5. Jake Breheny

18 Aug

Jake Breheny is a teenager with a passion for keeping our history alive, in particular Australia’s war history. Through the Banyule 100 Project, I had the opportunity to meet Jake and ask him some questions.

As a teenager Jake likes to spend his time playing sports and hanging out with his friends. As a young kid, he loved playing football and cricket. In football, Jake has had a few injuries and has had to stop playing, but he really wants to get back into the game really soon. He  has played cricket at Rivergum for 4 years now and has been playing since the Under 15’s.

Jake is now studying hard for his courses. He is in his first year of an Arts/Education degree at La Trobe University which goes for 4 years. When he finishes his third year, he hopes to do well enough for an Honours in History. He plans to apply for a scholarship to do a Ph.D in History.  Jake’s career goal is to become a teacher to teachAustraliawar history, and to also write history textbooks. 

Jake became interested in Australian war history from his father. When Jake was very young, he and his father would sit down and watch documentaries aboutAustralia’s history. Jake is aware that Australian war history is not getting enough attention from the younger generation. As his main goal is being a teacher, he wants to teach young Australians that there is more to Anzac and Remembrance days. His goal is to connect the youth ofAustraliawith the elderly and war veterans to learn from their experiences of war.

As the recipient of a “Living Spirit Fellowship”, Jake had the opportunity to travel to Thailand in April this year on a trip sponsored by the Greensborough RSL. To apply for the trip, Jake had to submit an application which included general knowledge questions and an essay on his interest in Australian war history. Jake was chosen out of 100 applicants and went to Thailand from April 22-28. He visited the Kanchanaburi war cemetery, where approximately  7,000, mostly Australian, prisoners of war  are buried. He was assigned the task of researching 5 prisoners of war who had died building the Thai-Burma railway. He took lots of photos and laid flowers to show his respect. He trekked along the railway which was very emotional. Following this, he went to the bridge on the River Kwai, a pilgrimage site, and then he attended a Dawn Service at theHellfirePass.In his own words, “It was incredible. It was a really touching moment. You had to see it to believe it.”

Jake’s trip to Thailand was so much more than he had expected. Visiting the Thai-Burma railway helped him understand what the prisoners of war went through. He said that while the prisoners were treated shockingly, they were admirable. They were all pushed to their limits and they worked the hardest they could to accomplish their goal-to survive. Many prisoners died from disease and malnutrition, having only a little rice and a pint of water a day. Others also died from brutal treatment at the hands of some Japanese soldiers and the extremely harsh living conditions. Because of hunger, exhaustion and poor shelter, disease spread easily and was the main cause of death amongst the prisoners.

The walk was very spiritual and emotional for Jake and the older people he was walking with. A lot of their fathers had been prisoners. The Greensborough RSL has been a fantastic sponsor for Jake, along with the “Town and Country Hearing” onMain Streetin Greensborough.

In 2013 it will be 70 years since construction of the Thai-Burma railway started. Jake plans to go back and mark the anniversary by taking part in a pilgrimage to the HellfirePass. In ten years time, Jake hopes to be teaching and living his dream. In the meantime, he’ll continue working hard to complete his studies.

Paul Iacona

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2 Responses to “5. Jake Breheny”

  1. Jake Breheny August 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Love it mate, keep up the good work!

  2. Guy Iacona August 23, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Very inspiring story. We need more young man like this to mentor and teach our school children….Lest we forget Australian history..
    Well written Paul…. very proud of you

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