Kokoda Youth Foundation
The year was 2004 when Vietnam Veteran Doug Henderson OAM attended an RSL conference like no other. He took his seat amongst other diggers, who all had their medals proudly pinned to their chest, and watched on as the guest speaker took the stage.
The guest speaker spoke of the 1942 Kokoda Campaign, which Doug was ashamed to admit that he knew very little about. He went into great detail about how during WWII, and after the atrocious attack on Pearl Harbour, it became clear that the Japanese were a threat not only to our allies, but also to Australia itself. As a result, everyday Australians put their hands up to fight the enemy who posed an imminent threat to our great country.
While some of these men were highly trained soldiers who had served in the Middle East and beyond, others only had a few months of basic training before receiving their army greens and being shipped off to Papua New Guinea to defend what was at the time, Australian soil.
The story of these brave men, the courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice they displayed was unlike any other story Doug had heard. After leaving the conference, he made it his personal mission to share the story of Kokoda everywhere he could. He also wanted to instil the Kokoda values into struggling young people so they too could conquer their own mental enemies.
Thus was born the Kokoda Youth Foundation and The Kokoda Challenge. Doug had gathered a group of young people who he decided would benefit from a trip to Papua New Guinea to walk the Kokoda Track so they too could learn about the history of Australia’s military engagement and embark on a firsthand experience that would challenge them both physically and mentally. The only problem was that they were going to need to host a sausage sizzle every day for three or so years before they could accumulate enough funds to send these kids over to PNG.
So, Doug had an idea to host an event where teams of four could walk 96 kilometres (the same length of the real Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea) through the Gold Coast Hinterland, with all proceeds going towards sending this group of kids over to walk the real track.
Now, the Kokoda Youth Foundation has run countless programs, helped transform the lives of hundreds of kids and grown the youth program curriculum to better assist the needs of kids today.
The Kokoda Challenge has also expanded to include four locations, four distances, raising millions of dollars for our youth programs and, not to mention, impacted the lives of thousands of competitors through our events which prove also to be a transformative experience.