Narooma student Ben Potter returns from Kokoda Trail

Narooma young achiever Ben Potter has a new respect for the sacrifices made by the Diggers of World War II after walking the length of the Kokoda Trail. 

Ben, 18, was selected as one of 33 young people from around Australia to participate in the annual Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge. He returned to Narooma earlier this month and has had time to reflect on the journey and experience.

“For many years I raised a flag at Anzac Day dawn services but to get out and actually be at the locations of one of the hardest fought battles of World War II really puts things into a new perspective,” he said. “To see what they actually went through and the sacrifices they made.”

The 10-day trek certainly was gruelling but all of his group made it except one who pulled out on Day 3. The tropical climate and resulting mud made the hike even harder.

“You could set your watch by the sudden downpour that happened each day between 2pm and 4pm,” he said.

He made lots of new friendships with young people from around Australia, including three from Ulladulla. He is now inspired to go and visit the battlefields and memorials at Gallipoli. “That’s next on the bucket list.”

Narooma Sporting and Services Club selected Ben to be the recipient of its sponsorship of $6000 to participate in the challenge.

Ben will now do a presentation on his Kokoda experience to both the Narooma Sporting and Services Club and also to the Narooma Lions Club that helped him get there.

Ben is no stranger to accolades as the member of the Eurobodalla youth committee was named the shire’s Young Citizen for 2014 and again in 2016. He also ran for council in the recent election on the Lindsay Brown ticket. 

Ben graduated from Narooma High School last year and is currently taking a gap year before attending the University of Wollongong next year where he will study for a science degree in geology.

The Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge offers young people aged 17 to 22 the opportunity to walk the Kokoda Trail. Originally developed by the RSL and Services Clubs Association, the program has now been adopted nationally and identifies young potential leaders who have the ability to inspire and educate other youths in their local communities. 

According to ClubsNSW, the challenge is an annual program administered by the RSL and Services Clubs Association and proudly supported by registered clubs across NSW.

Participants walked the entire 155km Kokoda Trail. ClubsNSW and the club industry believes that by walking the wartime track, young people have an opportunity to gain a greater understanding that is rarely discussed in the classroom. The trek is conducted by Adventure Kokoda.