The Freemasons Foundation recently supported a group of twelve high school students, who are members of the Wyndham Leaders of the Future, to walk the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.
The group, that also included six members of Wyndham Victoria Police, one paramedic and one sponsor flew to Port Moresby on 17 April and started the trek the next day, completing the journey on ANZAC Day the following Monday.
The group is run by the Wyndham police, who selected 12 community-minded students who are striving to become future leaders, to take part in the walk.
The students were also accompanied on the track by Matthew Lamberth, a Freemason and member of Williamstown Lodge No. 16. Matthew was able to communicate with the students, share their highs and lows of the journey, and promote the benefits of Freemasonry.
“I think for just about everyone, it was the challenge; firstly just to complete the journey, and secondly, and most importantly, to feel what our soldiers went through. I think by completing the track you show respect to those who fought there and how important it was to Australia’s security”, Matthew said.
Students saw the locations of various major WWII battles and learned of the bravery of the soldiers who fought there. The 110 kilometre journey of steep mountainous terrain in 25-30 degree heat and rain was what was required to demonstrate leadership. Early nights and early mornings were the order of the day so that each day’s walk could commence between 6:15 and 6:30am.
Matthew said that the long steep hills, both ascending and descending were difficult for everyone. “The track was quite wet which made it even more difficult, with a lot of slipping and sliding, especially going downhill!”
The Kokoda Track certainly isn’t for everyone. Many prepare for months prior to taking on the journey, bit nothing can really prepare you for injuries or accidents. “If you do a fair bit of training before taking on the track you’ll be able to do it”, Matthew said. “It was great after a hard day to be able to get into camp and just take your shoes off and let your feet dry. I was lucky I didn’t sustain any injuries and my feet held up pretty well. I did get a bit of a stomach bug though, but that only lasted for one day”.
When Past Grand Master MWBro. Bob Jones announced the opportunity to join the young leaders on the Kokoda Track at a Lodge meeting one night, Matthew said he was keen to take up the challenge. “I’d always wanted to do Kokoda, so thought this might be my chance,” Matthew said.
“I think the battles that took place on the Kokoda Track during WWII were some of the most defining and important fights that Australian Soldiers have ever taken part in”. Matthew said that he was fortunate enough to visit Gallipoli on ANZAC Day in 2007, and also has a military history with the RAAF, so it was all very relevant.
“While the Gallipoli Campaign is recognised as our most defining moment as a country, the soldiers on Kokoda saved Australia from the Japanese invasion. It was important for me to see how these soldiers overcame their adversity and hardship in atrocious conditions, conditions very different to Gallipoli, to keep our country safe”.
Matthew and the group carried their own packs in a bid to feel some, if only a tiny bit, of the hardship soldiers endured. “I felt a massive sense of accomplishment and acknowledgment of those who fought and died where we walked”.