Speech to the Parliament of New South Wales by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC on 4 May 2006

      Debate resumed from 2 May 2006.

The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [4.32 p.m.]: The acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican and reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor Government era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors’ wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say sorry for historical wrongs over which we had no influence. As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the Government.

I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate, not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. My view is that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The “feelgood” factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine to get some balance back into the debate and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.


Call for KTA junket to Brisbane to be cancelled

The annual KTA junket to Brisbane for a ‘Tour Operators Forum’ on 27 November 2019 should be cancelled and the venue switched to Port Moresby according to long-term Kokoda trekker, Major Charlie Lynn.

‘The agenda for the forum is currently irrelevant to the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry’ said Lynn.

‘It is worth noting that there has never been an identifiable outcome from any previous KTA Forum conducted in Australia over the past 10 years – apart from setting the date of their next forum!

‘Of more concern is the fact that if a motion is passed at a forum that the KTA does not approve of – even one passed unanimously by 63 PNG trek operators and leaders concerning the exploitation of their local guides anc carriers – the KTA will not action it or even publish the Minutes because of their fear of a backlash from the vocal Australian Tour Operators Association.

‘As a result the KTA now operates in a parallel universe to the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry.

‘They have not published an audited financial statement for 10 years so we have no idea where the K12 million in trek fee income has gone.

‘They have not published a newsletter for the past five years so nobody has any idea what they do. 

‘All we know is what they don’t do!

‘They don’t have a booking system for campsites. They don’t have a trek itinerary management system so nobody knows who is on the trail at any time. They don’t have an economic development plan for local villagers to earn additional money from trekkers. They don’t have a trail maintenance plan – or a campsite development plan. They don’t offer any protection for the welfare of local guides, carriers and campsite owners. They refuse to provide assistance to villagers needing urgent medical treatment. They don’t maintain a database. They don’t have a single management protocol in place. They don’t answer emails. Etc. Etc. Etc.

‘Recently the KTA ‘donated‘ K350,000 to a ‘friendly‘ Australian NGO but they refuse to provide any financial assistance to a young Kokoda schoolgirl who needs an emergency lifesaving operation on her heart.

‘When the Acting CEO was recently challenged as to why they had only answered 3 of the 21 emails we had sent them this year he advised that he was under no obligation to have to do so!

‘This surely takes unaccountable bureaucratic arrogance to a new level. We would have thought a customer who will pay them almost K200,000 in trek fees in 2019 might have received a more favourable response’.

‘We therefore have no option but to use our blog and social media to provide a response to their proposed agenda for their annual junket to Brisbane.

‘There are 13 topics on the proposed agenda and 7 hours available to present/discuss them. This allows only 32 minutes for each one which is clearly insufficient. It seems that the agenda has been designed to provide as many free flights to Brisbane for their mates as possible.

If the forum was to be held in Port Moresby, as it should be, it would allow time for discussion in issues that concern the primary stakeholders of the Kokoda trekking industry i.e. landowners, local trek operators, guides, carriers and campsite owners.

If the KTA refuses to reschedule the forum to Port Moresby it should be cancelled and the funds allocated to saving the life of the young Kokoda schoolgirl whose plight is becoming more serious by the day.

‘If the Brisbane Forum does proceed then all KTA officials and their guest speakers should have to fund their own travel and accommodation as it was never intended for trek fees to be misused for such junkets – they were introduced to ensure local villagers along the trail received their fair share of benefits from the Kokoda trekking industry.

‘This is clearly a corruption of that intent and it should therefore be cancelled’ said Lynn.

Following are our comments on their proposed agenda:


Review of KTA financial and management systems by Deloittes:

  • Licensing and permitting system
  • Financial and Statutory reporting
  • Financial processes (including procurement and acquittals)
  • Systems and software
  • Staff capability and training
  • Chart of accountsAudit Reports

The failure of the KTA to publish an audited Financial Report to account for more than K12 million received in trek fees over the past decade would normally attract the attention of a Government oversight body such as the IPA but they seem to be immune from such scrutiny.

If Deloittes were commissioned to conduct a ‘review of KTA financial and management systems’ they should distribute a copy of their report and allow for interested parties to respond. The KTA do not need to use our trek fees to fly a team from Port Moresby to Brisbane to tell trek operators about it.

Community development projects (including the Oro water project)

Our company, Adventure Kokoda has led 29 groups across the trail in 2019 however:

  • We a not aware of a single Community Development Project that has been initiated by the KTA.
  • We are aware that not a single $$ has been invested in any campsite development for the paying customers i.e. trekkers – and that there is still not a single toilet that meets the most basic of hygiene standards.
  • We are aware that not a single bridge across the trail would be classified as ‘safe’ for trekkers and that there are a number of sections of the trail that would be classified as ‘dangerously unsafe.
  • We are aware that not a single creek or significant feature has been identified with the indigenous name or signposted.

This should therefore be a very brief session which could be contained in a PowerPoint presentation and sent out to trek operators.

Update on the KTCG&GHA (including the ablution project)

The ‘ablution project’ – which both the KTA and Kokoda Initiative have ignored for the past decade – is destined to fail because it has not yet dawned on them that the most important people to consult in this regard are those who pay to use them i.e. trekkers.

Unfortunately the KTA is unable to conduct a survey of the 50,000 trekkers who have crossed the trail over the past 10 years because they do not maintain a database – in fact they don’t even have one to maintain – and therefore do not have a single contact detail of any trekker!

The two campsite surveys they refer to were conducted by people who had never trekked with a group of trekkers and were therefore unable to observe the disgraceful reality of the situation. They were also not qualified for the task they were given. Any reference to them should be regarded as irrelevant.

It is obvious that the presenters of this topic at a a forum would know less about the subject than the audience so it would be a waste of time to include it on the agenda.

The proposal to trial toilets at three campsites in Menari is obviously a bureaucratic delay tactic to avoid confronting the reality of the urgent need for hygienic toilets across the trail.

The Kokoda Initiative could use the modern toilets they built at the Isurava Elementary School with a ratio of one toilet per four students aged between 3 – 6 years! Similar toilets – with a privacy screen – would be ideal for trekkers.

The real need is for a strategic approach to the development of campsites along the trail to meet the immediate and long-term needs of trekkers.  We should now be aware of the demand for such sites and the peak trekking periods during the year.

Each campsite should be discreet and not co-located beside other sites – they should be sited to avoid unnecessary impact on villages and should be designed to host different sized groups.

Each campsite should have a two kitchens, two dining huts and two drying huts – one for trekkers and one for their PNG support crew. They should also have adequate huts for the PNG crew to sleep in; level/grassed sites for trekkers tents; and hygienic ablution blocks that comprise an area for trekkers to change clothers before and after their shower. All ablution blocks and toilets should have privacy screens.

This topic cannot be covered adequately at a forum. It needs a discussion paper seeking submissions from trek operators and a great deal of consultation as part of the process of developing a strategic plan to enable the Kokoda trekking industry to realize its potential.

In the meantime at least three toilets based on the design used at the Isurava Elementary School (with a privacy screen added) should be built at the following locations in time for the 2020 trekking season:

  1. Owers Corner
  2. Goldie River
  3. Goodwater (Imita Base)
  4. Va Ule Creek
  5. Ioribaiwa Village
  6. Ofi Creek
  7. Nauro
  8. Agulogo
  9. Menari
  10. Brigade Hill
  11. Efogi
  12. Launumunu
  13. Naduri
  14. Kagi
  15. Bombers
  16. Diggers
  17. 1900 Crossing
  18. Crossing 1
  19. Templeton’s Crossing
  20. Eora Creek
  21. Abuari
  22. Alola
  23. Isurava Memorial
  24. Isurava Village
  25. Hoi
  26. Kovello
  27. Kokoda Plateau
  28. Kokoda Airfield

Law and Order update (any progress with Sogeri Police or community police?)

This topic can be addressed in a newsletter or email to trek operators. The only issue relevant to this topic is the failure of the KTA to address the exploitation of guides, carriers and campsite owners by a majority of licensed trek operators and the increasing number of ‘private’ groups and unlicensed trek operators on the trail.

Code of Conduct discussion and finalization.

The KTA Code of Conduct is a joke – and has been for the last decade. It will remain so until checkpoints are established at Owers Corner and Kokoda along with a couple of random points along the trail to ensure all trekkers have trek permits; that the welfare of guides and carriers is protected; and that campsite owners are receive proper payment for the number of trekers and PNG support crews.

KTA management has consistently ignored reports of exploitation of guides, carriers and campsite owners and there is no indication that this will change.

A Motion passed by 63 PNG trek operators at their own KTA Forum in Port Moresby in November 2017 has never been actioned. They did not even have the courage to table the Motion at the following KTA Forum in Cairns because of intimidation by the Australian Tour Operators Association and have refused repeated requests to publish the Minutes of that Forum.

The KTA has no credibility on this issue and any discussion in a ‘fourm’ environment would be regarded as a waste of time.

New ranger model and relationship with QPWS

  1. Roles and responsibilities
  2. Management and reporting systems
  3. Training and capacity building
  4. Recruitment

The current ranger system introduced by the Kokoda Initiative/KTA was predicted tpo fail because of the lack of consultation with trek operators – and it has.

Any proposed new model will also be destined to fail if it ignores input from legitimate trek operators and involves organisations such as QPWS who are not familiar with trekking or the culture of the people along the trail.

This topic should be addressed in a discussion paper and circulated for comment as the basis for any policy development.

2020 Kokoda Track maintenance plan:

  1. getting the Track ready for the 2020 season
  2. longer term work on bridges and Track stabilization

This topic falls under ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ category – there has been no coordinated track maintenance plan for the past 10 years under the watch of the KTA and Kokoda Initiative.

Feedback from trek operators regarding the environmental degradation of the trail; unsafe bridges and dangerously unsafe sections of the trail have been consistently ignored.

Some good work has been undertaken in recent years however it is piecemeal and does not seem to be part of any plan.

This topic should be addressed in a discussion paper and circulated for comment as the basis for any policy development.

Site access agreements with landowners, and landowner identification

Trekkers pay K350 each for site access to the Kokoda Trail. If there is any issue with landowners in regard to access to certain sites this should be resolved by the KTA because that is what they are paid to do.

Landowners are certainly frustrated by the fact that neither the KTA nor the Kokoda Initiative have held any substantive village based meetings-workshops along the trail for the past decade.

Landowner identification should already have been part of the ‘Social Mapping’ work carried out by Kokoda Initiative consultants. If this has not happened one is entitled to ask, why not?

This topic should be addressed in a discussion paper and circulated for comment as the basis for any policy development.\

Special site management agreements (military heritage protection)

The failure of the Kokoda Initiative to engage an accredited Military Heritage Architect to develop a Master Military Heritage Interpretation Plan since they assumed responsibility for the Kokoda Trail a decade ago is negligence of the highest order.

The Kokoda Trail has degenerated into a memorial junkyard under their watch and this has contributed to the 46 percent decline in trekker numbers since they arrived from Canberra.

The only solution is for the PNG Government to reclaim ownership of the trail and make a direct request to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to fund the Master Plan.

Any discussion on this topic in a forum would therefore be a waste of breath.

NEC Decision update
1. Legislation
2. Tourism Plan
3. KTA Management committee

This topic can be addressed in a newsletter or email to interested parties.

Training for porters and guides

This topic reflects yet another disturbing level of ignorance of the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry by KTA management.

The recruitment, training and development of guides and carriers is the responsibility of individual trek operators. Those who invest in these aspects will benefit – those who don’t will struggle.

If the KTA were sincere in the development of local guides and carriers they would introduce a registration system for them together with a log book for them to record the number of treks they have done; their role on these treks; and their trekking company.

The role of the KTA is to protect them from exploitation by low-rent trek operators and thus far they have clearly failed in this regard.

NMAG update on sites (including Etoa)

According to military history records there was no battle known as ‘Etoa’ during the Kokoda campaign – and no Battle Honour was ever awarded in that name. The correct name of the Battle Honour is ‘Eora Creek’.

The Eora Creek battlefield has never be ‘lost’ as earlier claimed by those ignorant of both the military history of the Kokoda campaign and the trail itself.

There should be no further funding wasted on this folly until a Master Military Heritage Interpretation Plan has been completed by an accredited Military Heritage Architect.

The Kokoda Trail will never realize its potential as a World Class pilgrimage until such a plan has been developed.

CEPA update on community consultations and gazettal

This can be provided by email to interested parties or via the publication of a newsletter.

Much to Repent over the Kokoda Trail

While the arrival of half-a-dozen Australian Government Ministers in PNG during their annual ‘Repentance Day’ holiday is coincidental it does provide a timely opportunity to offer some repentance of our own for the past few decades of paternalism in our relationship with our closest neighbour, former territory, fellow Commonwealth Member and wartime ally.

The delegation is obviously an outcome of the recent visit to Australia by Prime Minister James Marape who was accorded VIP treatment by our PM, Scott Morrison. Indeed it was the highest profile visit by any PNG Prime Minister for at least three decades and there is no doubt the two leaders have developed a close friendship.

I would hope the Ministerial delegation will include a visit to Bomana War Cemetery to allow them to pay their respects to the thousands of young Australian and Papuan soldiers who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy in both countries today.

One cannot visit Bomana without feeling an intense sense of pride in the work the Office of Australian War Graves do in maintaining such a sacred site. It was therefore disappointing to see our Minister for Veterans Affairs was not part of the delegation in view of the fact that PNG is the custodian of land sacred to our shared wartime heritage.

Bomana is not only a sanctuary for reflection on past sacrifice it is also a gateway for relationship building as increasing numbers of Australians are seeking pilgrimages to battlefields in Kokoda, Buna, Gona, the Black Cat Track, Shaggy Ridge, Milne Bay, Lae and Rabaul. Over the past decade more than 50,000 Australians have trekked across the Kokoda Trail which has generated more than $150 million for tourism income.

Unfortunately the mood of the delegation will change if they are venture beyond Bomana.


Why Adventure Kokoda?

TripAdvisor has judged Adventure Kokoda to be the best trekking company on the Kokoda Trail in 2019 – for the 5th consecutive year.

The 560 trekkers we have led across the trail this year has generated the following benefits for PNG:

  • K1 million for Air Niugini
  • K200,000 trek fees for the KTA
  • K290,000 for food purchases at Port Moresby supermarkets
  • K260,000 for accommodation at Sogeri
  • K100,000 for bus/truck transport
  • K450,000 for charter aircraft between Port Moresby and Kokoda
  • K2.56 million in wages for our PNG guides and carriers
  • K400,000 for campsite owners
  • K130,000 for local purchases along the trail
  • K260,000 worth of school and medical supplies donated by our trekkers
  • K60,000 worth of clothing and equipment donated to guides and carriers at the end of their trek

This equates to a total benefit of K5.35 million for PNG from Adventure Kokoda this year![i]. In 1991, when Charlie Lynn first trekked across the Kokoda Trail the combined income of all the subsistence villages was estimated to be around K60,000 – we have come a long way together.

In addition to this Network Kokoda, a Not-For-Profit company established by Adventure Kokoda, has:

  • Built a Koiari Women’s Learning Centre at Sogeri
  • Developed community market gardens at Sogeri and Iaowari High School and Sogeri National High School
  • Built a Community Centre at Abuari
  • Assisted in the building of a TB Isolation Ward at Popondetta Hospital
  • Engaged a full-time agricultural graduate to provide assistance to school and villagers on the Sogeri Plateau
  • Developed a Commercial Fish Farm at Iaowari High School
  • Donated 4000 library books to Port Moresby Grammar School

Major Charlie Lynn’s work in establishing the Kokoda trekking industry was recognised in 2015 when he was honoured with his induction as an Officer of the Logohu by the PNG Government in their New Years’ Honours List ‘for service to the bilateral relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia and especially in the development of the Kokoda Trail and its honoured place in the history of both nations’ over the past 25 years.

Matthew Billy evacuated from Hoi for an emergency operation in Port Moresby

$5 million hijack of Kokoda trekker payments by Australian-PNG Bureaucrats

More than $5 million has been hijacked from Kokoda trekkers by unaccountable Australian and PNG bureaucrats over the past decade. This money had been paid in good faith to meet their basic needs in the form of adequate campsites and a safe trail. The fees were also meant to provide for shared community benefits for villagers along the trail.

However, since Australian Government officials assumed control of the emerging Kokoda trekking industry in 2008 not a single dollar has been spent to improve campsites, toilets or management systems to meet the needs of the trekkers. Nobody knows where the money has gone because the bureaucrats involved have never produced an audited financial report. Nobody knows what they do because they don’t produce newsletters or answer emails. Not a single resolution from a forum has ever been actioned. Not a single workshop has been conducted at village level to see how the custodians of the land across the trail could benefit from the trekking industry.

In the meantime local PNG carriers continue to be overloaded, underpaid and poorly equipped. Local campsite owners are continually short-changed while villagers have been reduced to the status of spectators to a passing parade of trekkers.


Call on KTF to return Trek Fees to the KTA

The recent revelation that the KTA donated K350,000 to KTF, an Australian NGO, to distribute cash disbursements to families on and off the Kokoda Trail is a serious misuse of trek fees.

The KTA was not established to support Australian NGOs’.

It was established in 2004 to provide for the development of campsites along the trail and to ensure local villagers received their fair share of benefits from the emerging trekking industry.

I know this because I initiated the idea and Adventure Kokoda funded its establishment with an advance of K25,000 to allow it to operate until trek fees started to flow.

Sir Peter Barter, Minister for Inter-Government Relations and Provincial and Local-level Government at the time acknowledged this when he wrote:

“Without Charlie Lynn’s dedication to the people of the Kokoda Trail, and Papua New Guinea in general, and his assistance in early negotiations in the establishment of the Authority, the establishment of the Kokoda Track Authority and its future plans for assisting the sustainability of the Kokoda Track Tourism Strategy and its heritage, there would be no special purposes authority – it would still be sitting in limbo.”

The KTA worked well for the first few years when it was run as a PNG enterprise by a former Kiap, Warren Bartlett. Trekker numbers increased rapidly by 255% from 1584 trekkers in 2004 to 5621 in 2008.

Since the Australian Government assumed control of the industry trekker numbers have declined by 46% and are now averaging a little over 3000 per year.

If we use 2008 as a benchmark this represents an annual loss of some K10 million for tourism in PNG and the loss of 4500 part-time jobs for guides and carriers each year.

The bureaucratic management system introduced by the Australian Government is now so dysfunctional the PNG Prime Minister ordered a review.  (more…)

Help Reverse the KTA Death Sentence for 14 Year Old Kokoda Schoolgirl

‘Our daughter’s health is our priority and the further delay of her operation has been a concern for us which is becoming desperate, thereby resulting in our plea for your assistance’ wrote Mrs Doreen Dumu, a nurse at the Kokoda Hospital on 29 January 2019.

Her 14 year-old daughter, Freda, has a serious heart condition – Tetralogy Fallot which is a serious congenital heart defect. The surgery she requires is not available in PNG and the cost of the operation and rehabilitation in Australia is in excess of $100,000.

I first approached our friends in the Children’s First Foundation who did their best to assist but the cost of the operation was beyond their resources in view of their current commitments.

I then tried Rotary Oceana Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC). They were also keen to assist but there seems to be an issue with Children’s Hospitals in NSW accepting patients from the Pacific.

I wrote to the Minister for Health to see if he could check it out on our behalf but did not receive a response.

I then contacted the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) and suggested that they require every trek operator to submit the name and contact details of each of the trekkers they would be leading across the trail during the Anzac period on an Exel Sheet – a practice that should have been put in place a decade ago to capture the contact details of the 45,000 Australians who have trekked Kokoda over the past decade.

This would have allowed the KTA to contact each of the 600 Australians who trekked Kokoda during the Anzac period to seek donations for Freda’s operation.

For reasons known only to the KTA they did not respond. (more…)

150 Kokoda Porters jobs lost over Anzac period

Up to 600 trekkers will be on the Kokoda Trail during the Anzac period over the next fortnight.

The Australian Tour Operators Association (KTOA) , established to protect the interests of their members, has refused to adopt the WW2 army standard of 18 kg as the maximum weight to be carried by the PNG wartime carriers in 1942. Instead, the KTOA has adopted a weight of 22.5 kg established by an Australian bureaucrat who had never trekked across the trail.

The 4.5 kg difference will lead to the loss of 150 jobs for local Koiari and Orokaiva villagers during the Anzac period (4.5 kg X 600 = 2700 kg ÷ 18 kg = 150).

Porters required to carry 22.5 kg by the KTOA for 138 km over some of the most rugged terrain on the planet will have a limited trekking career due to the heavy physical impact on their backs, hips and knees. Unlike professional footballers who have similar career limitations due to the physical impact on their bodies there is no post-playing career for them for Kokoda porters – just a lifetime dependency on their fellow subsistence villagers for physical assistance.

Shameless exploitation of vulnerable native populations used to be referred to as ‘blackbirding ‘ – a practice that was eventually outlawed in the early part of the 20th Century – it seems the KTOA is shamefully introducing a new strain of this abhorrent practice.

2019 Anzac ‘For Valour’ Speech for Network Kokoda

Network Kokoda –  a non-for-profit company established to honour our wartime heritage in Papua New Guinea – held it’s inaugural  Anzac ‘For Valour’ luncheon in Parliament House Sydney on 5 April 2019. Keynote speaker was former Major-General, Senator Jim Molan AO DSC. The following presentation by founding Chairman and current Director of Network Kokoda, The Hon Charlie Lynn OAM OL (PNG), outlines the reasons for the establishment of the organization’

Mr Chairman, trekkers and guests,

I’ve have been involved with Papua New Guinea for the past 28 years and I believe I’m just starting to learn about the place. If you listen to the negatives about the place you probably wouldn’t ever want to go there – but after you’ve been a couple of times it’s hard to stay away.

Papua New Guinea forms part of Melanesia – the island chain to our immediate north.

Melanesia is a Greek term for ‘Black Islands’. It comprises West Papua with 4 million people; Papua New Guinea with 8½ million; the Solomon Islands with ¾ of a million and Fiji with 1 million – a total of 14 million who live on almost 1000 islands speaking 1000 of the World’s 6000 languages and as close as 5 kilometres from our shoreline.

It’s a land immensely rich in natural resources but at the bottom of almost every international index in regard to human wellbeing.

According to one writer it’s a place where paradox prevails:

‘Where arse grass and penis gourds mix with Hugo Boss suits and rolex watches. Where some men mine the hearts of volcanos looking for gold while others worship the spirits of ancestral crocodiles. (more…)