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SES mateship on show in Kokoda Challenge

Kokoda Challenge Bundaberg SES
Marking the 80-year anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign, Bundaberg SES Unit members Luke Harding, Annette Farrar, Kieran Galey and Ben Bartlett tackled this years Kokoda Challenge.

Courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice were felt as Bundaberg SES Unit members took on Australia’s toughest team endurance event the Kokoda Challenge.

Marking the 80-year anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign, Bundaberg SES Unit members Kieran Galey, Luke Harding, Annette Farrar and Ben Bartlett tackled this year's Kokoda Challenge.

The team’s mental, physical and emotional strengths were pushed to the limit as they conquered the 48km hike through dense bushland on the Gold Coast.

As the only SES team to take part this year out of 3200 registered competitors, Kieran said he was proud of the dedication from everyone involved.

He said they crossed the finish line 22 hours and 39 minutes into the gruelling task.

“You rely on each other; the encouragement to push on, regardless of the pain, from one another is what gets you through,” he said.

“It is challenging, you have to work through your mental wellbeing as well as wading through mud and water.

“You go up steep inclines and down slippery declines, it’s slippery and your feet are wet. The condensation throughout the night doesn’t help.

“You just try your best not to slip over.”

Kokoda Challenge Bundaberg SES
Bundaberg SES Unit was the only SES team to take part this year, and Kieran Galey said he was proud of the dedication from everyone involved.

About one third of the registered Kokoda Challenge participants didn’t make it across the finish line.

Kieran said the temperature dropped down to 5 degrees and being in the Gold Coast hinterland they felt every degree of difference compared to home in Bundaberg.

“There was zero sleep. It was very draining and nerve-wracking at times,” Kieran said.

“We were delayed as Ben was injured and he wasn’t able to finish.

“There was a lot of mental lethargy and fatigue.

“But our saving grace was at the 30km mark when two of our Bundaberg volunteers (Keri Campbell and Kevin Turnbull) were set up as support crew, gave us a warm meal, a cup of coffee or tea and all the encouragement to keep going.

“We couldn’t have made it without them – they gave us the last bit of determination we needed.

“All the volunteers along the way motivated us to keep going, especially the orange family (SES volunteers), we could see they appreciated what we were doing.”

Kieran said the Kokoda Challenge is now in its 18th year and it raised money for Australian youth programs run by the Kokoda Youth Foundation.

“It sure was something to experience, knowing the history of Kokoda and what our veterans went through,” he said.

“Bundaberg SES Unit decided to take part to encourage our volunteers to be out more in the community, and I think regardless of what uniform we wear that we are all there for each other.

“It’s important to know what our Anzacs went through, and we are happy to have helped the Kokoda youth foundation by raising $2369, and we have already made the decision to do it again next year.”

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