A slight breeze wafted gently across the nearly-dark platform as a solitary teacher tapped on at Unanderra Station just before 5am. Slinging her 13.5kg backpack gently onto a bench, she casually scanned the bridge and carpark for signs of her 13 travelling companions. A flutter of excitement flickered in her chest as she saw the first Year 9 student crossing the bridge, accompanied by a bleary-eyed parent. Soon the platform was teeming with excited fourteen-year-olds, smiling parents and bulging packs as last-minute arrangements were finalised and everyone scurried to pose for that must-have station-shot! Another Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award hike was about to begin.
Beautiful vistas are reserved for those willing to do the hard yards
Five hours later, after too many games of ‘Mafia’ to count, we finally arrived at Katoomba Station where we were met by our wonderful Youthworks facilitators. After being kitted out with tents, stoves, compasses and maps, we headed to Jamieson’s Lookout to begin the descent into the valley. The next two days were filled with unforgettable memory-making moments—moments of wondering how much further we could push our shaking knees, to moments of being awestruck by vistas of breathtaking natural beauty; moments of fellowship, cooking and chatting till late at night around a campfire, to the sight of a massive moonrise shimmering in a midnight-blue sky above The Three Sisters while visiting the toilet; memories of shared laughs and cameraderie, of being silly and being brave.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a leading youth development charity, enabling and empowering young people to realise their full potential and build a brighter future. As Australia’s largest non-formal youth education program, the Award is highly inclusive and has a rich and successful history, spanning over 50 years in Australia. Available to all young people aged between 14 and 25, it is voluntary, non-competitive, enjoyable and balanced, and requires sustained effort over time. The Award encourages young people to design their own program of activities, set their own goals and challenge themselves to achieve their aims.
A key component of the Bronze award—the entry level award for students between 14-15 years old—is the adventurous journey: a compulsory one-night, two-day outdoor trip in which students are required to move beyond their comfort zone in an unfamiliar environment in order to demonstrate effort, perseverance and growth. Each award has a practice journey, in which participants receive training in navigation, campcraft and problem-solving relevant to the type of journey they have chosen, and then a qualifying journey, during which they have the opportunity to demonstrate the skills they have learned.
This year, Bronze participants opted to hike in the Blue Mountains for their adventurous journeys. For their practice journey, held in May this year, participants hiked from Springwood to Glenbrook. The qualifying hike, last week, was in Katoomba—around the base of The Three Sisters, along the cliffs to the Ruined Castle near Mount Solitary. Participants ranged vastly in fitness levels, as the purpose of the adventurous journey is simply to stretch and challenge oneself to grow, so students work together to achieve a common goal. An experience such as this teaches students to value courage, commitment, humility and the contribution of each individual, as the team is always stronger with diversity.
Duke of Ed at Illawarra Christian School caters for the full range of award levels—Bronze, Silver and Gold, with different modes of journey for each level. For more information, contact Mrs Greaves at firstname.lastname@example.org or attend a special Duke of Ed information event in Term 1. Details will be in the newsletter and on SEQTA next year.