ST Mary’s College in Hobart has taken its school slogan of “one pace beyond’ quite literally.
A small group of students, alumni and staff tackled the famous Kokoda Track during the July school holidays.
This makes the college the first Tasmanian all-girls school to participate in the trek, which is more commonly undertaken by adults due to its physically demanding nature.
Much preparation was required ahead of the difficult eight-day adventure to ensure students were ready for the physical – and – emotional challenge.
The group engaged in eight months of intensive training and a series of student interviews with clinical psychologist Sarah Haberle.
Year 11 student Madeline Haigh described the journey as the trip of a lifetime.
“We experienced a deep sense of connection with the locals and those who fought and fell on the track in World War II,” she said.
“The experience was tough – physically, mentally and emotionally, but mateship made it all easier.”
Former St Mary’s College student Zara Dixon said that she had long dreamt about walking the Kokoda Track, in fact, it was the first goal she penned on her bucket list.
“The struggle, sweat and tears are worth it when you walk through the final Kokoda archways at the finish line,” she said.
“The feeling you get is something that you will hold onto for a lifetime.”
St Mary’s College principal Tom Dorey said the college was always looking to take students “one pace beyond” in all pursuits – across academic, sporting, spiritual, cultural, leadership and outreach programs.
“The college actively pursues experiences, such as the Kokoda trek, which provide the opportunity for our students to challenge themselves and show them a world of possibilities,” he said.
“It was interesting to hear the group on their return say how often the other groups they passed on the trek were surprised that they were all girls.”
Having completed the Kokoda Track on two previous occasions, St Mary’s College sport administration officer Sheree Kemp said she thought the trek would be a fantastic opportunity for St Mary’s students to challenge themselves and give them an edge in developing leadership skills and their resilience.
Mrs Kemp said it was a joy to share the journey with such a fantastic group of young women and watch them go through the extremities of exhaustion and elation, and experience the many highlights along the way.
“It was a special moment to see Zara, who has Papua New Guinean (PNG) heritage, connect with the PNG culture and say she had never been prouder of anything in her life than to be PNG,” she said.
“It is a privilege to help students tick goals off their bucket list, connect them with cultural experiences and see them realise what amazing things they are capable of achieving with hard work.”
St Mary’s College outdoor education leader Sarah Cubit said although she had completed many difficult bushwalks around Tasmania with Outdoor Education classes, this was the most physically and mentally difficult walk she had undertaken in her six years of teaching.
“The girls showed resilience beyond their years and have gained life long memories that will help shape their future,” she said.