Youth Off The Streets to trek the ‘Black Cat’

Federal Member for Blaxland, Jason Clare MP today visited Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets Chapel School in Merrylands to present student Jake Saloway and youth worker Jarrod O’Brien with their 2013 Mateship Trek uniforms.

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Seventeen year old Jake and twenty year old Jarrod are two of the six young people from Western Sydney accompanying Mr Clare on next month’s trek along the ‘Black Cat Track’ from Wau to Salamaua in Papua New Guinea, The trip will commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the World War II campaigns in this area.

This is the third Mateship Trek that Mr Clare has organised. In 2009 he took young people from Bankstown along the Kokoda Track, and in 2011 a group of local high school students retraced the footsteps of World War II POWs along the Sandakan Death March.

The area around the Black Cat gold mine was the scene for a series of bloody battles during 1943 fought in part to defend the airstrip at Wau. Although, not as well-known as the Kokoda campaign, the battles fought along these mountain tracks to prevent the Japanese advancing from the east are some of the most significant fought by Australian forces in the Pacific during World War II.

Mr Clare said the Trek will be a unique opportunity for young people to understand the importance of our military history.

“That’s what this Trek is about. Walking in the footsteps of Australian Soldiers, honouring them, learning their stories and making a commitment to live a life worthy of the sacrifices they made for us,” Mr Clare said.

The Trek will conclude with a Dawn Service at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Lae, where 3,000 Australians who paid the ultimate price during these campaigns, have been laid to rest. Almost 700 service personnel were killed in action on or around the Black Cat Track.

Jake Saloway, a student at the Youth Off The Streets Chapel School said he plans on joining the Australian Defence Force and believes this experience will cement his desire to serve.

“We have so much to learn from their experiences, lessons that should never be forgotten – after everything I’ve been through, I want to give something back”, Mr Saloway said.

Jarrod O’Brien a Trainee Youth Worker at the Youth Off The Streets Koch Centre in Macquarie Fields is also looking forward to next month’s Mateship Trek.

“I am sure our experience will be life changing. I’ve trained hard like the rest of the group, so I hope it’s enough to prepare me for the challenges of the Track,” Mr O’Brien said.

Media contact: Chris Zogopoulos (02) 9790 2466