Kokoda breakfast a resounding success
Victoria Police’s 2017 Kopkoda Breakfast raised more than $200,000 to help young people from the North West to develop life and leadership skills.
Conceived at Flemington Police Station in November 2006, the Kopkoda Project has been recruiting local students for the trip of a lifetime, trekking Papua New Guinea’s infamous Kokoda Trail, the scene of The Kokoda Track Campaign – a series of battles between Japanese and Australian forces during World War II.
The project develops the students’ communication, judgement and social skills, improves communication with the police and develops the students’ awareness of others within the community.
Breakfast attendees heard from Deputy Commissioner of Victoria Police, Andrew Crisp, who used to live in Papua New Guinea and has walked the track. “The guiding principle of the Kopkoda Project is that every young person has the right to reach their potential and this program gives kids the opportunity to reach that potential,” said Crisp, encouraging others to sign up to the walk, thereby funding a student participant. “This is the chance of a lifetime to help a young person, and for you to grow as a person,” he said.
Matthew Steer’s Chris Galea, who participated in this year’s Kopkoda Project trek, shared his experiences, saying: “It was life-changing. I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like and it was a smack in the face the first day. The mental battle is what hits you – nothing has ever mentally challenged me like it.”
Chris was so moved by the experience that he penned a poem on the flight home saying: “Kokoda is not something you can get through on your own. You really rely on the others to help you through it, and I was able to help some of my fellow trekkers to get through on a couple of tough days too.”
Three past trekkers, Tindi Sorbera from Essendon Fields Karen Lyster from Glaxo Smith Kline, and Suzanne Barnes, from Victoria Police, also spoke about their experiences on the Kokoda Trail during the breakfast.
“The story of the 39th Battalion and what happened to them on the track inspired me to sign up,” said Sorbera. “We did it tough, but we had the best shoes, the best gear and we weren’t being shot at, which helped keep it in perspective for us,” he said.
“The students trekking with us heard the stories of what the 17-year-old soldiers went through; the battles that happened and the surgeries and amputations that happened beside the track, and that created an emotional overlay to the experience.”
Baines agreed that the experience would last a lifetime saying: “Students from three separate schools participated this year and at first they stuck in their school groups, but after three months of training everyone had got to know each other and they were working as one team.
“To see them finish and show so much emotion at the end really showed how much the experience had changed them.”
Lyster recommended people considering taking part in Kopkoda seize the opportunity. “Grab it with both hands, and grab it tightly,” she said. “You’ll never do it again and it’s the most unbelievable life experience. I have made friends I will keep for the rest of my life.”
Breakfast keynote speaker Brigadier Vance Khan DSC BAR shared leadership and culture insights from his years serving as a Special Ops Commander, and regaled his audience with tales of special ops training exercises.
“The Kopkoda Project resonates with us in the army overseas because of the emphasis on leadership, diversity and inclusiveness,” he said.
The breakfast rounded off with a hotly contested auction that helped boost the morning’s proceeds to record-breaking levels.
If you would like to participate in the 2018 Kopkoda Project, or provide sponsorship, please email Nigel Howard.