Australia to spend $12k on Kokoda refurbishment

ABC News: 23 June 2009

Australia will spend $12,000 to refurbish part of the Kokoda Track and build two memorials to Australian service in Papua New Guinea.

More than 600 Australians were killed and 1,000 wounded in battles with Japanese forces along the Track during World War Two.

“This funding will help restore and repaint the Memorial Archway, a nearby 25-pounder gun at Owers’ Corner and the 39th Infantry Battalion Memorial,” Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said in a statement.

“Thousands of trekkers retrace the steps of Australian soldiers each year; passing through the archway as they begin their journey on the Kokoda Track.

“The 39th Battalion was the first Australian battalion to face the Japanese on the Track, and the memorial at McDonald’s Corner honours their service.”

The announcement comes one month before Papua New Guinea’s annual Remembrance Day, which commemorates the first engagement on the Kokoda Track between the Australian military forces (39th Battalion and the Papuan Infantry Battalions) and the Japanese.

– AAP

Comments

  1. This funding is well-intentioned but misguided as it is not required. The Memorial Archway is a large steel structure and the 25-pounder gun will last for a couple of centuries as it stands.

    The money would be better spent on a Master Plan for a commemorative/interpretative Memorial Plan for the Kokoda Trail.

    The original idea for a memorial archway at either end of the Kokoda Trail was discussed on one of my treks in the mid-90s. It was envisaged that a historical/cultural archway would be compatible with the local environment and would be designed to remind trekkers that they were entering/leaving sacred ground.

    One of the trekkers got a rush of blood to the head, enlisted support from the RSL and RAAF, and proceeded to erect the current large steel structure which dominates rather than blends with the local environment. It is not what I envisaged in my presentation to that particular trek group.

    The positioning of the 25 pounder was a great initiative. Unfortunately it is housed in a carport like structure with an iron roof. It would blend in much better if it were protected by a roof constructed with local bush material or a camoflage net.

    The integrity of the Kokoda Trail is threatened by well-intentioned trekkers costructing inappropriate memorials at various locations along the track.

    If we have a master plan, approved by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in consultation with the RSL, the PNG Government and local landowners then the good intentions of organisations and individuals can be channeled towards better long-term outcomes.

  2. Hamish Jones says:

    The $12k would be better spent helping to upgrade the road in to Owers Corner. I felt more safe crossing rivers along the track than I did riding in the bus out of Owers Corner. It wasn’t that long ago that I completed the trek and there didn’t seem to be any issues with the Archway or Gun that would need refurbisment.

  3. Trevor Shelley says:

    A$12,000 wont go far anyhow especially when you take into account Admin Costs etc. As with most Australian aid only a small proportion reaches the coal face – the rest is chewed up in Admin/Hangers on etc

  4. Jeremy H. Pritchard says:

    In relation to improving the quality of the road leading to Owens Corner, advocacy is best directed via AUSAID for such a project.

    Charlie’s observations are appropriate and should be fully supported.

    Ex PNG resident.

  5. Having only walked over the track once, but have read much about the history and fellow treckers experiances, I can only trust that any wantabe well doers / bearucrats based in Australia, and who have never actually engaged themselves directly / intimately with the local people and Kokoda Track environment, that they go out of there way to talk to Charlie Lynn and seek his advice, always !
    Very few people from Australia, I believe, could presume to have spent as much time, or have a greater understanding, of all of the complex issue affecting the preservation of the Kokoda Trail experience for Australian pilgrims and issues that directly affect the local people and ‘their’ environment

  6. Chad Sherrin says:

    $12,000 for the less than 10 litres of paint needed to paint both the ‘Arch’ and ‘gun’ at Owers Corner! The mind boggles at such waste; even allowing for ‘labour’ to complete the painting, one has to question where ahs the money gone? DVA and the Minister clearly have no idea of what they provided this money for. Another decision made from a Canberra ‘armchair’ – money misdirected is money wasted – money that could have achieved a far more productive result had there been proper consultation and investigation as to real needs on the Kokoda Trail to “honour the service of those who fought there”. Well done ‘General Douglas Macarthur’ Griffin!

  7. Melinda Gauci says:

    Charlie,

    Some very good points raised.

    I walked the track with AK902. The group suffered at the end when 3/4 of the group were made to walk 30km from Owers Corner as the buses were bogged due to the wet weather and bad roads.

    Myself and three other trekkers spent the night in the bus and under a Porters home as we had donated our trekking boots and were not able to walk on the unsafe we and slippery road, hence missing out on the dawn service at Bomana on Anzac Day.

    Cheers

    Mel

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