BREATHTAKING VIEW: The view over the Owen Stanley Range at the end of the Kokoda track.
BREATHTAKING VIEW: The view over the Owen Stanley Range at the end of the Kokoda track. Contributed

At risk teens take on Kokoda track challenge

STANDING in the steamy jungle along the Kokoda track, hearing names of fallen soldiers was a sobering moment for Sam Kelly.

That emotional journey has left an indelible mark on Sam's attitude towards life in Australia.

"It's changed how I appreciate my life and respect Australia," he said.

"I really appreciate the opportunities we have now."

Sam, 14, was part of a team of eight Rockhampton and Yeppoon teenagers who walked the Kokoda track as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award.

Ryan Stennet with one of the porters on the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Kokoda walk facilitated by Rockhampton PCYC's Horizon Early Intervention Program. Photo contributed.
Ryan Stennet with one of the porters on the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Kokoda walk facilitated by Rockhampton PCYC's Horizon Early Intervention Program. Photo contributed. Photo contributed ROK291014kokod

The Kokoda track walk was part of PCYC's Horizon Early Intervention Program for at-risk teenagers.

While it was a challenge, Sam said walking through the jungle was beautiful, with "amazing" scenery.

Sam hoped to return in the future and spend more time with the country's "friendly" people.

After months of training around Rockhampton, Sam and the team set off to Papua New Guinea with two youth worker facilitators and Rockhampton and Capricorn Coast PCYC branch manager, Sergeant Greg Jones.

Sgt Jones said the team walked the track in seven days, but the training hadn't really prepared them for the enormity of the challenge.

Year 11 Yeppoon State High School student Blade Pisani recently returned from trekking the Kokoda trail as part of a youth at risk program through Horizons Early Intervention program and youth boot camp.
Year 11 Yeppoon State High School student Blade Pisani recently returned from trekking the Kokoda trail as part of a youth at risk program through Horizons Early Intervention program and youth boot camp. Amy Haydock

He said it was physically and mentally challenging to climb hills which would put Mount Archer in the shade with packs weighing 15 to 20kgs, concentrating on walking the narrow track with sheer cliffs either side.

"It's one of the hardest things I've ever done," he said.

The trek was also an emotional one, as the team walked in the footsteps of fallen soldiers and paid tribute to a nation's heroes.

Yeppoon's Blade Pisani on the Kokoda trail he trekked this month.
Yeppoon's Blade Pisani on the Kokoda trail he trekked this month. Contributed

Sgt Jones carried his grandfather's medals with him during the trek to pay tribute to the time he spent fighting there.

"It's nothing like you'd expect, and you can't explain it to anyone," he said.

"It's just history every step you take."

Throughout the trip, Sgt Jones said the teenagers did Central Queensland proud and many returned with a different outlook on life.

Kids in court

The number of children appearing in Rockhampton Children's Court has dropped since 2010.

Number of defendants in 2010-11: 598

Number of charges in 2010-11: 1393

Number of defendants in 2011-12: 624

Number of charges in 2011-12: 1239

Number of defendants in 2012-13: 380

Number of charges in 2012-13: 982

Source: Magistrates Court of Queensland Annual Reports



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