Kokoda Youth Foundation
19 June, 2018
Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (16:03): It was early on a relatively cold Queensland Saturday morning earlier this month when I attended with many thousands of others the start-line proceedings for the Kokoda Challenge endurance event in Brisbane. Courage, mateship, endurance and sacrifice: these words provide the core values of the Kokoda Youth Foundation, which is inspiring young Australians, particularly those who are disadvantaged, and providing opportunities for them to reach their full potential.
Doug Henderson OAM, the association's founder and a Vietnam veteran, was motivated to start the foundation after listening to a guest speaker talk about the Battle of the Kokoda Track at an RSL conference. Doug wanted to keep the Kokoda spirit alive and believed this could be done by incorporating Kokoda values into life-changing experiences for young Australians. Now, more than 10 years on, one single youth program and event has turned into a wide range of youth programs, events and camps.
While the focus is on youth programs, a significant part of the foundation's funding comes from the Kokoda Challenge, a series of 15-, 30- and 96-kilometre walks throughout Queensland and Victoria. The Brisbane challenge is held annually at Brookfield in my electorate, and I was very proud to send off more than 2,000 competitors, including 316 school teams. There to cheer on participants was a crowd of almost 2,500 people. The challenge began early on a Saturday morning, with competitors completing a 15-, 30- or 48-kilometre walk through the hills of Ryan, some of Brisbane's toughest terrain. The Kokoda Youth Foundation's programs provide significant support and opportunities for young Australians. The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program takes place over 12 months, with six months of physical training and mentoring and six months of community service. The longer time frame teaches youth to commit to the challenge and in doing so, they learn responsibility and reliability.
The foundation is contributing to our local communities, with money raised by these events going straight back into programs to help young people in the area. These include adventure based learning, community service and a funded trip to Papua New Guinea to hike the real Kokoda Track. This means at-risk youth can challenge their limits and abilities, and it provides them with opportunities for personal growth. The foundation not only offers many opportunities for our youth but also supports those who supported us all those years ago: the people of Papua New Guinea. Each year the foundation recognises the role and vital contribution made by the people of Papua New Guinea during the battles of Kokoda, by donating money and resources to communities and villages along the track. These resources go towards improving local schools and hospitals, medical teams, and building and maintenance teams. Many thanks must go to Doug Henderson and his wife, Anna, and foundation staff members including Naomi, Kate, Dan and James. Without their assistance, this challenge would indeed be a challenge.