Aussie cops, students to trek Kokoda

National, Normal

The National, Friday June 21st, 2013

 TWO Moonee Valley police officers from Australia are preparing for a challenging expedition along the 96km Kokoda Track.

Const Dominic Alderman and Sgt Paul Topham, from Moonee Ponds police station in Victoria, Australia, will lead 20 Year 11 students from St Bernard’s College and Mt Alexander Secondary College on a seven-day adventure through the Owen Stanley Ranges.

They will be joined by former Moonee Valley Insp Nigel Howard, assistant commissioner Wendy Steendam, six police officers, two paramedics, two teachers and more than a dozen Moonee Valley sponsors and business owners.

The Kokoda concept began in 2007. It was created by Insp Howard to break down barriers between police and youth in Moonee Valley’s south. 

It has grown into a programme that fosters young leaders and allows students from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to bond.

Topham, 36, says participants in this year’s annual trek are training with weekly walks up and down Mt Macedon, stair-climbing at the flats in Flemington and trekking in the hills around St Bernard’s College.

He says he was inspired to embark on the gruelling adventure to challenge himself physically and to create relationships with young people living in Moonee Valley.

“It’s a great opportunity for the young people involved to be able to complete something that seemed impossible at the start,’’ he says.

“It’s also about building relationships with police and creating friendships with others who may be of a different socio-economic background.

“It’s about bringing people from all walks of life in the community together for a life-changing experience.”

Topham also hopes the trekkers will learn more about the mateship, courage and sacrifice of the Australian soldiers who walked the track in World War II.

Alderman, 40, only recently joined the Moonee Ponds police station after moving from the UK three years ago.

He said the trek would teach young people leadership skills and the importance of looking out for others. – Moonee Valley Weekly 

“A great aspect of it is that it shows young adults that police are real people and that we are approachable,” he said.

The group will set off on June 21 and return to Australia on July 1.