Beyond Endurance: The Westfield Sydney-Melbourne Ultra-Marathon – a tale of legends!

The Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra-Marathon was made famous by a most unlikely hero in 1983.

A 63-year old potato farmer, Cliff Young – who trained in gumboots – shuffled his way down the Hume Highway to blitz the field and win the inaugural event.

I was asked to manage the race the following year and we were able to develop it into the Worlds richest, longest and toughest ultra-marathon which soon attracted an international field – including a Greek running sensation, Yiannis Kouros.

This is the story of the one of the most dramatic races with two legends in 1987.

(First published in Australian Runner magazine: Vol 4 No 3 – 1987)

Charlie Lynn
Race Director: 1984-1991

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From the tormented heart of a Kokoda Veteran’s daughter

Beverley Partridge is the daughter of a Kokoda veteran and the wife of a Vietnam Veteran. She is a poet, author and thespian. We met during our year at the Army Command and Staff college in Fort Queenscliff where her husband Tom and I were students in 1981. Bev was instrumental in forming a ‘Theatre Group’ amongst the wives at the Fort and was the ‘life of the party‘ – always happy.

I never knew of her connection with Kokoda until she joined my trek in 1995 – and I never knew of her emotional interpretation of the pilgrimage until she sent me this poem and short story after her return from PNG.

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Kokoda: Beyond Covid-19!

The era of ‘magic pudding’ marketing for the Kokoda Trail is over for PNG!

The concept was based on a delusional belief that there was an endless queue of Australians waiting and wanting to trek across the trail – as a result PNG never saw any urgency to develop a national marketing/management strategy.

The lure of generous aid funding persuaded them to allow their most popular tourism destination to be managed as a World Heritage asset under the influence of Australian environmental officials who assumed control of the trail in 2009.

Since then it has become a magnet for aid-funded consultants, advisors and officials pursuing social and environmental agendas unrelated to tourism, our shared wartime history, or the betterment of subsistence villagers. 

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Kokoda Day: PNG Gateway to Wartime Tourism

Our submission to the PNG Government to proclaim ‘Kokoda Day’ as a National Day of Commemoration to honour the service of their wartime carriers in 2008 was amended by the National Executive Council to ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Day‘ – the reason, according to one MP at the meeting, was because a group of MPs from another Province thought ‘Kokoda’ was already getting too much attention!

12 years later we now know that eliminating ‘Kokoda’ from the proposal also eliminated the wartime tourism potential of the concept.

‘Kokoda Day’ could be a source of intense pride for all Papua New Guineans. It has the potential to emulate the commemorative status of Anzac Day in Australia. It will also provide a strong incentive for Australians to visit PNG for the commemoration and all it represents. But more importantly it provides a status of recognition for the Papua and New Guinea wartime carriers – the unsung heroes of the campaigns they supported throughout Papua and New Guinea.

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Kokoda Trail World Heritage: Fact or Fallacy?

The review of the Kokoda Trail for a World Heritage listing by the late Mr Peter Hitchcock, Dr Jennifer Gabriel and Dr Matthew Leavesley has exposed the myth of its relevance to our shared wartime heritage associated with the Kokoda campaign. The authors of the 2nd Joint Understanding should be called upon to explain why they were not aware of the review – or why they chose to ignore it.
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‘Kokoda Initiative’ – Reporting from a parallel universe to the Kokoda Trail!

The 2019 ‘Annual Review’ of the ‘Kokoda Initiative’ is largely irrelevant to the Kokoda trekking industry.

The review does not address the dysfunction of the management systems put in place by Port Moresby based Kokoda Initiative officials since they assumed control of the Kokoda Trail 2009 – and the lack of governance within their surrogate PNG organisation – the Kokoda Track Authority. This is evident in their failure to ever publish an annual financial report which is in breach of both Australian and PNG legal requirements.

The review also fails to address the issue of ‘commemoration’ which is evident in their ongoing refusal to engage an accredited Australian military heritage architect to develop a Master Heritage Interpretation Plan for the trail.

Our comments are included under each section.
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KTA Strategic Plan: 2012-2015. FAIL

A KTA Strategic Plan: 2012-2015 was developed by Australian environmental officials in the seclusion of their Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) offices in Port Moresby in 2011.

The plan was put together without any consultation with military history specialists or local village communities.

As a result not a single one of the 5 strategies or 33 objectives was achieved!

It has since been quietly shelved and there has been no attempt to develop a replacement plan since it expired in 2015.

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Kokoda Trail: 75th Anniversary Funding Proposals

DVA Funds allocated for commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific should be restricted to honouring and interpreting the sacrifice of our troops in Papua and New Guinea from 1942-45.

As a key principle they should be directed towards projects that will assist in the generation of income earning opportunities for Papua New Guineans based on our shared wartime heritage.

Commemorative projects must remain separate from DFAT aid-funded activities relating to capacity building, mentoring, social mapping, community development etc along the trail. Programs initiated by Australian environmental officials in these areas, under the guise of a ‘Kokoda Initiative’ over the past decade, have been less than successful.

In the lead-up to the 70th Anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 2012 Network Kokoda invested $70,000 in the development of a ‘Funding Proposal for a Heritage Interpretation Plan and Implementation Strategy for the Kokoda Trail’. Michael Pender of HPA Projects was engaged to develop the report which can be viewed on this link.

The report concluded: 

  • There is little interpretation of ‘Kokoda Trail’ Heritage; Natural. Cultural or Military on the site itself.
  • Most of the current interpretation is by private donors, is in poor condition and presents an ad hoc, incoherent approach to the stories, events, actions and environment.
  • An overall plan for interpretation on the Trail is warranted as one of the key means of safeguarding and protecting the sites heritage.
  • An interpretive strategy focused on the trail’s history, its heritage and its special nature is the first step to enshrining the Kokoda Trail for future generations of both Australians and Papua New Guineans.
  • Deploying permanent interpretation (consistent with an overall plan) will enhance the visitor experience whilst enshrining the environments core values and heritage.
  • Deploying permanent interpretation (consistent with an overall plan) provides (demonstrably) opportunities of sustainable long-term development for the traditional landowners.

The Pender report remains valid in the lead up to the 75th Anniversary of the War in the Pacific in 2020.

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