During my time in high school at All Saints’ Anglican School on the Gold Coast, my fondest memories weren’t created solving complex problems in maths class or when analysing poetry in English.
Instead, the memories I will cherish most were made summiting mountains and paddling down rapids with my mates as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, which was facilitated by my school.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is an excellent opportunity for young people internationally to develop themselves and learn a variety of skills and activities along the way.
Founded in 1956 by the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, the programme motivates young people from all walks of life to become involved with a balanced mix of developmental activities, voluntary community service and adventurous journeys.
In order to complete the DofE programme, participants must participate in a chosen skill, physical activity, community service and adventurous journey across a three- to 12-month period, depending on the award level. There are three Award levels – bronze, silver and gold.
Across Australia there are a number of award centres that help eager participants fulfill these criteria, and I had the pleasure of completing mine through my high school, All Saints’ Anglican School.
All Saints’ has a team of exceptional staff who help facilitate the DofE Award, organise expeditions and help support participants, all on top of their regular workload.
The team is also comprised of four grade 12 student captains who serve a crucial role in mentoring and teaching younger students on the various expeditions throughout the year.
In 2018 I had the opportunity to serve as one of the DofE captains, a role that was fantastic for my personal development, leadership and confidence.
The year I spent as captain was certainly a highlight of the programme for me. I was lucky enough to attend all seven expeditions run by All Saints’, including a four-day hike around Moreton Island, climbing to the summit of Mount Barney and a five-day paddling trip down the Clarence River in New South Wales.
The most rewarding part of captaining the programme and mentoring the younger students was watching their progression throughout the year. For some, their initial DofE expedition is their first time camping and hiking, which is naturally a challenging experience.
Watching a student grow from someone who can barely pitch a tent to someone who can hike and live out bush for five days with a smile is incredibly satisfying, and something that I believe to be one of the most valuable aspects of the programme.
I recall on one of my first expedition trips as captain through the Gold Coast Hinterland, one of the student walking group participants sustained a minor ankle injury in some particularly tough terrain. Without prompting or hesitation, the group of fellow students dove straight into action, dividing up the weight from the injured student’s pack and helping the student through the undulating terrain. Despite being already challenged themselves, the resilience and willingness of other walking group members to assist a team member was so fantastic to watch, and the injured student with the help of mates was able to complete the final day of the trip in good spirits
The programme has also led to me forming life-long memories and friendships during activities that I otherwise may never have had the opportunity to experience.
I will be forever grateful for the sense of adventure and commitment to service and development the DofE Award has instilled in me. These qualities have been incredibly helpful in my university years.
Since graduating from All Saints’ in 2018, I have had the opportunity to return to the All Saints’ DofE programme as a support staff member on expeditions. I look forward to continuing to work with the amazing students and school and DofE staff into the future.