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 160 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 - Hotel
- Day 12: Return flight to Australia
Dates & Availability for School Groups
Photos from the School Groups
FAQs about this trek
The situation is assessed by the trek leader. If it is an emergency the trek leader will contact Adventure Kokoda base in Port Moresby via satellite phone or VHF Radio. Adventure Kokoda will initiate evacuation by contacting the helicopter company and the travel insurance provider.
The patient will be met by Adventure Kokoda staff on arrival at Port Moresby and transported to the Pacific International Hospital for assessment/treatment.
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.
When planning to complete the journey along the Kokoda Trail the most common question we are asked is whether it is safe.
The Kokoda Trail is a rugged and remote 130 kilometre jungle path across some of the most hazardous terrain most people will ever traverse. The trail itself can be quite dangerous with steep jungle clad mountains and swift-flowing rivers/creeks strewn with large rocky boulders. Much of the area is inaccessible by helicopter. Rivers and creeks can rise rapidly after heavy rain in the catchment area and can be dangerous to cross.
In order to minimise risk it is therefore essential to trek with a reputable trek operator.
If an emergency occurs it is vital that your trek leader be experienced and capable of handling the situation. Ideally they should also be equipped with a satellite phone and VHF radio with a reliable back-to-base line of communication that maintains a 24/7 listening watch.
As a trekker you need to ensure you are protected with a personal Travel Insurance policy to cover your medical evacuation and treatment costs should you become sick or suffer a personal injury. It is your responsibility to ensure the insurer you select will approve immediate air evacuation from the Kokoda Trail if the call is made by your trek leader.
You also need to ensure the operator you choose to trek with has suitable Public Liability Insurance protection. If they don't have it don't even think about trekking with them.
You should not confuse Personal Travel Insurance (your responsibility) with Public Liability Insurance (trek operator's responsibility).
Adventure Kokoda only use trek guides and personal carriers from the Koiari and Orokaiva people who live along the trail. These are the sons of the famous 'fuzzy-wuzzy angels' who look after our trekkers just as their fathers looked after our diggers.
Our trek leaders are trained in emergency evacuation procedures and are qualified in emergency first aid. They also carry satellite phones and VHF radios with direct links to our rear base at Sogeri for use in emergency situations.
Adventure Kokoda is one of the few trekking companies to complete a comprehensive risk assessment of the trek and has been able to secure public liability insurance protection for trekkers as a result. The policy has a limit of A$10 million per claim.
Our good relationship formed over the past 30 years with our guides, carriers and the people living along the trail ensures our trekkers have a safe passage.
- Adventure Kokoda is the only specialist trekking company operating on the Kokoda Trail - we do not trek to any other location - Kokoda is all we do.
- We have the most professional and experienced trek leaders - our team has 160 years combined military experience - we have led more than 600 expeditions safely across the trail over the past 30 years.
- We specialise in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.
- We are the only trek operator to have established a philanthropic Not-for-Profit company - Network Kokoda - to provide assistance to local villagers in the fields of health, education and local agriculture.
- We pioneered the Kokoda trekking industry - we had been operating on the trail for more than a decade before it was 'discovered'' by eco-tour operators.
- We have a permanent rear headquarters in Port Moresby and maintain a 24/7 VHF radio watch to monitor daily progress of our trek groups and to react immediately in the event of any emergency.
- We are the only trekking company to provide for the welfare of our PNG guides and carriers by issuing them with sleeping bags, sleeping mats and a full trek uniform to our guides and carriers.
- We are the only trekking company that limits the maximum backpack weight for our guides and carriers to 18 kg which was the maximum weight allowed during the Kokoda campaign in 1942.
The Kokoda Trail is a rugged and remote 130 kilometre jungle path across some of the most hazardous terrain most people will ever traverse.
'Imagine an area of approximately one hundred miles long. Crumple and fold this into a series of ridges, each rising higher and higher until seven thousand feet is reached, then declining in ridges to three thousand feet is reached, then declining in ridges to three thousand feet. Cover this thickly with jungle, short trees and tall trees, tangled with great, entwining savage vines. Through an oppression of this density, cut a little native track, two or three feet wide, up the ridges, over the spurs, round gorges and down across swiftly-flowing, happy mountain streams. Where the track clambers up the mountain sides, cut steps - big steps, little steps, steep steps - or clear the soil from the tree roots.
'Every few miles, bring the track through a small patch of sunlit kunai grass, or an old deserted native garden, and every seven or ten miles, build a group of dilapidated grass huts - as staging shelters - generally set in a foul, offensive clearing. Every now and then, leave beside the track dumps of discarded, putrifying food, occasional dead bodies and human foulings. In the morning, flicker the sunlight through the tall trees, flutter green and blue and purple and white butterflies lazily through the air, and hide birds of deep-throated song, or harsh cockatoos, in the foliage.
'About midday, and through the night, pour water over the forest, so that the steps become broken, and a continual yellow stream flows downwards, and the few level areas become pools and puddles of putrid black mud. In the high ridges above Myola, drip this water day and night over the track through a foetid forest grotesque with moss and glowing phosphosrescent fungi. Such is the track which a prominent (Australian) politician publicly described as 'Being almost impassable for motor vehicles', and such is the route for ten days to be covered from Ilolo to Deniki.'
Major General Sir Kingsley Norris
The Kokoda Campaign - Chronology
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.' More..
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. More..
Tau Maguli is our PNG Quartermaster with an enormous task, he coordinates the allocation of 350 of our PNG guides and porters to ensure each trek has an equal number from each village across the Trail and each one gets at least six (6) treks a year. More..
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. More..
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. More..
Scott joined the Australian Army as a 16 year old apprentice in 1985. He was promoted through the ranks and has spent over 34 years serving in the Australian Regular Army.
Scott has worked with the United Nations in Sudan as a Military Observer and as an Adviser in Afghanistan with the US 82nd Airborne and the 3rd Infantry Divisions. More..
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 and he now lives on a farm just outside the western country town of Horsham. 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. More..
Craig joined the Australian Army in 1979 and was posted to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps where he has served for 40 years with over 20 years serving in Special Operations Command as a Commando.
Craig has seen regimental service as a soldier and officer rising through the ranks within The Royal Australian Regiment and Special Operations Command, his career culminated as soldier with two Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) appointments prior to commissioning to officer in 2005. More..
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. More..
Australia’s Honey Bee. Former Navy sailor, Jake Leske, is more than an outstanding Kokoda trek leader, he is Australia’s original ‘Honey Bee’ and a remarkable endurance athlete. More..
James ‘Max’ Walker (first trek with Adventure Kokoda Aug 2018 – 2IC Apr 2024).
Max Walker is a former career soldier who first joined the Australian Regular Army as a young apprentice.
During his service, Max was posted to the United Nations in Cambodia and deployed to the Republic of Narau prior to the establishment of the Australian offshore immigration detention facility. More..
Fiona has a strong passion for Kokoda, PNG and its people which was sparked as a young girl knowing her grandfather fought on Kokoda.
As a school teacher Fiona has extensive experience in developing leadership in young Australians and has been involved in the development of a leadership program within the school environment. This saw her bring two passions together; teaching our future generations and Kokoda, whilst getting them outside of their comfort zones, and allowing them to learn about themselves. More..
Carla brings great organisational skills, energy and humour to her role. She is passionate about the Kokoda campaign and thrives on seeing how transformative and life-changing this experience can be for trekkers.
Carla was initially inspired to trek Kokoda to honour her Grandfathers service with the AIF in Buna and has now successfully participated in a number of Adventure Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge treks as a Trek Guide. More..
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 55 times. Bernie has transposed his success in business to his passion for leading treks across the Kokoda Trail. More..
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. More..
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. More..
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. More..