Tim Bull presented a very informative talk about the Arthur Grassby Scholarship,  available annually so secondary students in East Gippsland can go on the Kokoda Trail.  Tim himself has been on the Kokoda Trail twice, first with his son then with his brothers.
The importance of the battle particularly in regard to the Gippsland people:   Japan was going to take Port Morseby by land.  The terrain was so bad that the Australians did not believe they would be able to do it. All that was left in Australia was a militia, a  poorly trained  group of soldiers with  a uniform designed for the desert.  They were told they were there for a presence only and that their job would be to help unload ships.  They were told to take bats and balls as there would be plenty of free time.  This group was the 39thbattalion and had several Gippsland men including Arthur Grassby.  Intelligence sent 110 of these men to fight against the first wave of 2000 strong Japanese.  The Japanese believed they were facing a bigger Australian force due to the ferocity of the fighting.     
 
Tim visited Kokada Veteran, Arthur Grassby, in 2017.  Arthur was 16 at Kokoda and is now in his 90’s.  Arthur told Tim that he was one of the original 110 and that he saw many of his mates killed as they retreated up the hill.  Arthur caught malaria and was sent back to Australia.   Arthur’s family were unaware of Arthur’s role in the war as it wasn’t spoken about.   
 
 After speaking to Kokoda veterans Tim realised that many people were unaware of the Gippsland involvement and decided to set up a Scholarship fund for secondary school students in East Gippsland so they could experience the Kokoda Trail for themselves and learn its history.   Last year there were 3 students who went and this year there were 6 students.   The last group returned last week and they have seen the poverty in Port Moresby and they have developed an understanding of the battle and the Gippsland involvement.   The Scholarship is offered to year 11 students from East Gippsland Secondary schools.  To be awarded a Scholarship the students are required to write an essay about the Gippsland involvement at Kokoda and interview a war veteran.   When they return they become a Kokoda ambassador for 12 months and are involved in speaking to local community groups.    
 
After hearing the story of the Kokoda Trail one of our local school Principals now wants to include the Kokoda Trail as part of the curriculum, including the Gippsland connection.  Many people did not talk about their involvement in the Kokoda Trail. 
 
The scholarship students are fully kitted out.  One of the parents stated that he dropped off a girl and picked up a woman after his daughter went on the Kokoda Trail.    
 
Sally Kelly suggested we have a student or two to come and talk to Rotary.   Tim has written a policy on including the war history in school curriculum including indigenous history.  Tim said that the committee looks for students that would really need the experience not those that can afford it.  The guides and support crew are from Kokoda Adventure.  Every person has a native porter to carry the large bags.  A lot of the native porters are grandchildren of the fuzzy wuzzy angels.  Six trekkers have died on the Kokoda trail, mainly from exhaustion.  Kokoda Adventure have many safety structures in place to protect the students.  
 
Ian McKenzie thanked Tim for his very informative talk on the history of the Gippsland involvement in the Kokoda Trail and the Arthur Grasby scholarship.
 
 
 
 
 
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