Our Adventure Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge was voted as the most outstanding youth leadership program at the Clubs NSW Annual Awards Dinner in 2017.
More than 450 young Australians from all walks of life have graduated from this program over the past decade. According to the judges of the award this program is without peer in the development of personal leadership qualities based on the enduring values of Kokoda.
Other organisations who have used our programs for leadership development are Kings School, Parramatta; Riverina Anglican College, Wagga Wagga; combined schools from the Hills District in Sydney; Penrith Panthers on the Prowl; Canberra PCYC and Lomandra School, Campbelltown.
Our leadership programs for schools are based on lessons learned from our own experience as graduates of the army Officer Cadet School, the Royal Military College and the Australian Command and Staff College. We draw upon the experiences of our Adventure Kokoda trek leaders who have a combined total of 130 years professional military service that includes combat experience in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
During our 10-day treks students are disconnected from the travails of social media and reconnect with themselves, their fellow trekkers, the environment, the culture of the Koiari and Orokaiva villagers along the trail, and the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.
We de-clutter the theory of leadership and get back to basics in a physically challenging isolated foreign environment where risk is real, personal commitment is required and teamwork is essential. And no matter how hard the going gets we are constantly able to reflect on the difficulties our young troops had in fighting their way across the trail against all the odds in 1942.
We stress that the relevance of the Kokoda pilgrimage is not about the glorification of war - it's about the commemoration of sacrifice. It's also a realistic demonstration of the ability of the human spirit to conquer adversity.
But most of all It's about Australian leadership!
'the art of influencing and directing men to achieve an assigned goal in such a way as to obtain their obedience, confidence, respect and loyal co-operation'.
Essential military leadership characteristics include:
faithfulness to country, corps and unit, and to your seniors and subordinates.
Sense of Honour
(Integrity): Uprightness of character and soundness of moral principles, absolute truthfulness and honesty; fairness and impartiality in exercising command.
Sense of Responsibility:
Consistent endeavour to discharge the responsibilities accepted as an officer.
Acquired information, including professional knowledge and an understanding of your men.
A mental quality that recognises fear of danger or criticism, but enables a man to proceed in the face of it with calmness and firmness.
Seeing what has to be done, and commencing a course of action, even in the absence of orders.
Ability to reach decisions promptly and to announce them in a clear, forceful manner.
The ability to deal with others without creating offence, and show respect for individuals
The certainty of the proper performance of duty.
Endurance: The mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to stand pain, fatigue, distress and hardship.
The display of sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of duty.
Avoidance of providing for one's comfort and personal advancement at the expense of others.
Creating a favourable impression in carriage, appearance and personal conduct at all times.
The Aims of Military Leadership are:
- Primary Aim: Accomplishment of the mission.
- Secondary Aim: Welfare of the men.
Military Leadership Principles are guides for the proper exercise of command:
- Be technically and tactically proficient.
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
- Know your men and lookout for their welfare.
- Keep your men informed.
- Set the example by deeds, not words.
- Ensure that the task is understood, supervised and accomplished.
- Train your men as a team.
- Make sound and timely decisions.
- Develop a sense of responsibility amongs subordinates.
- Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities.
- Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
- Make the primary mission the combat efficiency of your command.
Military Leadership Techniques are actions given by the leader. Each technique should:
- Be guided by the leadership principles.
- Exhibit the characteristics of a leader.
- Be consistent with the situation.
- Contribute towards achieving the goal.
Combat Efficiency was described as the ability of the unit to accomplish an assigned mission in the shortest possible time with the minimum loss of life and waste of material.
Indications of Military Leadership are:
an attitude of confidence in the mind of an individual when he identifies himself with a group, accepts group goals and works hard to achieve them.
the prompt obedience to orders and, in the absence of orders, the initiation of appropriate action.
- Esprit De Corps:
the loyalty to, pride in, and enthusiasm for a unit shown by the members of that unit.
the technical, tactical and physical ability to do a job well.
Some 50 years on the gender of our language has changed but the principles and techniques remain the same.
By day 5 . . .
'The years I spent in war were the happiest I ever spent. I shared a task with men of every type and every social station and was admitted to a fellowship so rare as to almost justify the beastliness that made it possible. There is this to be said of war: you live simply if at all, and you do it in the company of men at their very best, spurred to a passionate unselfishness by a common purpose which at all other times is lacking'.
Around the campfire our trek leaders will discuss the '3+1 Rules of Survival' and various theories of leadership based on our own experiences: the army 'Group' theory based on the premise that he or she who wears the rank is not necessarily the leader; 'Command' leadership relevant to combat situations; 'Situational Leadership' which is the ability to shift behaviour according to the demands of the situation. We discuss the characteristics of effective team leadership which encompasses the natural mix of decisive action people, thinkers and carers.
By this stage the group are no longer strangers and are beginning to develop strong bonds of friendship. They now have an appreciation of the term 'Esprit de Corps' which wartime historian, Dudley McCarthy, attributed to another young group of strangers, the 39th Militia Battalion:
'Although possessing no permanent site, having neither roof nor walls, no unchanging form, it yet becomes home for those who serve in it. Away from it, each of its members can revert to being homeless individuals, lost uncertain, without proper identity. Because of this it calls to life in a man, rounded into fullness through shared battle, suffering and death, each other will always feel some sense of brotherhood for each other man of his battalion. Through this thing the strong lift the weak to efforts and achievements beyond their own strength and their conscious wills, and the dependence of the weak gives greater strength and endurance to the strong. For every individual human part of this battalion who is killed, this thing changes something in those who survive and calls to life something new that never was there before'.
Students then retire to think about a leader who has inspired them in their lives thus far - a parent, a teacher, a coach, a friend. Later in the day they return to the group and tell us about that person and the values they have and the qualities they exhibit that inspires them as a role model.
We then share a view on leadership from an old mentor:
‘From long experience I have learned the importance of knowing the capacities of my people. I view each person as an individual with strong and weak points. I have considered opinion about the strengths and limitations of each person and the responsibilities each will probably be able to handle best. In a general way I know when it will be safe to let a person ‘have his or her lead’ and when to ‘tighten the reins’. I consider it is part of my job to provide conditions that will allow my people to perform at their best.
‘I have learned to watch for signs that a person may be reaching breaking point, particularly during prolonged periods of stress. When I sense a person to be reaching breaking point I arrange for their relief as tactfully as possible.
‘I follow the practice of pushing decision making as far down the organization as it should reasonably go. For example, I give most of the problems that come to my desk to people who I think should handle them. Usually I do not comment on these problems in advance even though I usually have my ideas on how they should work.
‘I try to avoid making commitments that involve my people without their knowledge. I recognize it is tempting to promise people they will get everything they ask for. Instead I take note and promise that their request will be looked into, and that they will get it unless a good reason exists.
‘I have learned to be especially careful in one aspect of my actions. I have found that people are highly sensitive to anything a boss says or does. I have found that even the most vague speculations about possible actions can cause my entire organization to shift into high gear. Accordingly, I learned long ago not to throw off any chance remarks which might be construed to be subtle directives.
‘Despite my calculated reserve I am constantly tempted to tell employees how things should be done. I have a reputation for getting to the root of problems and, of course, I like seeing things done according to my own preferences. However, I am convinced that much of my effectiveness depends upon resisting this temptation. I have found that this restraint has resulted in my people getting high satisfaction from their own jobs. I believe that this is also why I have developed a reputation for always having my people ‘behind me’.
‘I have learned to use my people as a team. I encourage ideas and suggestions from everyone concerned, not only by saying so, but also by making sure that those who ‘stick their necks out’ do not feel threatened by their or others’; comments.
‘I insist that my people clear their ideas with each other before coming to me. I recognize that most problems will involve the activities of more than one branch or section.
‘I am concerned about the development of my entire organization and I make effort in this direction. I make it a specific responsibility of supervisors to bring on their employees. I encourage supervisors, for example, to invite selected employees to conferences where the latter can make a contribution or learn something relevant to their own work.
‘I believe that written directions or memoranda are most useful when they summarize or record concepts that have already been discussed.
‘I have found that the idea within which employees can act on their own initiative needs defining. I therefore keep in touch with my people so that I can show them where they are in over their heads. I don’t hesitate to tell them when they have failed – I do so plainly but in a way which stresses how such mistakes can be avoided in the future and how they can profit from them.’
- All transportation
- All accommodation
- All trek fees
- Mosquito-proof tents
- Day 1: Flight to Port Moresby
- Day 2: Sogeri - Owers Corner - Imita Base
- Day 3: Imita Base to Ofi Creek
- Day 4: Ofi Creek to Agulogo Creek
- Day 5: Agulogo Creek to Efogi Village
- Day 6: Efogi Village to Bomber's Campsite
- Day 8: Bomber's Campsite to Templeton's Crossing
- Day 7: Explore Lake Myola from Bomber's Campsite
- Day 9: Templeton's Crossing to Isurava via Abuari Village
- Day 10: Isurava to Hoi Village
- Day 11: Hoi Village - Kokoda - Bomana War Cemetery - Sogeri Lodge
- Day 12: Return flight to Australia
Dates & Availability for School Groups
Photos from the School Groups
FAQs about this trek
Anybody can – and many do – walk in off the street, fill out an application, pay a small fee and become an authorised Kokoda tour operator. There are no due diligence checks. They do not have to have a registered company. They do not need a Public Liability insurance policy. They do not need satellite phones, VHF radios or medical kits - and if something bad happens they have no assets to reclaim.
Trekkers should therefore take note of the old Latin proverb of Caveat emptor which means ‘let the buyer beware’ – as it is applicable to the current management system put in place by the Australian Government.
PNG Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill recently initiated a review of the Kokoda Track Authority. The current management system, put in place by the Australian Government during the period 2009-2012 has not worked.
Prior to the year 2000 the Kokoda Trail was only crossed by small numbers of hardy adventurers.
A rapid increase from 76 trekkers in 2001 to a peak of 5621 in 2008 transformed it into Papua New Guinea’s premier tourism attraction.
In 2003 the PNG Government established a ‘Kokoda Track (Special Purpose) Authority (the ‘KTA’) as a statutory government body of the Koiari and Kokoda Local-level Governments to manage the emerging Kokoda trekking industry and ensure local villages across the trail received shared benefits from it. Unfortunately it has not worked out as it was envisaged.
In 2004 a PNG expatriate CEO was appointed to manage the KTA with a part-time secretarial assistant. During the next four years trekker numbers increased 255% from 1584 in 2994 to 5621 in 2008.
In response to a public outcry over a threat to mine a large part of the Kokoda Trail in 2006 the Australian Government entered into a ‘joint’ agreement with the PNG Government to assist in developing a case for the Owen Stanley Ranges to be listed as a World Heritage site. Responsibility was delegated to the Department of Environment in Canberra.
This led to a vertable army of taxpayer funded environmental officials, academics, contractors and consultants to 'assist' PNG manage the emerging Kokoda trekking industry. For most it was their first trip to PNG.
In 2009 an Australian CEO was appointed to the KTA on an eye-watering salary package. It was his first time in PNG and he did not trek across the Kokoda Trail until just prior to his departure in 2012. He was supported by a 10-fold increase in staff and a multi-million dollar budget.
Despite this injection of resources annual trekker numbers declined by 44 per cent from 5621 in 2008 to 3156 in 2012!
A desktop study titled ‘Kokoda Track Authority Strategic Plan 2012 – 2015’ was developed over a long period of time. It is instructive that not a single one of the five strategies or 33 key performance objectives contained in the plan were achieved.
The Australian CEO departed towards the end of 2012 without leaving a single management protocol in place for his PNG successor - no draft legislation; no management database; no campsite booking system; no integrity in the trek operator licensing system; no safeguards for the welfare of PNG guides and carriers; no audit system for campsite owners; no trail maintenance plan; no community development plan; etc. etc. etc.
The PNG management team were left with an unworkable model which has led to a call for a review by Prime Minister O'Neill.
They do not understand the Principles of Commemoration and know little about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.
Trekkers should be aware that they currently have no protection from the KTA. There is no integrity in the licensing system.
NO! PNG trek guides are masters of their environment however their knowledge of the Kokoda campaign and their presentation skills do not rate at this stage of their development.
Adventure Kokoda organises PNG led Kokoda treks for groups who are looking for a physical challenge in preference to learning about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.
Whilst our PNG leaders have been well trained in expedition leadership and are the best in the business they do not have the knowledge of the military history of the Kokoda campaign or the presentation skills to conduct battlesite briefings.
Trekkers meeting PNG support crew on arrival at Kokoda airfield
The VHF radio net along the Kokoda Trail has improved however there is only one channel and it is sometimes difficult to break into the chatter. The system does not have a base station with a 24/7 listening watch which could be critical in an emergency.
Adventure Kokoda are equipped with satellite phones for use in emergencies.
Operators who do not have a satellite phone with an active account fall into the 'dodgy' category - unfortunately they exist and the only protection trekkers have is the old caveat emptor of 'Let the buyer beware'.
Trekking without a satellite phone in your group is classified as 'unnecessary risk'.
The difference is the dialogue we have within the group during and after our presentations.
We have a combined total of 130 years professional military experience - our trek leaders have served in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are able to relate discuss the ground and conditions to the strategic situation of the time and the various principles that apply to the different phases of war.
They have also experienced the emotional aspects of perhaps never seeing their families again - and they understand mateship because they have experienced it under combat condtions.
As a result they are able to provide informed debate surrounding some of the decisions made by commanders in the heat of the campaign and relate many of the personal stories of veterans they have previously served with.
This is not stuff you can learn from a book - it comes from personal experience in the army and makes for interesting and lively dialogue.
According to Major General Gordon Maitland, a distinguished military historian there are three types of military historians:
- Journalist historians, who show little respect for the facts in order to tell a good story
- Academic historians, who have the time and facilities to unearth new and valuable information, but mainly at the political and strategic levels
- Soldier historians, who are the only ones one can trust at the tactical level, for they have been taught to understand the key factor – ground'.
Adventure Kokoda engages 'soldier historians'! who meet Major General Maitland's criteria of understanding key tactical factors and are able to incorporate them into interesting and entertaining battlefield presentations.
The temperature on the Kokoda Trail is a constant 29 - 30 degrees Celsius during the day.
Humidity is very high however trekkers are protected from direct sunlight most of the time because they are under the jungle canopy.
Over the higher part of the Owen Stanley's the temperature can drop to 1 - 2 degrees Celsius during the night.
And it can rain in the 'dry' season and be quite dry in the 'wet' season - so always be prepared for rain!
Meet the Trek Leaders
In 2015 Charlie was inducted as an Officer of the Logohu by the Government of Papua New Guinea in their New Years Honours and Awards list 'for service to the bilateral relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia and especially in the development of the Kokoda Trail and its honoured place in the history of both nations' over the past 25 years.'
Chad is a decorated Vietnam veteran - he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in action. Chad first joined the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8 RAR) as a tracking dog handler. He was promoted through the ranks to Sergeant while serving with 8 RAR and served with the Battalion in Malaysia and South Vietnam.
Rowan is a pioneer of the Kokoda Trail. He first trekked it 30 years ago when he served with the PNG Defence Force. He is fluent in the local language 'Tok Pisin'. Rowan is a military historian and is acknowledged as the most eminent authority on the strategy and tactics of the Kokoda campaign.
Over the past 34 years Captain Reg Yates has explored most of the WW11 battlesites in PNG. He is fluent in Tok Pisin and is well respected by village elders along the Kokoda Trail.
Simon joined the Australian Navy a Cadet Midshipmen in 1973 and carved out an outstanding career spanning 33 years. He specialised in maritime surface ship operations and spent the majority of his career at sea.
Rod is currently serving as a Sergeant in the Royal Australian Artillery at Kapooka. He has served in the Sinai Peninsula and Iraq and has a deep understanding of the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign. He is also a competitive ultra-marathon athlete.
Prior to John joining Adventure Kokoda he used to wrestle crocodiles with Steve Irwin. John is a qualified para-medic and expert bushman. He has a deep emotional commitment to Kokoda and the veterans he has met over the years. He is a keen student of the Kokoda campaign.
Peter served in the Army Reserve for 7 years and has two grandfathers who served in both World Wars - one being a highly decorated soldier. Peter recently graduated with a MPhil in Military History with the Australian Defence Force Academy and is now studying for his PhD.
Bernie is a Kokoda tragic. He first trekked with Kokoda to honour his father who served in New Guinea during the war. He has since trekked it 43 times. Bernie has transposed his success in business to his passion for leading treks across the Kokoda Trail.
Dave began exploring Australia as soon as he was old enough to escape Sydney. He was born in the city but his heart was in the bush. There are few places in Australia that Dave hasn’t trekked on foot or explored in off-road vehicles. He even took to the sea as a crew member on the Tall Ship HMAS Bounty during the Bicentenary in 1988.
Peter Morrison is an unassuming young Australian. He first trekked with Adventure Kokoda almost a decade ago and developed a strong desire to learn more about the campaign and the people he met along the trail. Peter is a professional boxer and former NSW Welterweight Champion.
Tracie is the General Manager and engine room of Adventure Kokoda - she is on-call 24/7 and will look after your every need and concern from the moment you book your trek until you arrive back in Australia.