Time to think about the 75th Anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign

“With the economic boom attracting increasing numbers of visitors to Port Moresby, Owers Corner has an opportunity to be the most visited tourist attraction for the nation’s capital because of its historical significance.”

The 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign will be commemorated in 2017.  It will be the last significant anniversary with surviving veterans who are now in their early 90s.  It will be the last hurrah for a significant commitment to the Kokoda campaign by the Australian Government.

A Ministerial Statement issued by the Hon Stuart Robert indicates that the Department of Veterans Affairs does not have any plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign – click here for details 

Our surviving Kokoda veterans deserve better.

The following opportunities are available as a 75th anniversary initiative for this historic occassion:

  • Develop a Master Interpretative Plan to honour the military heritage of the Kokoda campaign;
  • Develop a Military Historical – Koiari Cultural Centre at Owers Corner
  • Develop a ‘Historical Military and Cultural Precinct’ on the Kokoda Plateau

Military Historical – Koiari Cultural Centre: Owers Corner

Owers Corner is at the end of an all-weather road approximately 40 km from Port Moresby. It commands a majestic view of the Owen Stanley Rangers at the point our veterans stepped onto the trail.

With the economic boom attracting increasing numbers of visitors to Port Moresby, Owers Corner has an opportunity to be the most visited tourist attraction for the nation’s capital because of its historical significance.

A Visitors Centre with a diorama and audio visual presentation of the Kokoda campaign -see http://www.gettysburgdiorama.com would be a major attraction for those who are not physically able to trek Kokoda but who would like to pay their respects at the site. It could include a research facility for PNG scholars together with a replica village featuring Koiari tree-houses; a coffee shop; an arts and crafts shop; and include a traditional ceremonial welcome area.

The replica village would assist in the development of a ‘day-trekking’ industry with short guided treks down to the Goldie River and/or up to Imita Ridge and back.  The initiative would also lead to increased economic activity for other local markets on the Sogeri Plateau.Historical Military – Cultural Precinct on the Kokoda Plateau,

Historical Military – Cultural Precinct on the Kokoda Plateau

The Kokoda plateau has the potential to be the second most popular tourist destination in PNG after Owers Corner and certainly the most visited in Oro Province – particularly if ‘Kokoda Day’ is proclaimed on 3rd November in accordance with my original submission (copy attached) – unfortunately it was changed to ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Day’ which has no marketing resonance in Australia.

The Kokoda plateau should be accorded its proper place as a military historical – precinct. It represents the only time in Australian history where Australian troops were attacked by a hostile foreign aggressor at a place on Australian mandated territory. Over the following three months Australian and PNG soldiers and wartime carriers absorbed the horror of pitched battles back to the last line of defence for Port Moresby, then rallied and drove them back. On 3rd November 1942 they raised the Australian flag on the same Kokoda plateau they had been driven from on 29 July 1942.

Kokoda is currently an anti-climax for trekkers – particularly after they have visited the Isurava Memorial – because there is nothing there that captures the spirit of what it represents.

A ‘Historical Military – Orokaiva Cultural Precinct’ on the Kokoda Plateau would extend the tourist potential of the area to the wider Australian population who are not physically capable of completing the arduous trek but would like to be able to visit such a spiritual place and pay their respects.  It would also be a gateway to further historical developments in the Buna-Gona area.

An earlier proposal to proclaim the 3rd November as Kokoda Day was amended by the National Executive Council to ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angel Day’.  Unfortunately this amendment defeated the purpose of the original proposal and ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angel Day’ has failed to resonate.

Consideration should be given to adopting the original proposal attached as Appendix 3.

What’s in a Name?

Ownership of the naming rights for the Kokoda Trail is a keenly contested point of debate in Australia.

Do they belong to the nation which retains sovereign ownership of the land between Owers Corner and Kokoda i.e. Papua New Guinea?

Or the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian Battalions who were awarded the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’?

Or the custodians of political correctness amongst the Australian commentariat who dislike the name ‘trail’ because of its American connotation?

The Kokoda Trail is the name of the Battle Honour awarded to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign by the Australian Battles Nomenclature Committee in 1958.  ‘Kokoda Trail’ was officially gazetted by the PNG Government in 1972 as a result of a recommendation by a Place Names Committee to identify the geographical features in the emerging nation.

The official name ‘Kokoda Trail’ should therefore be acknowledged in all commemorative services conducted in PNG.

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