Prince Philip's lasting legacy in Blue Mountains: Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme

The Duke of Edinburgh's funeral occurred in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. He and the Queen briefly visited Katoomba in 1954 and passed through the Blue Mountains on the Royal train in 1970.

However, the Duke himself has had a more lasting effect on the Mountains than these brief visits suggest.

The Duke was always passionate about young people leading active, meaningful lives. In 1956, he instituted the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

The award has three levels - bronze, silver and gold. Each level involves voluntary service, physical recreation, skills and an adventurous journey. The gold also involves a residential project.

The award is not competitive, participants only challenging themselves.

The adventurous journey is the only section of the award that requires a group. Undertaking a journey in an unfamiliar environment creates opportunities for team building through shared planning, role allocation, problem solving and accommodating physical and personality differences.

All the high schools in the Blue Mountains encourage their students to become involved in this internationally recognised, self-development program for people aged 14 to 25.

The program equips young people with the opportunity of undertaking a variety of voluntary and challenging activities at each of its levels, like Blue Mountains Grammar students Annabel Swan and Darcy Roberts who, in 2021, are volunteering with Thrive Services as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award.

Katoomba High students use the Grose Valley for their bronze award adventurous journey.

The 6km Govetts Leap to Acacia Flat walk in Blackheath is one of the most popular trails undertaken by Duke of Edinburgh participants, and has been referred to as the Duke of Edinburgh Highway.

On November 6, 2019, it became part of a commemorative national trail, part of the 60km, 10-walk National Trail launched for the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award's 60th anniversary.

In 2019, Katoomba High School student William Corlett walked the trail for his bronze medallion. It has given him confidence in reading maps and finding his way on his own.

NPWS Grose Valley ranger Grant Purcell told the Blue Mountains Gazette that every week, two Duke of Edinburgh groups of 15-20 participants were walking into the Grose Valley, with groups coming from as far away as Newcastle.

Bronze and silver awards are presented at a local level, and gold award recipients at state level.

Former Winmalee High school student Andrew Peterson received his gold award from NSW Governor David Hurley at a ceremony at Government House in 2018.

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Some gold awardees received their award directly from the Duke of Edinburgh himself.

In 1973, after the opening of the Sydney Opera House, the Queen returned to London, but the Duke remained in Australia, to visit each of the Australian States, to connect with local organisers of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award in Australia, to present gold awards and to see award work in action.

He visited Bathurst on Saturday, October 27, 1973, presenting the gold awards. Ms Diane Burrell, a Marsden School graduate, was a recipient. She said the Duke appeared taken aback when she explained her major interest was cake-decorating, a skill she has certainly used over the years.

Ms Burrell also noted that gloves were essential in 1973, a prerequisite no longer expected by 1994.

All Duke of Edinburgh award participants acknowledge that their experiences have empowered them to explore their potential, achieving success by challenging themselves in familiar and unfamiliar environments. This is the legacy the Duke of Edinburgh leaves the Mountains.

Robyne Ridge is publicity officer for Blue Mountains Historical Society.