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The Cowey – Selman Kokoda Award is available each year to Year 11 students who are enrolled in a secondary schools or college within the Shire of Yarra Ranges. The award provides the opportunity for a student to join a Kokoda trek at no cost to themselves other than their personal medications, spending money and gifts for the Papua New Guinea locals. The successful student will be offered assistance with training prior to the trek.

The award is the initiative of the 39th Infantry Battalion (1941-43) Association Inc. and the Mount Evelyn, Monbulk and Lilydale RS sub-branches.

The Competition

This competition, to be held annually within the Shire of Yarra Ranges, was introduced in 2019. Unfortunately, the award was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 and the closure of the Kokoda Trail. The award is named after two Yarra Ranges’ residents, Jim Cowey and Geoff Selman who served with the 39th Infantry Battalion in Papua New Guinea. The competition is open to all Year 11 students from all the secondary schools/colleges within the Shire of Yarra Ranges. Students are invited to submit an entry using any medium desired (e.g. PowerPoint, art, poetry or essay (limited to 600 words) outlining:

  • The importance of the Kokoda Campaign in the Battle for Australia, and
  • Why they would like to trek the Kokoda Trail.

The winner will receive a fully sponsored, escorted trip to Kokoda and learn first-hand something of Australia’s history.

The concept came from similar competitions:

  • Baw Baw Shire (the George Collins Kokoda Award) organised by the State Member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood.
  • Cardinia Shire (the Harold Bould/Wilma Young (Cardinia) Kokoda Award) organised by 39th Battalion Association Life Member, Alan Jameson.
  • East Gippsland Shire (the Arthur Grassby Award) organised by the State Member for Eastern Victoria in the Upper House, Tim Bull.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage young people to research and understand the sacrifice by so many ordinary people, like residents from the Shire of Yarra Ranges, made in WW2 to keep this nation free.

Kokoda Campaign

Details of the Kokoda and Northern Beaches Campaign may be found in many books and websites including

The Diggers

James CoweyJames CoweyJames Cowey MC was born in 1890. In WW1 he served in Egypt, Gallipoli and across the Western Front. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry near Hamel on 18th/19th September 1918 west of Bellinglise in Northern France. He re-enlisted for WW2 and served as a Staff Sergeant with the 39th Battalion. A resident of The Patch, we believe Jim is the only enlisted man to actively serve at both the Gallipoli Landing and crucial 2nd Battle of Kokoda. Jim passed away in 1968.

Harold Geoffrey Selman (“Geoff”) was born in 1921 and served as a Private in the 39th Battalion. A resident of Lilydale, he was Killed in Action at Gona on 14th December 1942. Geoff is buried in Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby and remembered on the cenotaph in Lilydale.

Harold SelmanHarold Selman

How To Apply

Candidates should download and complete the application form and complete an entry using any medium desired (e.g. PowerPoint, art, poetry or essay of  up to 600 words) answering two questions in relation to the Kokoda and Northern Beaches Campaign:

  1. What was the importance of the Kokoda Campaign in the Battle for Australia?
  2. Why would you like to trek the Kokoda Trail?

Entries are to be submitted to the candidate’s school/college. Each participating school/college may submit up to two short-listed entries to Mount Evelyn RSL sub-branch (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by the nominated time/date, together with (i) the candidate’s Parental permission, and (ii) a confidential reference from the school / college Principal.

Kokoda Trek Details

The trek takes 10 days and covers 96km of difficult country. A reasonable level of physical fitness is required, along with mental endurance and determination. Airfares, accommodation costs, travel insurance, trek costs and equipment (boots, clothes, passport, if necessary) will be covered. Personal spending money, snacks, personal medications and gifts for the local Papua New Guinea people are to be met by the successful candidate.

Details of the trek and the Kokoda Trail may be found on http://



Peter Brune, A Bastard of a Place, Allen & Unwin, 2004

Johnson, Carl, Mud Over Blood, History House, 2005

Peter Fitzsimons, Kokoda, Hachette Australia, 2005

Peter Brune, Those Ragged Bloody Heroes, Allen & Unwin, 2005

Paul Ham, Kokoda, Harper Collins, 2005

Andrew James, Kokoda Wallaby, Allen & Unwin, 2011


Australian War Memorial Website:

Australian War Memorial Website:

Australian War Memorial Website:

39th Battalion Website:

National Museum of Australia Website:

Australian War Memorial Website:

Department of Veteran Affairs Website:


Kokoda video DVD cover 

Film Victoria / Screen Australia, Kokoda, ABC DVD, 2010



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