The Kokoda Challenge Youth Program is a 9-month life skills program for 14-16 year olds, affectionately know as the ‘Kokoda Kids’. The program offers an opportunity for young people who are looking for direction and motivation to succeed.

Participants undergo 6 months of weekly training session followed by two challenges, the 96km Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge, and the KCYP Peak Experience. The Kokoda Kids then engage in 3 months of biweekly volunteer service days.

At the heart of the program lies the history of the Kokoda Campaign during World War II. Drawing inspiration from the Australian Diggers who defied insurmountable odds and accomplished the seemingly impossible, the KCYP instils the values of Courage, Endurance, Sacrifice, and Mateship, collectively known as the Kokoda Spirit.

2022 Kokoda Kid, Olivia, spoke about her connection to the 1942 Kokoda Campaign at the 2022 KCYP graduation ceremony. You can read her speech below

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
 
“For those of you who do not know me, my name is Olivia and I am a member of the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge Youth Program group. I am grateful to have the privilege tonight to speak about my great grandfather, LT William Edward Young, a Kokoda veteran. 
“In July of 1941, a 23 year old Young was commissioned, commanding a mortar platoon in 3 Battalion. He arrived in Papua New Guinea in May 1942 where 3 Battalion were to garrison Port Moresby. On the 13th June, Young and Lt. Alex Palmer began a reconnaissance mission over the Kokoda Track. They identified possible defensive positions and reported on the possibility of constructing a road to Kokoda from Sogeri. They were the first two officers of the Australian army to make the trek.
 
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 “3 Battalion were part of the campaign at Gona during November 1942. It was at Gona where Young was wounded by artillery fire, as well as earning the Military Cross for ‘sustained coolness and bravery’. 
 
“The citation states: “At Gona on 24 and 25 November 1942, Lieut. Young led a patrol into the right flank of the enemy position, guided another patrol and finally guided his Company in an assault against prepared enemy positions. During the first patrol, Lieut. Young shot two of the enemy, in the second patrol of the following day he courageously moved forward with the leading scout to draw fire and thus locate the enemy weapons and the assault on the same day continued to give direction to his Company Commander after receiving wounds in both legs. Lieut. Young exhibited the same quality of leadership in action at Templeton’s Crossing on 18 October 1942 and at Oivi from the 5-11 November 1942“.
 
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 “Due to his injuries, one leg was amputated at Soputa and the other after he was evacuated to Brisbane. However, shortly after his operation at Soputa, the hospital was bombed and the surgeons were killed. Remarkably, Young, barely conscious, was carried out by Allan Johnstone and another man.
 
 He made it home but had a horrendous train trip after his second amputation in Brisbane. Firstly he travelled to Sydney, where the hospital at Concord had no beds, and then on an ambulance train to Tamworth – known by locals as the ‘Death Train’ – where facilities were primitive.
“After the 36 hour train ride in the sweltering Christmas heat they arrived in Tamworth. The badly injured Australian soldiers were accommodated at Tamworth Army General Hospital, a series of army sheds. Most of the men were under morphine.
 

“In 1954 Young met the Late Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. He later lived in Kempsey and Dolphin Point. Ted Young died on the 17th of March 2003 at age 85 in Temora Hospital.

I am so proud to be related to such a brave individual. I feel grateful to have such a personal connection to the Kokoda campaign because it made the entire program all the more meaningful. I believe it is imperative that we continue to learn about the sacrifices, small or great, made by our veterans. That sacrifice our brave soldiers made will never be forgotten.

Thank you.”
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04092022 Pack Training