Dalby student Maddie Malone (17) recently walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, an adventure made possible with support of the State Youth Leadership Program (SYLP) facilitated by the Queensland PCYC.

The SYLP is a multi-stage youth leadership development camp held in the Gold Coast Hinterland, which aims to bring together a variety of youth (14 to 25 years) passionate about personal development and positive contributions to the community. Maddie became involved in the program through local Dalby Sargent Mick Hughes who recommended the opportunity. The first stage, SYLP 1, Maddie described as an amazing opportunity, “The camp focused on developing strategies useful in life through experiential learning and ‘Challenge by Choice’.” The theme of the program was ‘leading me’, where the six-day experience looked at emotional intelligence and personal trust through a variety of ‘adventure development’ experiences including high ropes and hiking.

When the opportunity arose to apply for a position in the Kokoda Track group, Maddie thought, ‘Why not?’ and was honoured to be one of the 11 chosen from Queensland to be involved. Deemed as one of the most challenging walks in the world, Maddie was well aware that participation in the adventure is a test of physical and mental strength over 96 kilometres through river crossings, steep inclines and declines over the course of seven days, following in the footsteps of our soldiers in 1942. Individuals participating in the Kokoda adventure have the time of their lives, describing it as one of the most memorable and life changing events for themselves, the communities they visit and for the PCYC and the Queensland Youth it supports.

In order to be fully prepared for the track, Maddie and the other 11 team members underwent a tough training regime including weights, squats and cardio in preparation for the mixed terrain expected in the hike. The group completed a few practice walks including the Kokoda Trail in the Gold Coast as well as around Toowoomba. “These practice hikes were a great opportunity to get to know the other guys going before we flew out in September,” Maddie said. Flying into Port Moresby before travelling to Ower’s corner to start the track was an adventure in itself, being immersed in the Papua New Guinean culture.

Averaging 12 to 13 kilometres a day from 6am to 2pm, to work in with the weather patterns of afternoon showers and heat, the track was challenging and rewarding. After completing the trek with a few injuries and an overwhelming sense of achievement, Maddie’s flight home was with mixed emotions. She describes the whole journey as, “one of the most amazingly awesome and touching experiences of my life”. The tight group has managed to keep in contact, with Maddie taking fellow tracker Vaughn to her Year 12 formal recently. Such an amazing experience, Maddie is incredibly thankful to the PCYC for supporting her adventure and will continue to support the organisation through volunteering with various programs and events.

Words by Laura Macdougall