, so encouraged the team member, to which we were told: “If I have to wait for lunch so can they”. This really got on my nerves and I decided to walk with the rest of the group after lunch. Since I had been at the back for the past couple of days and therefore missed most of the time spent on breaks, I did not realise that there were quite a few upset trekkers in the front group due to infighting and personality clashes on top of physical discomfort. One trekker especially was having a rough time and had become the scapegoat of a lot of people’s suffering. I then realised that this had been going on for a couple of days but that I, and the others at the back, were oblivious to the fact due to being at the back. I have been in similar positions in the past of being the target of bullying and although this situation had not yet reached that stage, I became even more frustrated that I had been stuck at the back and unable to try to diffuse or assist with the situation affecting the vast majority of the group, because I had focused entirely on the plight of 1 individual. After a day or so of being extremely frustrated, I realised that I had a choice to make. The easy thing to do was to remain frustrated, quite justifiably, as confirmed by the other group members who had evidently sunk into unofficial leadership roles within the group. Another alternative, one I knew was wrong but likely would have relieved some of my frustration, would be to privately let the trekker know that myself and others were unhappy. However, I was on a leadership trek and that I came here to be tested and to develop myself. Therefore, I made a decision to give the slower trekker the benefit of the doubt that there was an explanation as to their behaviour, I did not need to know what it was, but would accept this situation and still support them. One of the things that allowed me to do this was Charlie’s advice to “understand before being understood”. I realised that I did not understand and therefore need to sort myself out and help the team rather than be frustrated. This realisation allowed me to better support the team and enjoy the rest of the trip far more. I will use these learnings in future situations of team adversity.


Something that was affirmed by others in the group is that everyone has something you can be inspired by and learn from, if you give them the time to become comfortable and share their experiences with you. Although I personally am not inspired by the 16-year-old version of myself, there were many times when I was inspired by the grit or leadership of those much younger than myself. I learned that everybody, with no exceptions, can falter to frustration in times of extreme stress. This is something we must accept and learn to work with, rather than hide from. I learned that maintaining the morale and cooperation of the group is extremely important to achieving a team mission. Taking frustration out on an individual might be a short-term fix for some but culminates in a larger issue over the course of 10 days. I learned that it is best to accept help with gratitude than it is to deny it out of a sense of pride. I learned that those who make it through and inspire others do not need to perform one-off events of clear leadership, but that this can manifest over the offerings of small supports over a period of time.


Before I left Australia I tried my best to learn as much as possible about Kokoda - through reading books, watching documentaries and the like. I knew that it was hard, wet and dangerous. I knew the troops were underfed, under-resourced and undermanned. I knew acts of heroism were performed and that without the courageous victory of the Australians that our own country would have most likely been invaded. However, I did not understand and found it hard to imagine how a severely outnumbered group of Australians could conquer a superior enemy force with an equal resolve in their mentality towards their emperor. I learned that a campaign is far more than a battle. If Kokoda was one battle, we surely would have lost. When a battle, things like endurance, mateship, leadership, sacrifice and mentality can play as large a part in a victory as weapons or numbers of men, and that this applies to many aspects of life. I gained a far deeper appreciation for the Australian diggers and those who died for our country. Although I cannot claim to understand what they went through, because I had food, was not ill or being shot at, walking along the same ridges that they were fighting on, I learned how desperate and heroic their actions truly were. I learned that anybody, regardless of their upbringing, social class or perceived power, can become a hero if they believe in a cause and do everything they can to stand up for it. I learned that, despite our country being great, we have done some less than admirable things on our way to get here. For example, the Unions stopping the shipment of weapons that severely impacted our troops, or the government crumbling under pressure, or failing to properly acknowledge and repay the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.


I knew a little about Papua New Guinea before I arrived - it is a nation of great cultural, linguistic and bio-diversity. There are still tribes with rumours of cannibalism. Its people played an important role in the Kokoda campaign and therefore receive lots of our foreign aid. It is north of Australia. What I learned about Papua New Guinea is that I knew, and still know, very little about it but that I want to learn far more. It is a country of great wealth in terms of reefs, life on land and other natural resources. They understand their land and are masters of living within it. They are only a 3-hour flight from one of the most wealthy countries on earth, our own. However, they are still extremely poor and have pervasive social issues. Why is this the case? I realised that Australia is not playing anywhere near the role that it should be in terms of assisting PNG to develop. I do not believe that we should Westernise PNG, but I do strongly believe that we have a duty to assist our closest neighbours when there is such evident child malnourishment and the like. I spent some time in Central Australia earlier this year and was quite shocked at the approach the Australian government had taken with their “aid”. Essentially build an expensive structure somewhere, without asking anybody whether they want it or would actually use it, wonder why it didn’t help, take credit for helping and then say that the people cannot be helped and are essentially to blame for their own issues. The exact same issues were being replicated in PNG. Millions of dollars had been sent over and there was very little evidence that any of it was doing much at all. However, Network Kokoda had proven, (not as though it should have been questioned, to begin with) that when worked with that great results can be achieved. I am very interested in helping developing countries in a way that preserves the environment and works with the local people to determine what they need, not what I think they need. I realised that PNG is a perfect place to do so, rather than the typical go-to places such as Africa.


Mateship: Mateship allows the ordinary person to do things they would never imagine themselves capable of. It is a cause worth fighting for. Its power cannot be underestimated. Mateship is best formed during times that test our character and our relationships. Small acts of mateships are enough to make a tough time bearable. Endurance: Endurance is not just making it through a difficult time, but a measure of how much we retain our character, or that we strive for, during these tough


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The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...