Duke of Edinburgh Award

Prince Edward caused a stir this week when he said risk was an attraction for young people participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Responding to a question in Australia about the death of a young man while on an unsupervised bush walk, the prince said the award is popular with youth because it has a “risk element … a sense that you could die doing this”.

The British press dumped on him, claiming it was a “blunder down under”.

Surprisingly, the Australian press was more sympathetic. The Australian reported a number of teachers, young people and politicians who endorsed the prince’s comments.

Prince Edward is chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

I did “Duke of Ed” or “D of E” as we knew it for nearly two years when I was a student at St Paul’s College, Traralgon, and obtained a bronze award.

I can remember the bush walks and the volunteer service. They are two elements of the award scheme; the others are a skill and sport (details here).

Lake Tali KarngOur hike in Year 9 was to Lake Tali Karng in the Gippsland Alps.

According to Parks Victoria: “Tali Karng is a hidden jewel nestled deep in the mountains of Gippsland, fed by snowmelt waters of the Wellington Plains. The lake is believed to have been formed about 1500 years ago when a massive rock slide collapsed into the valley damming the waters of Nigothoruk Creek and what is now known as the Wellington River. The water runs underground from the lake to emerge as the infant Wellington River 150m below in the Valley of Destruction.”

Wikipedia says: “Tali Karng is difficult to access, with the quickest route a hard five hour walk, from MacFarlane’s Saddle via the Wellington Plains track. This involves an 800m descent, either via the Gillios Track or the Riggall’s Spur track.”

I can confirm it was bloody steep.

On the way in, one member of our party became ill. We carried radios to communicate with “base”. That’s when I learnt radio call signs.

We agreed to leave our packs on the track and return the sick boy to the starting point, carrying his pack for him. We then ran most of the way back to our packs to make up lost time.

I was fit then.

I don’t remember much about the lake, except it was a relief to see it after a long day and the water was freezing.

We came out along the Wellington River, described thus on Wikipedia: “This involves 15 river crossings, and can be quite dangerous, particularly under high river conditions.”

It rained all day, as I recall, so the river crossings didn’t trouble us much, except for hiking in wet boots.

The “adventure” component with D of E was great. I think I recorded squash and clarinet for my sport and skill respectively.

They were existing activities for me, which is probably why I don’t remember much detail (from 1981)!

For volunteering I went to Dalkeith, an aged care facility near where we used to live in Traralgon.

I watered the garden, chatted to residents and played cards with them.

All up, the Duke of Edinburgh award is a worthwhile pursuit for young people and Prince Edward was right to identify the appeal of a risk element.

As Tim Hawkes, headmaster of Kings School in Sydney noted: “We are in grave risk of adding to an already bubble-wrapped generation if we deny children, and boys in particular, some adventure in their life.”

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