From the perils of endless wet weather to the tragedy of the everlasting dry spell, Member Dubbo Troy Grant has seen it all in the past month.
As a participant in the 2018 NSW Police Legacy Kokoda Trek, the NSW Police and Emergency Services minister spent 14 gruelling days in the wilds of Papua New Guinea trekking along the infamous Kokoda Track.
While it’s a bucket list item for many people, for Mr Grant who is also the Vice-Patron of NSW Police Legacy, undertaking the treacherous 96km journey was a tribute to his former comrades in policing who are no longer with us.
“Police are charged with protecting us and the trek was in remembrance of all deceased NSW police officers and honouring those whose sacrifice should never be forgotten,” he said.
Much like the brave soldiers who trod the very same muddy path during World War II, police officers often give their lives to save others.
“It gave us such an appreciation of the actual sacrifice, to walk in their footsteps on that track – it’s no different than it was in 1942 – it’s just incomparable how they fought a war there. We could even see the foxholes where they would have been, the proximity of those. Everything was just mind-blowing.
Mr Grant was joined on the trek by emergency service personnel and legatees, who are the offspring of deceased police officers.
“The Legacy Trek has been running for 13 years, and it’s something that’s become a rite of passage for Australians to remember the soldiers’ sacrifices and the freedom we have. The Legatees have all lost someone and that commonality is also special and unique.”
Poetic words didn’t match the everyday trials of the trip which included a nasty ankle injury on Day 3.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the conditions and terrain was crazy,” he said. “It was like 20 mud runs.”
Grant said his journey became quite detached as he struggled to keep up due to his hurt ankle.
“Because of my injury, I took a lot longer than my counterparts and had less recovery time.
“I fell to the back of the pack which was very isolating, so it was a fairly lonely trek. To get myself through, I just concentrated on the next hill, and the next one after that. You didn’t have time to consider the woes of the world.
“It was slippery and perilous, there were massive inclines and declines. It was just exhausting, falling down and getting up. That was tough. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it doesn’t matter if you’re an elite athlete or Joe Bloggs, it’s really tough and you are dealing with exhaustion.
“I did a reasonable amount of training, but there’s no way of training for the treachery of that track.
“And it was always wet or raining. By Day 6, I could genuinely smell my rotting skin.”
After falling into a river and damaging his medication, Grant had to be flown out to seek medical assistance.
“I had to be choppered out to get more medicine. It did give me an aerial view and a ‘joy flight’ before returning.”
At this point, Grant could have easily given up and gone home. But he stuck it out until the end, even receiving a certificate for his efforts.
“Yes, many times that thought crossed my mind. But they looked after me really well. We started at 6 every day, we had a rations pack and meals where we could just add water, keeping hydration levels up was really important. Then we slowed up in the afternoon before pulling up camp each night.”
Some of the special moments of the trip included meeting with the Royal Constabulary of PNG, hearing of the country’s plans for hosting APEC in November, and raising more than $33,000 for eight Legatees to go on the trip next year.
There was another special moment after Mr Grant’s return to Australia, with the announcement of a State Drought coordinator, Geurie resident Pip Job.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and primary industries minister Niall Blair were in Dubbo for the announcement which Mr Grant described as a “genuine listening opportunity” for local people to speak, particularly those on the land.
“To have a local appointed as a drought coordinator for the State is a big deal and Pip Job is a fantastic choice for this role.
“(Ms Job) will now work for the government with affected communities. It’s great that there is a person in town to work with people on this issue.”
With a third of the State now in drought, Mr Grant said the mood among local farmers is concern for a repeat of previous periods.
“They are worried that it’s an ’82 drought,” he said of a time which crippled many farm owners.
One of the biggest hurdles at the moment is feeding stock, with little to no feed available across western districts.
“They don’t want handouts. They are in a better position economically than in ’82. The biggest impact is the cost of feed at the moment coming from SA which is very expensive. Subsidies are needed for that.
“Every farm has different needs and challenges.”