Attachment 13 to ‘Call for Inquiry into the Kokoda Initiative: 2009-19’

This section refers to the 2019 DFAT funded Kokoda Initiative Partnership report which is part of the annual report for the Papua New Guinea-Australia Governance Partnership.

The author of the section is unknown however it is evident that he/she knows little about the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry or the reality of daily life in the villages across the Kokoda Trail. The report is almost indecipherable to the layman due to its bureaucratic complexity. I have therefore elected to comment after each paragraph.

Introduction

‘The Kokoda Initiative Partnership (KIP) is delivering a broad range of activities, on a small budget, in a logistically challenging environment, while adapting to political needs. Over recent years the program has focused to a large extent on direct delivery, including infrastructure projects, and the KIP team describe the program as having needed to be reactive to public diplomacy imperatives. The ability of KIP to act strategically has been constrained by weak capacity in the Kokoda Track Authority. Institutional relationships were weak between relevant GoPNG and private sector entities and little joint work took place. However, recent personnel changes within the Kokoda Track Authority have led to a sharp upturn in relationships, offering potential for greater partnership and joint planning to build institutional structures to support Kokoda in the long term’.

Comment:

It is disingenuous to blame the ‘weak capacity’ of the PNG Kokoda Track Authority for the failures of the Kokoda Initiative. The ‘weak capacity’ of the Kokoda Track Authority is due to the failure of Australian DEWHA/DSEWPC/DFAT officials to establish an effective management system for the Kokoda trekking industry when they assumed control of it in 2009.

The direct delivery of infrastructure projects into villages without prior consultation with local communities leads to attitudes of aid dependency on Australian and is destined to fail in the longer term. Establishing partnerships through the conduct of workshops in local communities is a time-consuming but necessary part of the process of transferring ownership to them. These partnerships must include a commitment to training and development of teachers and health workers and the provision of adequate educational and medical supplies.

The failure of the Kokoda Initiative to conduct a single village workshop across the trail since 2009 is the primary reason for the ‘weak capacity’ they refer to.  

Progress Towards Outcomes

‘KIP brings together three pillars: the track, the people and the environment’.

Comment:

In May 2015, the Government of Papua New Guinea commissioned the preparation of a PNG ‘Kokoda Initiative Master Plan’, which ‘outlines PNGs commitment to supporting the Kokoda Initiative vision and goals’.

The report should have been classified as a ‘desktop study’ as the consultants did not trek across the trail with a group of trekkers to understand their feelings about the military significance of the Kokoda campaign.

As a result they neglected to include a detailed analysis of ‘commemoration’ which is the reason the Kokoda Trail now rivals Gallipoli as a pilgrimage.   The Master Plan is seriously flawed as a result.

The Track

‘The track’ encompasses efforts to keep the track open, safe and well managed as a heritage and adventure tourism offer. Track maintenance, heritage management activities and engagement with tour operators and tourism services are now progressing well, according to KIP reports, after previously slow progress due to the Kokoda Track Authority’s limited capacity to regulate the trekking industry. Along with this shift, KIP team members demonstrate thinking around additional activities and new opportunities presented by this shifting institutional context. Potential roles for women in the trekking industry are increasingly identified and provide opportunities going forward as well as ideas for thinking around increasing access to trekking for socially excluded people more generally, including those living with disabilities. There is scope for greater development of local cultural heritage activities to strengthen community engagement and cohesion, in addition to engagement with military heritage. This would also provide additional ways to engage with the tourism industry through events and people-to-people engagement and the development of cultural products to diversify local business for women. The potential to support further development of the military heritage components of the national museum could also be further explored through the National Museum and Art Gallery. Consideration of structural impediments (e.g. transport infrastructure) and potential shocks that impact growth and diversification of tourism in PNG could enhance future planning to build resilience within the sector and within communities that depend on it’.

Comment:

The Kokoda Initiative has never implemented a co-ordinated ‘track maintenance plan’ for the trail.

The engagement of ‘Australian volunteers’ and Queensland Park Rangers from time to time does not constitute a plan. As a result, sections of the trail are dangerously unsafe; none of the bridges across rivers and creeks could be classified as safe; and there are areas that have suffered from serious environmental degradation.

The comments regarding ‘potential roles for women in the trekking industry’ together with ‘ideas for thinking around increasing access to trekking for socially excluded people more generally, including those living with disabilities’ are interesting.

These topics have never been previously canvassed in discussion papers or forums and can only be regarded as hipster fantasy thinking from within the ‘Port Moresby-Canberra bubble’.

The People

‘The People’ encompasses efforts to improve development outcomes for communities living around the Kokoda Track. Within this, a Community-Driven Development approach has recently been established and a clear operational guide was shared with the review team. Initial activities identified and implemented are reflected in KIP reporting and these constitute a good base to build on by drawing lessons from early implementation. Recent and ongoing changes in the KIP staffing structure, including new personnel at management level, should provide additional technical capacity, vision and momentum to achieving development outcomes. A baseline conducted in 2017 suggests that work to date (through Australian Government programs since 2008) already places communities around the track higher than comparable communities elsewhere in PNG in terms of development indicators and outcomes (particularly in health, education, water and sanitation) though much remains to be achieved. Plans to undertake another survey in the coming year offer a real opportunity to demonstrate outcomes with solid data. Specific gender outcomes for Kokoda are further discussed in Annex D’.

Comment:

This is meaningless bureaucratic waffle.

The reason communities along the trail are placed ‘higher than comparable communities elsewhere in PNG’ is because of the multi-million-dollar Kokoda trekking industry which provides employment, income earning opportunities and philanthropic benefits for local villagers!

It has nothing to do with ‘KIP staffing structures, technical capacity, vision, momentum and surveys’ generated within the Port Moresby-Canberra bubble.

The Environment

Comment:

The author of this report is either unaware of the 2015 review of the Kokoda Trail by the late Mr Peter Hitchcock AM (who was regarded as one of the world’s senior specialists on World Heritage and forest conservation) and Dr Jennifer Gabriel – an anthropologist at James Cook University or he/she has chosen to ignore it.

The 2015 review advises the Interim Protection Zone (IPZ) ‘has little prospect of being able to stand alone as a World Heritage nomination, at least on natural heritage values. Given the on-going threat to heritage values by mining and other development activities, no part of the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges Tentative Listed area should be considered for formal nomination as a World Heritage area until such time as an adequate extent of high value areas is formally protected. Given this prerequisite, it may be years before a suitable tract of land is protected and worth considering for World Heritage nomination.’

Protection of the ‘environment’ along the Kokoda Trail should be left to local villager communities who truly are ‘masters of their local environments’ which they have been successfully managing for tens of thousands of years. A ‘Trail Maintenance Levy’ could be introduced to pay them for their efforts to build safe bridges, avoid areas of environmental degradation and keep it safe.

GESI: Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, including disability inclusion

‘KIP is close to finalising a GESI SAP, following a training supported by the Governance Partnership GESI core team. This details activities specifically on gender, disability and social inclusion which had previously not been captured adequately in workplans and reports or put within a broader strategy. Further efforts to integrate the GESI SAP into the results framework and reporting should be prioritised.

‘Gender components cover an appropriate range of focus areas: women in community decision-making, women in community projects, women in business across Kokoda and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Considerations for people living with disabilities have been implemented in health and education infrastructure projects and integrated into health worker training. However, disability has not been integrated across the program and data has not been disaggregated by disability.

‘KIP activities on gender have been well received within the communities with clear benefits, including women taking on new roles within communities. As the program shifts to a new phase, additional elements to ensure sustainability and overcome remaining barriers should be considered, building on evidence of effective gender programming demonstrated in PNG and internationally. This could be additional social interventions and encouragement of collective activities by women (e.g. literacy groups, health support groups or livelihoods support groups) to build confidence and skills as a precursor to women engaging in community leadership or in political spaces. Additionally, the KIP could build partnerships to specialist agencies implementing attitudinal and behaviour change interventions to address barriers to gender equality and factors driving family and sexual violence (FSV) and seek opportunities to integrate appropriate elements into existing programming approaches (CDD, health and education). This would be an opportune moment for KIP to partner with specialist non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to explore synergies with promising programming models in this space. KIP currently partners with the Kokoda Track Foundation which has potential to deliver education of a higher quality. A newer partnership exists with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) around livelihoods and menstrual hygiene and reproductive awareness. Opportunities to work with and through district and provincial health and education authorities should be further explored along with potential to move away from direct delivery of services. Synergies with other workstreams, including DCP (and CPP), should be explored, particularly around voice and accountability.

‘Given the change in institutional partnerships, political momentum, the maturity of the program and clear efforts to measure results, an independent review of KIP would be timely and offer an important opportunity to inform a more holistic and strategic way forward for the program’.

Comment:

This is a noble hipster sentiment however it does not reflect the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry.

Village communities along the Kokoda Trail are strict adherents to the faith of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. As a result of this there are virtually no alcohol, drug or endemic domestic violence issues. The roles of men and women in villages have been conditioned by generations of subsistence living and are based on mutual respect. All villages along the trail have women engaged as teachers and health workers.

Women along the trail are as smart, as tough and as strong as the men. Trekkers are often humbled by the sight of young mothers carrying a baby with a billum as heavy as their backpacks walking up mountains in bare feet – and always with a friendly smile to greet the trekkers as they pass.

The problem has been the failure of the Kokoda Initiative to introduce programs that will allow them to earn additional income by providing services that meet the needs of trekkers. For example, PNG is the coffee capital of the Pacific, but it is not possible for trekkers to buy a cup of coffee anywhere along the trail. Most trekkers would gladly pay $10 per cup of freshly brewed coffee with a fresh scone from a drum oven (3500 trekkers X 2 cups per day X 8 days @$10 = $560,000 in additional income. Add to this the opportunity for a villagers to wash and dry trekkers clothes; have a hot shower; purchase a billum with the name of their village and ‘Kokoda Trail’ on it; and special commemorative activities at significant locations along the trail and we have the potential for them to increase their annual earnings almost $1 million.

The Kokoda Initiative has not developed any discussion papers or sought feedback from trek operators as to how best local villagers could be trained to increase their income earning opportunities.

MEL: Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

‘The Kokoda Initiative Partnership results framework is not of a standard DFAT format but provides a reasonable level of detail. It could be improved by strengthening its underlying theory of change, program logic and indicators.  KIP reports somewhat inconsistently against this results framework and reporting could be more closely aligned to agreed outputs and outcomes.  The results framework could be sharpened to reflect a clearer program logic by addressing instances of confusion between activity, outcome statements, and indicators or means of verification. This would enable the better capture of outcomes and the telling of the Kokoda story. At present there is no regular staff MEL officer, which presents a gap in data analysis. Higher level technical MEL advice is sourced through a short-term consultant. The problem of attribution due to multiple development actors in Kokoda is acknowledged, as is the need for research to overcome this.

‘Efforts to report on outcomes and establish datasets are noteworthy. KIP undertook a baseline survey in 2017 (which highlighted relatively high development indicators as a reflection on previous activities). KIP will repeat this household survey in July 2019 which should enable clear outcome-level reporting’.

Comment:

This might make sense to Kokoda Initiative officials embedded in the Port Moresby-Canberra hipster bubble, but others will find it difficult to understand!

Opportunities Going Forward

‘The program has entered a pivotal phase due to changes in key personnel within the Kokoda Track Authority, particularly the secondment of a chief executive officer (CEO) from DNPM. The change in approach is evidenced by recent efforts of the Kokoda Track Authority to channel undisbursed revenue into school fees (through an NGO partner) and by the revival of a Technical Working Group (including agency CEOs of the Kokoda Track Authority, National Museum and Art Gallery and CEPA, and DDAs) which has met four times in the past six months. These shifts have seen a sharp upturn in relationships between the Kokoda Track Authority and the other multiple stakeholders, including DFAT and the KIP delivery team.

‘This presents an opportunity to reset KIP on a more strategic and less reactive footing, with the relevant GoPNG institutions and stakeholders coming to the fore with KIP in support. It offers an opportunity for joint planning and coordination, beyond the current consultative modality. Opportunities to work more with delivery partners with presence on the track as well as specialist NGOs in the health, education and gender sectors should be explored. This would steer KIP towards sustainability and a move away from over-dependence on the program.

‘Greater synergies should be sought between the three pillars and articulated in a theory of change or program logic. This could strengthen long-term outcome goals of the program by setting them within the broader context of change in Kokoda, and PNG more widely, including national environmental policies and debates. Efforts to engage with national-level protected area management planning as currently supported by the UNDP should be explicit given that these receive significant funding from the Global Environment Facility, including support to institutional strengthening within CEPA’.

Comment:

The CEO on secondment from the Department of National Planning and Monitoring has no previous commercial experience or of the realities of the Kokoda trekking industry.

The CEO was appointed in an Acting capacity pending the outcome of the KTA Review. He was not authorised to ‘channel undisbursed revenue into school fees (through an NGO partner)’. The process that led to this heist of trek fee income should be formally investigated.

There is a great deal of meaningless waffle in this approach to ‘Going Forward’. The most important short-term priority should be the establishment of a commercial Kokoda Trail Management Company with Incorporated Landowner Groups across the trail as shareholders.

Recommendation

‘An independent strategic review of KIP should be undertaken to inform a more holistic and strategic way forward’.

Comment:

There is nothing in this report that refers to meeting the needs of the paying customers i.e. trekkers in regard to the interpretation of the military heritage of the Kokoda campaign; adequate campsites; the protection of the welfare of local guides and carriers; economic opportunities for local villagers; or a safe trail.

An expert review that debunks the possibility of the Kokoda Trail being nominated for a World Heritage listing provides an opportunity for both Governments to reset their plans and focus on the development of a Master Heritage Interpretation for the trail together with a plan for the management of the Kokoda trekking industry on a commercial basis.

Annex C: Kokoda Case Study on Gender Outcomes

‘Good gender outcomes from inclusion of women in community decision-making have been flagged as a key achievement for the Governance Partnership. This case study seeks to describe what these outcomes are and what development benefits are evident based on available evidence. Kokoda Initiative Partnership (KIP) reporting indicates a range of innovations to ensure that the needs of women are addressed in community-level interventions, and meetings with community members at Kokoda Station further clarified how women are engaged economically and socially and how these activities impact them’.

Comment:

There is no evidence of any ‘good gender outcomes from inclusion of women in community decision-making’ along the trail. Women continue to participate in and contribute in the life of their local communities as they have always done. The most effective means of increasing their involvement would be through the conduct of annual workshops in villages to allow men and women to understand the benefits of change and to agree to it. The next most effective initiative would-be well-planned village based educational program in literacy, financial literacy, agriculture, cooking, arts and crafts, etc.


‘KIP supports implementation of GoPNG Kokoda Initiative Master Plan (KIMP) working under three themes: the track, the people and the environment. The KIMP does not pay great attention to gender, although it states gender equity mainstreaming as a core principle across all programming and calls for promotion of women’s empowerment. This lack of prominence for gender equality at the core of the KIMP is a concern. However, KIP has increasingly brought gender equality to the fore as it operationalises the plan under its current program design (2016–2020)’.

Comment:

‘Commemoration’ was not included as a ‘pillar’ in the Kokoda Initiative Master Plan which is indicative of an ideological resistance to the topic.

This anomaly will only be rectified when the responsibility for the protection and interpretation of our wartime heritage along the trail is transferred to the Department of Veterans Affairs.


‘As noted in the gender stocktake, the current program design has a stronger focus on promoting GESI throughout all aspects of KIP, including partner organisations. Reflecting this shift towards a gender focus, in 2019 KIP developed a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategic Action Plan (SAP) which details how gender will be incorporated throughout the current project design. This should ensure that gender outcomes are captured more rigorously in future. KIP’s strategic outcome areas for gender align with the Australian Government Gender Action Plan (GAP II).

‘These are as follows:

‘KIP Strategic Outcome Areas

‘Enhanced visibility of gender equality, women’s empowerment and social inclusion within the program.

‘Demonstration of a fully integrated approach, into management arrangements and improved coordination with all development efforts across the Kokoda Track region.

‘Enhanced women’s leadership and influence in decision-making at the village, ward and local level government levels.

‘Increased economic and job opportunities for women, girls and those socially excluded.

‘Increased number of women and those socially excluded across the Kokoda Track to participate fully, freely and safely in economic and social life.

‘These outcomes constitute adoption of a programmatic approach to gender equality seen in the level of activities and outputs that include women or address gender equality, rather than ultimate outcomes in the lives of women per se.

‘With the focus on gender equality evolving rapidly in recent years but having only recently been articulated, it is hard to assess progress in concrete terms and against clear indicators. This is compounded by a lack of adequate data that specifically addresses the expected results areas.

‘However, reports and consultations strongly suggest that KIP has successfully integrated several key initiatives to raise the profile of gender equality and integrate it across development programming. At the same time, specific efforts have been made to increase women’s economic activities and to enhance their participation and influence in community decision-making processes, the focus of the case study’.

Comment:

Gender stocktake!!! There is no evidence ‘that KIP has successfully integrated a number of key initiatives to raise the profile of gender equality and integrate it across development programming’ along the trail as they claim. The most effective means of increasing opportunities for women and men from the Kokoda trekking industry is to have it managed on a professional commercial basis. The 46 percent decline in trekker numbers since the Kokoda Initiative assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in work and income opportunities.

‘Across PNG, traditionally women in many communities have not filled decision-making or other public-facing roles within communities. In Kokoda, in addition to broader cultural norms and barriers around gender, specific gendered dynamics are introduced by the nature of the trekking industry. Together these present additional challenges for women as well as opportunities for change’.

Comment:

‘In Kokoda . . . specific gendered dynamics are introduced by the nature of the trekking industry’!!!  WTF!

‘Trekking generates cash income in remote communities with little other economic opportunities. To a large extent, men in the Kokoda communities are absent for long periods of time during the trekking season as they take roles as porters and guides. This leaves women and a high proportion of children in the communities. This necessitates women undertaking additional burdens in the absence of male family members. At the same time, the trekking industry presents additional opportunities to earn income if women engage economically. For many women this means running guest houses or campsites. Efforts by KIP in recent years have focused on diversifying the range of trekking-based economic opportunities for women as well as ensuring that women engage in collective efforts to organise trekking-based industries or landowner group’s. 

Comment:

There is no evidence to support the statement that the Kokoda Initiative has ‘focused on diversifying the range of trekking-based economic opportunities for women as well as ensuring that women engage in collective efforts to organise trekking-based industries or landowner groups.  Absolutely none!

‘KIP has focused on defining and socialising norms of collective organisation that involve women, through a compulsory requirement for their inclusion in formal committees and boards with minimum numbers and a looser requirement for equitable balance. Women have been included in board of management trainings. Informants noted many cases where women have been selected to participate and were supported or mentored to do so, including in management committees in health and education facilities as well as the campsite and guest haus association where rules of association including women have been defined’.

Comment:

The bureaucratic response to most challenges is to form a committee, an association or hold a forum. These are popular in PNG as participants are remunerated. There is no evidence of a single outcome from these bureaucratic forms of engagement since the Kokoda Initiative assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2009!

‘KIP has supported establishment and capacity building of the Campsite and Guesthouse Owners Association. This now has a board of 16, of which four are women (including the Association Secretary). The association has a clear gender lens across its constitution and code of conduct/practice’.

Comment:

Refer to the above comment.

The current reality is that campsite owners will not work together – even when brothers are involved. Each one wants all the business for themselves and will not share the benefits with each other.

At Templeton’s Crossing we were approached by two brothers who each wanted dventure Kokoda trekkers to camp at their site. When we suggested that our trekkers would camp at one site and our PNG support crew would camp at the other one – and we would pay them half each. They got into a heated argument and we eventually had to select one which we still use today. The same situation applies at other locations along the trail.

If we are unable to get family members working together there is little hope of getting agreement from neighbouring villages and the adjoining Province.

There is a need for a Master Campsite Development Plan that allows for both peak and non-peak trekking times. This would be a major exercise and well outside the minds of bureaucrats who have no skin in the game and no understanding of the Kokoda trekking industry.

‘Women are also engaged in community-level committees to develop and manage community museums. This participation is shaping development of trade hauses alongside local museums to promote women’s economic activities selling crafts and cultural products to trekkers which promises real development benefits to women and their households’.

Comment:

There is no evidence to support this assertion. There was no consultation with either villagers or trekkers regarding the need for local museums-trade hauses and no cost-benefit analysis to support the need.
 Unless the Kokoda Initiative can produce realistic data, they will be regarded as yet another failed ‘thought-bubble’ from Port Moresby/Canberra.

‘Alongside this promotion of formalised participation, KIP has emphasised the importance of equitable participation of men and women in broader community-level consultations. In particular, a community-driven development (CDD) program has been introduced to identify community initiatives through consultations with both men and women. Over the past year, five CDD initiatives were implemented, of which three directly support women, reflecting the positive outcomes of their participation in consultation processes. These were the community museum and trade hauses, a solar light initiative that ensures light for all households and a menstrual hygiene project.

‘The seif meri mun menstrual hygiene project implemented in conjunction with ADRA was hailed by informants as a welcome innovation, providing new skills to women (and two men) who learnt how to sew menstrual hygiene products, and benefiting women and girls who received these. Additionally, the project stimulated discussions around menstrual hygiene and broader sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Informants noted that discussions within communities were wide ranging following this and engaged both men and women in learning about the reproductive process and SRH. However, the initiative remains limited in scope and is, at present, not sustainable at the community level. It has potential to be sustained within the structure of ADRA’s vocational training college but would need a longer-term plan’.

Comment:

Network Kokoda, a Not-For-Profit company established by Adventure Kokoda, was involved in this project. Women’s groups from the Sogeri Plateau were employed at the Network Kokoda Women’s Centre where they were provided with sewing machines, material and instructions regarding the sewing of the products. The project was funded by DFAT.   This program could easily be continued at the Sogeri Women’s Centre; our Network Kokoda Community Centres at Abuari and Kokoda and villages along the trail amongst the families of the 140 guides and carriers we employ.

‘As well as roles in consultative and decision-making mechanisms, KIP supports women to engage in economic activities as part of the wider program. Guidelines promote the equal participation of men and women in project activities, for example requiring contractors to use both men and women as labourers in infrastructure projects to reinforce the message of women as economic actors and ensure that some income from these larger development projects goes to women. However, achievement of these requirements is not explicit and greater effort could be made to describe where this is possible and where it is not’.

Comment:

This is patronising drivel!

During our mapping expeditions of the trail we often came across village men and women establishing new gardens on the side of remote jungle-clad mountainsides.

At these sites there is usually nothing more than a shelter made from bush-material or a plastic tarp where they all cook, eat and sleep.

During the day they work as hard as we have seen anybody work – clearing ground, felling trees, burning-off and building wild-pig proof fences.

There is no gender imbalance involved in these essential subsistence activities – just roles that complement each other.  

‘Additionally, project activities also support women to undertake valuable social roles in the community, particularly as Village Health Volunteers (VHVs) where both men and women undertake crucial outreach functions following training and mentoring, including maternal and child health checks, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV testing and public health awareness raising. VHVs described the value they bring to women in remote locations and the dedication to their roles in challenging circumstances was evident, including finding any means possible to help women in childbirth reach hospital over inaccessible terrain and in a context where many women die due to the reluctance of family members to take them to hospital. All such visible roles within the community further reinforce the benefits of women’s empowerment’.

Comment:

More unsubstantiated drivel! The Kokoda Initiative and the Kokoda Track Authority refuse to develop a plan to evacuate seriously ill or injured villagers along the trail to Port Moresby for urgent medical treatment. They initially refused to assist a 14-year old Kokoda schoolgirl from Kokoda who needs an urgent lifesaving operation that can only performed overseas. At the same time, they had no hesitation in raiding $150,000 in trek fee income to ‘donate’ to a friendly Australian NGO to distribute as ‘educational supplements’. The Popondetta Hospital is not an option because of the ongoing tribal dispute between the Hospital Board and the medical staff.

‘Women’s social and economic activities to date appear well received across the communities as benefits are seen and discussions on additional ways in which women can contribute are ongoing. An interesting new avenue to build on general support is potential for women to undertake community ranger roles within the emerging protected area framework and management plan. KIP is aware of one other comparable example from the South Fly region of PNG and is able to describe key considerations in designing these roles to include women’.

Comment:

The Kokoda Track Ranger system introduced by the Kokoda Initiative is a complete failure. The rangers themselves seem to have given up as very few have been sighted along the trail in 2019. They feel that the Port Moresby based Kokoda Track Authority has little understanding or interest in their work. There are opportunities to be engaged as rangers but not until the Kokoda Initiative or the Kokoda Track Authority understands how a ranger should be engaged within the reality of the Kokoda trekking industry.

‘Despite these impressive efforts to normalise women’s engagement in local decision-making and some specific initiatives uniquely addressing women’s needs through women-led processes, persistent challenges to participation remain for many women. These include domestic responsibilities, lack of confidence, resistance from family members and power dynamics that prevent meaningful engagement or influence of women’.

Comment:

‘Impressive efforts’ – they are surely kidding!

‘Family and sexual violence (FSV) presents a key challenge as elsewhere in PNG. KIP currently has a gap in terms of addressing this but demonstrates emergent thinking on how to work with specialist organisations to tackle this. Most importantly, with the risk of backlash and increased violence high in response to gender equality programming, KIP urgently needs to ensure a ‘do no harm’ approach that spans all programming’.

Comment:

This is a patronising insult to the communities who adhere to the faith of the Seventh Day Adventist Church along the Kokoda Trail and it demonstrates the lack of knowledge by the authors.


Alcohol and drugs are forbidden in these communities – they attend church twice daily and almost all day on the Sabbath. Family and sexual violence is not an issue in these communities.

‘In other contexts, additional activities have been effective in addressing persistent challenges. For example, women’s confidence to participate at all and to do so with impact as representatives of other women can be increased through literacy interventions. Additionally, where women have little history of collective action or even economic and social engagement introducing projects for women to act collectively in a simpler space can be an effective precursor to wider engagement and influence. This might include livelihood support groups or health support groups’.

Comment:

This does not reflect our collective experience across the trail over the past 29 years. We have watched women’s’ soccer matches in the middle of a village where all the men and children gathered to cheer on their team.  After a match the men would play with all the women and kids cheering.

Canberra journalist, Marion Frith, captured the spirit of village life in 1992:

‘It is as if we have arrived.  Somewhere, anywhere.  Our guides sit with us, their families join us, and the village and its people become imprinted in our hearts.  Another woman and I join the evening church service and are entranced as the pastor, his face illuminated by a hurricane lamp, recites the prayers in pidgin and the children’s voices rise in harmony so sweet we never want it to end.
‘We are silent as we get up from the rough-hewn pew.  At that moment we have experienced life at its most perfect, superb in its simplicity, and suddenly we realise that the walk was worth it, if only to find this.  Peace and joy are tangible, if fleeting, qualities and we know that where we are going to, where we have come from, we will probably never find it again.  We want to seal the village in barbed wire and never let the world touch it.’  This was 16 years before Australian bureaucrats from the Kokoda Initiative arrived to impose their antipodean canons on a culture very much at peace with itself in their local village environments due to their adherence to their Seventh Day Adventist Faith.

‘Other barriers to women’s real influence and ability to benefit from opportunities have been addressed effectively elsewhere in PNG with behaviour change interventions, particularly working with men at household level or with community gatekeepers. These are also effective responses to FSV. Other work on norms has proved effective in helping households to plan jointly for generation and use of resources, reducing the likelihood of backlash against women earning money where collective benefits are recognised and increasing the positive impact of increased incomes across the household. To move further towards real development benefits for women, households and the wider community innovative programming models to address persistent challenges could be implemented in partnership with specialist NGOs’.

Comment:

One report initiated by the Kokoda Initiative advised campsite owners how to budget for electricity, wages and taxation from the campsite fees they received!
The challenge for the campsite owners who were given a copy of the report – in English – which none of them understood – was related to the fact that there is no electricity available across the trail; they do not pay wages; and they are part of the ‘informal economy’ that doesn’t pay tax.

‘A baseline conducted in Kokoda in 2017 showed that key gender-related development indicators were good compared to other areas, including numbers of attended births or gender parity in school attendance. With clear changes at programmatic level and reported positive outcomes in terms of participation, it is to be expected that this positive development trajectory remains evident when a new survey is undertaken in 2019. The repeat household survey could include more detailed enquiry into women’s roles in leadership, both in terms of how they function and what changes this sets in motion in terms of wider development outcomes as a basis for further interventions’.

Comment:

Villagers along the Kokoda Trail worked this out long before the arrival of Kokoda Initiative officials from Canberra!

‘In other parts of KIP gender equality considerations could be further incorporated. A key area is institutionalisation of the government GESI policy within the Conservation and Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) or within the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG). There is an opportunity for women’s participation to run further through the program although gendered perspectives are already recognised. For example, NMAG principles include a gendered approach to heritage interpretation, highlighting women’s stories wherever possible, but it is important that it reflects this value across its staffing and community engagements’.

Comment:

This paragraph should be classified under the heading of ‘Irrelevant Academic Crap’!

‘Overall, the indications are positive that changes introduced to KIP to address gender inequality have set the program on a good trajectory towards higher level development outcomes. The combination of supporting women into leadership roles, broader economic empowerment of women and other social interventions appear to be mutually reinforcing and present an opportunity to complement this with deeper behaviour change and norms interventions to tackle more deep-rooted barriers to development. Additional ways to reinforce the value of women’s participation where cultural norms may count against this could be introduced, particularly work at household or community level around resource and role sharing and identification of the benefits for all where women are more active in social and economic roles’.

Comment:

Refer to the  above comment.

‘Women in decision-making can deliberately foster broader participation of women in social life, with a focus on voice and accountability. As KIP evolves over coming years in the context of political and institutional change in PNG there will be opportunities to foster citizen participation more broadly to build relationships between citizens and state and non-state service providers. The work done to date under KIP is good preparation but can be further consolidated to ensure that women across communities are able to engage as these channels evolve’.

Comment:

The empowerment of women across the Kokoda Trail will be directly linked to the success of the Kokoda trekking industry – more trekkers equals more income which will result in more economic opportunities and better social outcomes in health and education!
It is worth noting that in 1992 less than 100 Australians trekked Kokoda each year – at that time the combined income of all the subsistence villagers along the trail was estimated to be $30,000 per annum. After former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s visit to Kokoda on the 50th anniversary of the campaign and the opening of the Isurava Memorial by Prime Ministers John Howard and Sir Michael Somare on the 60th anniversary trekker numbers increased by 1440 percent to 5621 in 2008. After Australian Government environment officials assumed control of the PNG Kokoda Track Authority in 2009 trekker numbers have declined by 42 percent to 3300. The loss of wages, campsite fees and food purchases along the trail means that village economies are now worse off by $1.4 million (PNGK 3.2 million) per year – this equates to a combined loss of $10 million (PNGK23.5 million) since 2008[ii]. Until we are able to rebuild the Kokoda trekking industry the most effective way to assist women along the trail is to respect their commitment to their faith; to ensure they have sufficient food in their gardens; have access to a health centre with a trained nurse; and an elementary/primary school with trained teachers or their children. The next important step is to engage them in local workshops to look at opportunities they have for earning additional income from trekkers. There are opportunities for women to be engaged by trek operators, but this will not happen until there are suitable facilities to meet their needs at campsites. There are opportunities to encourage trek operators to include PNG women in treks that have Australian female trekkers. This would provide a valuable opportunity for them to network with each other and keep in touch after the trek. PNG female students could be included in school groups during the peak holiday periods each year. This will not happen until there is a management system that can inform them of the number of trekkers arriving in their villages and the estimated time of their arrival to allow them sufficient time to prepare food; display items for sale; and prepare a cultural welcoming ceremony.

CONCLUSION

Australians are motivated to trek across the Kokoda Trail because of the significance of the Kokoda campaign in 1942.They do not trek it to have an ‘environmental levitation’ or a ‘cultural awakening’ – they do it as a pilgrimage to honour our troops who fought in the Kokoda campaign during our darkest days and succeeded against all the odds.

They want to experience the remnants of the steps up the infamous ‘golden staircase’; to feel the pain of climbing ‘Engineers Ridge; to wonder how our soldiers felt in their weapon pits on the forward slopes of ‘Brigade Hill’ as they waited to meet the enemy; to follow the footsteps of Private Bruce Kingsbury as he led a counter attack against the Japs at Isurava; to stand on the ground defended by Charlie McCallum as he bravely stood between the Japs and his men to protect their escape. They want to see Captain Butch Bissett was machine gunned; where Ben Buckler led his fateful patrol; where Captains Claude Nye and Brett Langridge led their heroic charge at Brigade Hill; where Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Honner held his famous parade at Menari with ‘Those Ragged Bloody Heroes’ of the 39th Battalion; where Corporal John Metson and Sergeant Lindsay Bear crawled on all fours along the trail refusing all offers for help because they had mates ‘a lot worse off than us’!

Those who are not motivated by the wartime significance of the Kokoda Trail but who wish to have a similar physical challenge in a remote pristine environment with similar cultures are able to trek across the Kapa Kapa Track which parallels the Kokoda Trail to the east.

Regrettably the term ‘Kokoda’ has been hijacked by Environment-DFAT officials to give relevance to projects that have no association with the wartime heritage of the Kokoda Trail. During the 10 years they have been responsible for the trail they have displayed an ideological resistance to commemoration and to trekking.

This is supported by the fact that the Kokoda Initiative has refused to engage an accredited Military Heritage Architect to develop a Master Heritage Interpretation Plan for the Kokoda Trail and that trekker number have declined by 46 percent since they assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2008.

The Kokoda Initiative has been able to take advantage of the fact that it is not subject to the same scrutiny that applies in Australia and that it is relatively easy to deflect blame onto PNG Government agencies such as the Kokoda Track Authority and the ‘Melanesian Way’. A number of practices it has condoned such as the ‘donation’ of $150,000 of trek fee income to a friendly Australian NGO; the processes involved in the recruitment of a National Military Heritage Advisor; the allocation of a contract for the conduct of a ‘management trek’ across the trail’; and the conduct of the KTA Review would likely attract the attention of a Government watchdog if it happened in Australia.

The likelihood of a World Heritage nomination for the Kokoda Trail has been debunked by environmental experts in the field. It should now be separated from the trail and focus on the flora and fauna of the Owen Stanley Ranges.

The engagement of an array of Australian consultants who are unfamiliar with Papua New Guinea and the ‘Melanesian Way’ and the fact that they have not conducted any meetings at the village level over the past decade is evidence of a ‘top-down’ approach which will never work in PNG. The results that have led to a 46 percent decline in trekker numbers supports this assertion.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific in 2020 there is a need for the development of a separate Joint Agreement for Commemoration with a focus of the preservation of our shared wartime history. 

PNG is the custodian of land sacred to the wartime history of Australia, the United States and Japan. It therefore has the potential to develop a successful commercial model for a wartime tourism industry based on campaigns and battles at Rabaul, Milne Bay, Buna-Gona-Sanananda; Shaggy Ridge; the Black-Cat Track; Bougainville; Lae; Wewak and numerous other locations.

A Joint Agreement for Commemoration should seek to establish the Kokoda Trail as a model for such an industry.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. A Ministerial Inquiry be conducted into the issues identified in the submission;
  2. ‘The Kokoda Initiative’ be redesignated as ‘The Owen Stanley Ranges Initiative’ to reflect its role in the establishment of a World Heritage Nomination for the Owen Stanley Ranges;
  3. A ‘Joint Understanding for Commemoration’ be developed to honour and interpret our shared wartime heritage in Papua New Guinea:
  4. The Department of Veterans Affairs be designated as the responsible agency for the ‘Joint Understanding for Commemoration’ as per their charter:
  5. An accredited Military Heritage Architect be engaged to develop a Master Heritage Interpretation Plan for the Kokoda Trail:
  6. DFAT Funding be provided to the PNG Government for 2-3 years for the following positions whilst a Kokoda Trail Management Company is established with Incorporated Landowner Groups from across the trail as shareholders
    • Professional Business Administrator;
    • Incorporated Landowner Group Co-ordinator; and
    • An accredited Chief Ranger

The recommendations address the concerns expressed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the Federal Parliament after his ‘Mateship Trek’ across the Kokoda Trail April 2010.


[i]https://dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/Documents/annual-review-of-the-papua-new-guinea-australia-governance-partnership-2019.pdf

[ii] Trekker numbers have declined from 6621 in 2008 to 3300 in 2018 – a reduction of 2321 trekkers. Given that each trekker would be supported by an average of two PNG guides and carriers; the average trek is 8 day in duration; the average daily rate of pay is $30 per day; the average campsite fee is $10 per night; and the average spend on village food and souvenirs is $125 the total amount equates to a shortfall of $1.4 million (PNGK3.2 million) per annum – a total loss in the vicinity of $10 million (PNGK23.5 million) in village income since 2008.