Straight after graduation in 2000, Sarah McDonald jetted off to Europe leaving plans open to travel and work.
She owns various train station kiosk businesses and is still involved within her family business, ‘Safety Bay Settlements’.
Along with owning various local businesses, she is also heavily involved within various fitness initiatives, completing her first marathon and completing in Surf Boat Rowing this year.
In addition, she also recently completed the Kokoda track.
“Kokoda was a challenge but most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done,” Sarah said.
She said the experience was an eye-opener and a great history lesson.
Her Kokoda journey began exactly 75 years to the day when the 39th Battalion began their trek of Kokoda at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
When recounting the experience, Sarah describes many steep ascents and descents, trenches, crawling pits from the war, along with some amazing natural landscapes.
She saw many historic landmarks which included Ioribaiwa Village, the furthest point that the Japanese advanced towards Port Moresby.
“The same day we say Ioribaiwa Village, we also saw a plaque commentating the death of a trekker who was doing the same thing that I was which really put things into perspective for me.”
Sarah described the difficulty of the section of the track known as ‘the wall’.
“The wall is the steepest part of the track and although it was short, it was incredibly steep, going from a 727 metre elevation to 1103 metre under less than a kilometre.”
She said the most important and informative day was stopping at Isurava for lunch where the group had their own special service.
“We held out our flag between us and the porters held up their Papua New Guinea flag while our group leader read out a speech and others in our group read some poetry.
“People were very emotional at this ceremony, especially when both the Australian and PNG National Anthems were sung.
Sarah believes it is important to raise awareness for Australia’s most important battle as our troops were actively defending our own country.
“I felt guilty with how much we didn’t know about the Kokoda battle.
“Many people were crying at our group’s ceremony which was an inspiring way to finish the Kokoda trek.”
Sarah said it was one of the most rewarding things she has ever done and it was an amazing experience to finish.
“Reading about Kokoda is nothing compared to being able to experience it!
“It was such a magical experience to know you are following in the footsteps of our war heroes.
“Words can’t explain how it felt and how much perspective you gain from completing it.”
She is also the Director of Lifesaving at Coogee Beach Surf Lifesaving Club which won the accolade of WA’s Club of the Year, which will now see Sarah off to Sydney for the National Awards this week.
Sarah said she values instilled in her through her five years at Kolbe Catholic College are still with her today.
“All the teachers were so supportive of myself and all students, and they really did believe in all of us to achieve great things in life.
“Kolbe was a huge part of my life … I met lifelong friends who I’m still close with today and certainly provided the environment for not only learning specific subjects but also learning life values.”
When asked about any words of wisdom she would offer current Kolbe students, she turned to a phrase she has raised her son to live by.
“Be nice, be thankful, and work hard.
“After my Kokoda experience, I now also include the four words courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.”