Kokoda obsession: Grafton ambo Rob Brown wants to educate the next generation about how close Australia came to having a full-blown invasion in 1942.
Kokoda obsession: Grafton ambo Rob Brown wants to educate the next generation about how close Australia came to having a full-blown invasion in 1942.

Kokoda Diggers should be known

“IT’S one of the most emotional, physical and spiritual journeys a person can do.”

Waterview man Rob Brown should know – he’s hiked the Kokoda track 31 times in the past five years.

What began as the fulfilment of a long-held ambition in 2005 has become a borderline obsession for the Grafton Ambulance officer, who now works with Our Spirit Adventure Treks as a Kokoda guide during most of his holidays.

“It is truly a privilege and a pilgrimage to walk the track,” Rob said.

“You’re walking in the steps of people like Johnny Metson who got shot in both ankles and refused a stretcher ride because he knew it would take eight people to carry him in that terrain – he crawled for three weeks to get care.”

Rob reckons the names of Diggers should be as well-known to Australians as people like the infamous Ned Kelly. He went on to quote the names of several Diggers, including Butch Bisset, Charlie McCallum and Bruce ‘Steel’ Kingsberry (VC), who each faced formidable opposition from the Japanese forces from mid-1942 in stifling and rigorous conditions.

“It started with the militia soldiers – the riff raff that was left in Australia, who are now the reserves,” he said.

“These virtually untrained blokes managed to hold off the Japanese for four days until AIF started to arrive – they were 17 and 18 and were totally unprepared to meet what was the most feared and disciplined army in the world at the time.

“You’re talking about 550 militia facing 3000 to 4000 Japanese.”

So, how do you train for the seven-to-nine-day, 97- kilometre Kokoda track?

“I tell people you can never do enough physical training,” he said.

“You can put a stepping machine inside a sauna, turn it up as high as it will go and walk for eight hours a day.”

But, Rob said, the physical side is only half the battle – the rest is mental.

“Once you’ve heard these stories about what those Diggers went through there’s no way you’re not going to get up the next hill,” he said.

“The difference is you haven’t got malaria or dysentery and most importantly, you’re not getting shot at.”

Rob said he’d be happy to make a Kokoda presentation to any school or group interested, free of charge. He can be contacted on 0428 664 232.

His next scheduled trek, an Anzac Day pilgrimage, will involve affiliates of Police Legacy and a few civilians including a Grafton man with multiple sclerosis.



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