Life changing Kokoda Trek for retired firefighter

Geoff Zipper at home after his trek to Kokoda. Photo: Jewell Drury.

IN 2019, News Of the Area reported on Corlette resident Geoff Zipper, known as ‘Swampy’ to the local community, as he prepared to go to Kokoda as part of an adventurous Port Stephens group of twelve.

Geoff was 70 years old at the time and the eldest of the group.

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The trek was organised as a fundraising event for a Port Stephens youth mental health service.

Geoff Zipper was medically retired by NSW Fire Brigade in 2006 after being diagnosed with bladder cancer which brought his 36-year career to an end.

He believes the cancer he and several of his work colleagues are suffering from is linked to PFAS foam.

“For the first thirteen years I was forgotten, ignored and left to die until 2019 when they accepted my claim,” Geoff Zipper said.

“I have suffered just as much mentally as physically through this journey,” Geoff continued.

As a way of focusing on his physical and mental fitness, and at the age of 73, Geoff took on Kokoda for the second time in July 2022.

Kokoda became a passionate pursuit for Geoff as he focused on pushing the limits of his mind and body.

“I have always doubted myself and going to Kokoda has given me the strength and confidence to attempt things that I would never have attempted before,” Mr Zipper stated.

“I would love to organise a group of men who are suffering PTSD, whether it be fire or emergency services, to come on a trip to Kokoda together, and for it to impact their lives as it has mine,” he said.

Geoff is passionate about both trips to Kokoda and told News Of The Area that every time he goes, he is in awe of what our Australian soldiers did for us.

Kokoda was life changing for Geoff Zipper and he hopes it will be the same for all who make the huge trek.

By Jewell DRURY

Geoff Zipper with the team in July 2022 at the Kokoda Trail.

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