Growing up in Australia, as a descendant of migrant parents, I have often heard Australia described as “the lucky country”. I didn’t realise the true meaning of these words until I stumbled the Kokoda trail as a part of the Youth Challenge in 2007. Only four hours flight from the comfort of Sydney there is a country torn from a war that occurred 50 years ago and paralysed by poverty. It is a country in which villages such as Isurava have been relocated a day’s walk away because the blood in the soil makes it impossible to live; a country where children are malnourished from a lack of nutritious food and have to walk hours to receive an education in an over-crowded classroom with limited resources. These children have hopes and dreams. They want to be someone and fulfil their potential, but their country is lacking in opportunity.
I was also challenged by the fact that the blood that stained the soil was that of young Australians. These boys also had hopes and dreams which will never be fulfilled. I remember being faced with the question, posed by our Trek Leader, at the place of the death of Kinbsbury (VC), a 24 year old Australian man who died defending his country:
“If Kingsbury were to look at you as a young Australian, would he think his sacrifice had been worth it?”
My Kokoda experience, compounded by this question, made me realise that sacrifice is our inheritance: as young Australians, we have big shoes to fill.
This discovery was enhanced by a trip to France to seek out the grave of my Great Uncle who died as part of Bomber Command in 1945. He was 22 years old. At the time of my visit, I was 5 months from my 22nd Birthday.
Young people are the soul of society. They have hopes and dreams and will ultimately become the leaders of tomorrow’s world. Nevertheless, our voices are often unheard or dismissed. My Kokoda experience exposed the value of Young people: Kingsbury, R.W Purcell and other Australian Soldiers who defended Australia were the same age, if not younger, than me.
As a consequence, as well as acting as an ambassador and sharing the Kokoda story with High School students, I have worked to establish a Non-Government Organisation called ‘tara.Ed’. Backed by a Goldman Sachs Social Entrepreneur grant, the organisation aims to promote sustainable Primary Education for children in developing nations, as well as provide an avenue for Australian youth to make a positive impact – and change the world they will inherit, through volunteer opportunities and service learning. In this way, tara.Ed facilitates the educational process and allows the next generation from both the developed and developing world to grasp their hopes and reach for their dreams.
I would like to think that Kingsbury thus looks at my generation, sees them fulfilling their potential, and says “Yes. It was worth it.”
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