Challenge by choice

Thursday, October 19, 2023
Brenton Stacey
About the Author

Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.

Trek brings out the best of our students

Despite being a challenge by choice, 70 students in our free wellbeing program completed a six-day trek along Australia’s premier alpine walk during their holidays (September 21-30).

The Overland Track begins at Cradle Mountain and ends at Australia’s deepest lake, Lake St Clair, landmarks of a national park in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is a physically demanding, emotionally challenging and scenically spectacular 65 kilometres, three reasons why Avondale Character Experience Laboratory (ACE Lab) director Jason Hinze encourages the first-year students to come. The capstone adventure “connects them to each other and to God, challenges them in an outdoor environment and gives them opportunities to contribute.”

A limit on the number of hikers in a group meant dividing into three, with each group beginning the trek on a different day.

A member of the first group, Zach Manners feels a sense of accomplishment. He had previously explored the area as a day visitor “but now I’ve walked it.” The experience, including climbing Mount Ossa—the state’s highest—and sheltering in the huts along the track, strengthened friendships and reminded him to “get off my phone, get out and go exploring.”

Heather Macgillivray, a member of the second group, found climbing a mountain called The Acropolis difficult. “I struggled, particularly with a niggle in my knee. But when we eventually got to the top, I could see absolutely everything around me. It took my breath away.” The feeling of vulnerability, though, “of being at your weakest point,” created a sense of closeness within her group. As did a lack of mobile reception. “My phone went flat in the first 10 minutes and I didn’t care a bit. I felt like I was living again.”

Student-led worships created time every morning and evening for connecting with God, but with an interest in biology, Heather found the beauty of the outdoors even more inspiring. “My brain’s always whirring thinking about how nature is so intricately made.”

Since the trek ended, Jason’s noticed efforts to recreate the sense of community experienced on the track. “There’s a real hunger to search out more adventures with friends, and that’s exciting.”

Photograph: First-year students in the Avondale Character Experience Laboratory hike the Overland Track. Credit: Zac Manners.

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