By Rowan Forster
Two students have enlisted for the challenge of their lives, set to trek the iconic Kokoda Track in honour of those who served Australia.
Brianna Sherry, from Officer Secondary College, and Anna Whelan, from Pakenham Secondary College, were announced as winners of the prestigious Harold Bould Memorial Award on Wednesday 5 September.
The competition is named in honour of Private Bould, a Cardinia man who served in B Company, 39th Battalion and was killed in action at Kokoda Village in 1942.
Both girls, 16, will undertake rigorous training in the lead up to next year’s journey – requiring them to showcase mental endurance, grit and determination to complete the 100km slog.
Anna said she was inspired after learning of the deeds undertaken by the Battalion during WWII.
“I wanted to share the story because when I was researching, I found it amazing, what they managed to do over in Papau New Guinea,” Anna said.
“A lot of young people don’t know a lot about what happened over there and I want to share that with everyone.
“It’ll be life changing, for sure.”
Brianna was equally as enthusiastic, moved by the work of an Australian solider and plantation owner from the Territory of Papua.
“Alan came out to our school and I thought it would be a good idea to try so I did the application,” she said.
“I’m inspired by Bert Kienzle so I can walk in his steps there.
“I’m really excited to give it a go.”
The competition, in partnership with Cardinia Shire and MP Edward O’Donohue, was open to students across the region’s secondary schools.
Students were required to submit an essay of about 600 words addressing the issues ‘why would you like to trek the Kokoda Track?’ and ‘what was the importance of the Kokoda Campaign in the Battle for Australia?’
The winners receive a fully sponsored trip to Papua New Guinea to trek the Kokoda Track in 2019.
Alan Jameson, from the 39th Battalion Association, praised one of the sponsors, Phillis Bould, who shares the famous surname, crochets poppies to help make the Kokoda experience a reality.
“She puts in a lot of work,” he said.
“These aren’t just not knitted but crocheted and every cent she makes she donates to the Harold Bould Memorial Award.”
He said awareness of the battle was of vital importance.
“We want every student in every secondary school in Australia to know what happened in New Guinea in 1942, because that is one of several battles that saved this country from invasion.”
In a closing address, major sponsor Mr O’Donohue said: “We want to wish our winners every success and happy training.”