Australians are a friendly bunch, which is why you will hear many Aussies throw the term “mate” around a lot. Mateship though is something entirely different, this particular value of the Kokoda Spirit is a cultural idiom that embodies all that Australia stands for.
Mateship is particularly important to us as we pride ourselves on being Australia’s toughest TEAM endurance event. We emphasise the “team” part as the most important thing to us when it comes to completing any of the Kokoda Challenge events, is to complete it standing side by side with one another. To us, it is much more important to cross the finish line together by helping one another through times of struggle than it is to power on and leave others behind. We don’t believe in “every man for himself” we believe that we must lean on each other in order to achieve the unachievable.
There is perhaps no greater example of mateship during the Kokoda Campaign than Captain Sam Templeton, otherwise affectionately known as “Uncle Sam”. Captain Templeton was the commander of ‘B’ Company with the 39th Battalion during the very first battle of Kokoda. While leading his troops through the gruelling Kokoda Track, Sam continually displayed courage and endurance which made him somewhat of an idol to the 39th who very much looked up to Sam. He would often assist his men by offering to carry their rifles or backpacks as they traversed through the relentless New Guinea terrain.
“Many a youngster struggling up a hill looked up to see Templeton’s hand reaching down to pull him up a difficult rockface, or offering to take his rifle or pack to the top of thehill so he could get his breath back.” – Peter Fitzsimons in the book ‘Kokoda’
There is conflicting circulation around Templeton’s disappearance as some stories indicate that he was killed by gunshot during conflict, while Japanese documentation reveals that he was wounded and taken prisoner for interrogation. He allegedly told the Japanese that there were tens of thousands of US and Australian soldiers in Port Moresby when in reality there were far fewer. This was clearly an attempt on Templeton’s behalf to discourage the Japanese from advancing towards Moresby and to protect his men.
Unfortunately, the whereabouts of Templeton’s body is still a mystery, as is his disappearance. The section “Templeton’s Crossing” on the real Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea is named after Captain Sam Templeton and his heroic service during the Kokoda Campaign to his men and his continual display of mateship. Templeton illustrates that it is important to leave no man behind, that things can only be achieved when you can lean on others. Mateship is more than friendship, it is an Australian colloquial term that embodies the bond between two mates that goes beyond mere friendship. It represents the unbreakable bond between two soldiers who are amidst battle, the dedication and loyalty to people who are fighting to protect their country and all their loved ones who they are fighting to protect.
These are the very values that we do our best to instill into our Kokoda Kids. In the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program, our kids commit to 14 months of training/hiking and community service amongst various other activities. They complete these commitments all together as a group and develop lifelong bonds with one another along the way, so when the opportunity comes at the end of their program to walk the real Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, it is so much more than just an overseas experience to them! Our Kokoda Kids finish the relentless Kokoda Track standing side by side with each other and their KCYP Leaders who have guided them through their 14-month journey.
While many of the kids experience mental and physical hardship along the way, not only on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea or during the 96km Kokoda Challenge in the Gold Coast but throughout various points of the program as well. But with the guidance of their leaders and also the help of their mates around them, they get through it together.
This is arguably what being an Australian means, which is why we always encourage our competitors to stick together through the challenge; whether your team decides to complete the challenge as a trail run or a hike, it is incredibly important that your team crosses the finish line together.
Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice.