The Arthur Grassby Scholarship provides funding to send East Gippsland Year 11 students to walk the Kokoda Trail, in the footsteps of the 39th Battalion, which included 68 Gippslanders, a number of whom did not return and a number from our immediate area of East Gippsland.The 2/14th, which also featured prominently on the Trail, was also raised from Victoria and included members from Gippsland.
The 39th’s local connection is strong. At last count we had 68 confirmed members from Gippsland and there will be more identified with more research and unfortunately some limited details available.The purpose is to increase our younger generation’s awareness of the sacrifices made by our East Gippslanders, so they are able to enjoy the lives and freedoms they relish today.
We have a committee chaired by local MP, Tim Bull and includes the ex-Shire and Gippsland Ports chief executives who have walked the trail, along with members of our local RSL clubs, who support the project. This year was the second year. The first year we raised $18,000 and sent three students to Kokoda and this year we raised $33,000 to send six young adults. On their return a few weeks ago, they reported how emotional and humbling it was – they got it!
Arthur Grassby was a Kokoda veteran who lived in Bairnsdale. During the war he was a member of B Company of the 39th Battalion (around 120 men) that engaged the first wave of 2,000 Japanese at Kokoda. He survived this battle, which many of his fellow Company did not, only to be wounded at the battle of Isurava weeks later. He walked to Port Moresby with shrapnel in his shoulder and racked with malaria. Arthur is a living legend. Arthur passed away in early 202o but was able to meet and spend considerable time with the two groups of trekkers who received the scholarships named in his honor. Arthur loved this time and got a real boost from the interest being shown.
Moving forward and in the following years we hope to continue to send more students, noting numbers may vary depending on funds raised as we are a volunteer committee.
Having sent three students the first year and six students this year, the proposal is to next year send 4-6 East Gippsland Year 11 school children to complete the Kokoda Trail (with the awarding scholarships to cover costs), determined through a selection process.
Each scholarship is worth $5,300 and it is hoped to continue to grow this number in future years pending financial support. Year 11 students from East Gippsland Secondary Schools are invited to write an essay on Kokoda (with a focus on the strong Gippsland involvement) and its importance in Australian history. From these essays, students are shortlisted for interviews. An independent panel made up of ex-service personnel from the local RSL Clubs then conduct the interviews. Students must attend these interviews on the nominated date.