UNVEILING OF THE BRONZE STATUE HONOURING THE NEW GUINEA WARTIME CARRIERS by THE HON VICTOR DOMINELLO MP
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is no doubt that Kokoda is a pinnacle on that Anzac line of courage and fortitude that runs through our nation’s history from Gallipoli to Kapyong, from Long Tan to Tarin Kot.
Now almost seventy years has passed, but the name Kokoda continues to echo in the annals of Australia’s military narrative.
Early in 1942, Australians had mobilised in the face of a unique threat on its doorstep…
Firstly Singapore, then Rabaul and Timor had fallen to the Japanese, only weeks after the might of the United States had been tested at Pearl Harbour.
Many Australians rightly feared for the safety of our nation’s borders.
These fears were quickly realised as Japanese attacks from the air and sea pierced our defences along the northern and eastern coasts, including the bombing of Darwin on 19th February and the sinking of the HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney Harbour on 31st May.
In its darkest days, as Japan’s armed forces edged closer to Australia’s shores, our nation turned to Australian militia battalions to form the front line of attack in defence of Port Moresby.
A huge weight of expectation fell on a small number in the face of a formidable enemy.
Poorly trained and poorly equipped they may well have been, but the Australians of the 39th battalion and others to follow, were the hope of our nation in a time of crisis, never experienced before and never to be repeated in our history.
Across impossibly forbidding terrain and in energy-sapping conditions, the Australians demonstrated time and time again their spirit of bravery of the tallest order, a hunger for victory in the highest of stakes.
From the safety of many decades hence, we ought not forget the misery borne of long months of close combat , nor the joy of eventually repelling the Japanese advance and raising the Australian flag at Kokoda on 3rd November 1942.
The flag was a mark of exclamation in the jungle, a line never again to be breached.The Australian forces had won out. They had made it over the Owen Stanleys; they had overcome atrocious conditions and endured the full force of a brutal foe.
For everything there is a season: a time to keep one’s courage, a time to throw away fear…
This was the time for heroism, for self-sacrifice…
A time for ordinary men and women to demonstrate to the full the extraordinary character that defines our nation.
This Anzac legacy is remembered here at the Kokoda Walkway through each and every feature of a remarkable memorial, a living testimony to past sacrifices and future hopes that will continue to speak to succeeding generations.
I congratulate the Board of the Walkway in adding this fine sculpture to the precinct, a symbol of the interdependence and friendship between the Australian soldiers and the civilian local bearers whom we have long known affectionately as Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
It is also a potent reminder of the experience of the Papuans whose own land had been invaded, and for whom resistance was without thought to their own safety.
The statue will ensure their story is retold, along with the achievements of all our servicemen and women for future generations.
Today, as we reflect on the sacrifices of war, our gratitude goes to all who have served … and to your families.
You will always be remembered by those who come after.
Lest we forget.