Y WA CEO shares flourishing impact of Kokoda Trek leadership program


In November 2023, our CEO Dr Tim McDonald had the amazing opportunity to escort a group of fourteen young people and four Y staff to walk the Kokoda Trek in Papua New Guinea. 

Like all our programs and services, this program revolved around three core components:

  • Positive sustained relationships between young people and competent, caring adults
  • Skill building opportunities; and
  • Opportunities for young people to contribute.

By designing our programs with these ‘key ingredients’ we seek to deliver on the four human flourishing outcomes that form the basis of our Impact Strategy- competence, belonging, independence, and a sense of connectedness to broader social contexts. When we do this effectively, we deliver on the mission of the Y WA, to provide opportunities for all children and young people to grow in body, mind, and spirit.

At the end of the program, we evaluated the program outcomes using a 5Cs Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach, and the results speak for themselves.

Participants in the Kokoda program experienced an increase in their 5Cs PYD scores, from an average of 65.12 before the program to 74.1 post-trek.

By way of comparison, the average baseline score for all Y WA Youth Services measured with the 5Cs tool in 2023 was 67.3, and the average post-program score was 69.62. We are used to seeing 5C PYD scores increase by a point or two- an increase of 9 is remarkable.

We hypothesise that it is our three key ingredients that make the Kokoda Leadership and Development program so impactful- because the program was so much more than just the trek.

In the months preceding the trip to Papua New Guinea, a team of dedicated staff went above and beyond to support young people make the necessary preparations and empower them to take this challenge on. This included, regular physical training, weekend camps, advocacy and administrative support, and participation in other Y WA services (such as our Y School and case management).

Of course, the impact of the Trek itself cannot be understated, hiking nine days through 96km of wet, mountainous terrain certainly offers many opportunities to learn more about yourself and others!

Like all involved in the program, CEO Dr Tim McDonald was moved in more ways than one.

He said the group of young people, many of whom had not been on a plane or left the country before, were incredible.

“I can’t begin to tell you about the shift in them all, in their lives, their outlook, their attitudes, the way they speak, look and connect.”

“Beyond the incredible data, we are in awe of the stories of personal growth and resilience to moments of profound connection and contribution, this Kokoda journey is shaping futures and transforming lives.”

We continue to celebrate this amazing achievement and appreciate our dedicated teams, passionate volunteers, and generous supporters.

A special shout-out to the Kokoda project team consisting of Heather, Michelle, Amanda, Tegan, Kirsten, Blade, Lee-Anne, Sammi, Frances, and Diana. Together, we're supporting young people to flourish.


Category: General, Youth, Staff News