Karen Dunshea, BA (Psych), CRA

‘If the aim of the Kokoda Track Leadership Program was to develop personally, to learn more about teams and how they work, to identify personal strengths and opportunities for growth, to learn about leadership, to identify how I might instil better leadership qualities in myself, to appreciate others, to learn and appreciate Australia’s history, to live and learn and appreciate another culture ..... then all of these aims, and more, have been achieved.

‘The trek provided an opportunity for me to look at myself and at how I operate as a person and as a team member.  All the expectations and demands that I place on myself!  It made me look at how hard I can be with myself.  I identified a need to learn to focus more on what I did that was good and contributing and positive?  What are some of my strengths?  Now a week later, things are starting to consolidate more I can talk objectively about how I feel and what I learnt, and feel OK about it.  I’m even laughing more about my own weaknesses and difficulties (not maliciously, but in a friendly, human, self-respecting manner).  I’m glad I had an opportunity to be humbled and then to re-learn to laugh at myself - another positive learning.

‘As a team member, an individual needs to feel that they can contribute and that their contribution is meaningful and acknowledged.  Although I would see this encouragement as primarily a task of a leader, the individual is also responsible to some degree for their own involvement in a process.  The Kokoda experience helped ot develop and reinforce the notion of individual in the team - even when I am tired and miserable (or there is some other constraint), I can still contribute and I can change the level of my involvement in what I am doing.  I thought that this trek, while developing teamwork and leadership skills, also helped to develop and reinforce the notion of individual responsibility for how you choose to act and what you choose to think.  Individual responsibility for one’s choices and actions is something often missing from today’s world.

‘I don’t think I’ve improved my fitness all that much, nor have I lost weight.  Despite my physical difficulties, I seemed to have changed least in this facet.  However, I am a different person from the experience, ever so slightly. In spite of all its difficulties, with the right attitude this trek can only inspire growth and learning.  A thoroughly rich learning opportunity which I would grasp with both hands if it were presented to me again.’

Andrew Rosengren, Rhodes Scholar, Manager - CRA Gold Development

‘How often in life do we really enjoy success of achieving a goal when we have done it entirely on our own?  Who do we share the success with?  Who appreciates the hardship that has gone into achieving the success?  Who understands the depth of the emotions that we feel?  To me, the Kokoda experience really highlighted the power of teams and the richness of the feeling of team success.

‘The Kokoda experience provided an ideal environment to understand team dynamics.  A group of people of diverse interests and backgrounds are thrown together to face adversity together.  The success of the individual is very closely linked to the success of the team.  The success of the team is dependent upon accepting individuality and difference.  It is also dependent on exploiting strengths and managing the weakest link.  Having clear objectives and working towards a common goal was a key element in our team’s success.’

‘I found the Kokoda experience very useful in helping me to understand my own personal strengths and weaknesses.  I am a highly competitive person who places very high expectations on myself and to a certain extent on other people.  Whilst I believe that I am understanding of peoples differences and their relative strengths and weaknesses, I have great difficulty coping with people who do not appear to want to realise their potential.  Motivating and exciting people to realise their fullest peotential is one of my greates’ challenges of leadership.’

Michael Cox, Engineer, Minenco Pty Limited

‘To say I gained a sense of achievement from completing the Kokoda Trail would be an enormous understatement.  I have not only learnt important life skills, I have also had an opportunity to identify my weaknesses and establish in my own mind what qualities I value in a leader.  In the process I have made some life-long friends.  Regardless of what I write in this report, it will never truly capture this experience.

 ‘To say that this was the hardest, most prolonged physical and mental challenge I have ever undertaken is a bit of an understatement.

‘As for lessons in leadership .....I was dubious that evening, and through much of the program as to what exactly we CRA people were learning that might help us in our day to day work.  However, as the journey was completed, the many small pieces that had been put in front of us came together to complete a picture of team membership, team leadership and self leadership that is simple, infallible and universal.

‘Simply put, the Kokoda experience is one I will never forget and which has truly enlightened me in many ways.  I believe I am a strongter and more determined person as a result.’

Xiaoling Liu, Senior Research Scientist, Comalco:

“In my application for the CRA sponsorship for the Kokoda leadership program, I stated that perserverence, team behaviour/leadership and fitting into Australian culture were the three main areas that I would like myself to improve from the trek experience.

“The trek provided an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about australian culture.  I was not particularly interested in the military significance of the Kokoda Trail before the departure.  However, Charlie’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Kokoda campaign and actual experience of the hardships have changed me.  The heroic history should be more publicised and the Kokoda spirit widely promoted.....”

“I felt that the barriers between different cultures and races were insignificant in the bush and in the face of adversity......”

“I found the trek to be a valuable and powerful experience and my work performance will certainly benefit from the experience.....”

Christine McKenna, Marketing Assistant, Coal & Allied:

“Please excuse me if I sound corny or use too many superlatives, however the experience I have just returned from is hard to describe without sounding to be going over the top.

“This journey was a lifetime experience.  I feel that it has provided me with greater courage to face the difficuolt or seemingly impossible, a more explicit understanding of what it is I believe in and the conviction to know that I can stand by these beliefs despite challenge.

“It has taught me a lot about other people but much more about myself.  It will certainly provide stories that I will still be telling when I am old and grey and full of sleep.

“In terms of what I had hoped to gain from the experience prior to departure, it fulfilled and far exceeded what I had imagined.

“Kokoda highlights the strengths of all those who undertake its many challenges.  You develop a respect for differences - different races, different sexes, different ages and overall different ways of seeing and doing things.

“In conclusion, I am glad that I was included in this trek at age 25 as I now have the rest of my life to complete the trains of thought and achieve the goals that I have set myself as a result of this trip.  This ability of Kokoda and the team/leadership program to privide the conditions for people to question deeply and the examples to go some way towards answereing these questions is very powerful.  If harnessed effectively CRA could benefit enormously from the personal develpopment of its selected employees and from the growth of teams of people across the orgainsiation who would ford rivers and climb mountains for each other.”

Sergeant Mark Hudson, Army: Royal Australian Infantry

As a current serving Army Officer within the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and being privileged to command soldier on operations in Afghanistan, it is my belief that I have gained a better understanding of myself, my leadership style, the way in which I deal with different personalities and overcoming stressors in a small group environment. Prior to this experience, I was quick to judge people, impatient and lacked tolerance for those who were not at the standard I set or expected.

To that end, I spent a lot of time throughout the Trek in the company of much younger men and women from different backgrounds, some with vast life experience and in others little or no experience. It was at times confronting, where previously I would cast aside those that were not at the standard or struggled mentally and emotionally, instead I found myself learning to slow things down, be reasonable and supportive.

‘I can honestly say that as a result of this trek, I will be a better officer within Army, I will be a more understanding and compassionate person but most importantly I will never forget the sacrifice of so many who fought for our country and way of life.  The hardships I have faced in service to my country pale in comparison to the danger, fear and uncertainty they faced on am hourly/daily basis.

It is my contention that more Army officers and junior non commissioned officers should participate in programs such as this one. It would not only professionally develop those members, gaining a better understanding of military history and adding context to what most have only read but also on a personal and leadership level.

‘I am very grateful for the opportunity given to me by the Singleton RSL, to represent them and the local community. It is something I will never forget both personally and professionally.’