If ever there was a time for PNG villagers to reclaim ownership of their Kokoda Trail it is NOW!

In the early ’90s the road to Owers Corner used to be described by Australian High Commissioners as ‘the road to nowhere!’

And for very good reason – up ’till the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 1992 nobody used it!

After Paul Keating became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit Kokoda – and kiss the ground in a symbolic genuflection to our shared wartime heritage – there was a brief national awakening to the significance of the war on our doorstep.

A decade later, former Prime Minister, John Howard, commissioned a sacred memorial at the battlesite of Isurava where gallant young Australian soldiers, as young as 16 years of age, fought an epic battle against overwhelming odds at what has become known as Australia’s Alamo.

Since then, the place, in New Guinea Pidgin parlance, has gone ‘bagarrap pinis’!

Subsequent Prime Ministers’ have gone MIA.

The void has been filled by environmental bureaucrats with a keen eye to their own aid-funded career longevity and an unwritten policy of ‘not mentioning the war’ to ensure local ‘natives’ are consigned to a permanent state of aid-dependent subservience.

The sealing of the ‘road to nowhere’ will most likely be the basis of their next PowerPoint presentation to their ‘white mastas’ in Canberra’s ‘big haus’ to secure a bigger chunk of our aid-budget. All they have to do is somehow link the magic word ‘Kokoda’ to their next submission!

If you were to ask the local natives what they think about all this, they would question the fact that not a single dollar has been allocated towards the development and interpretation of any battlesite across the Trail to enhance the value of the pilgrimage for the paying customers. Not a single dollar has been spent on a hygienic toilet for them to use. Not a single dollar has been spent on helping them to earn additional income from the pilgrims. Not a single dollar has been spent on facilitating workshops to work out what THEY would like to help improve their subsistence lifestyles.

It’s all been spent on Port Moresby based officials, consultants, and their ‘thought-bubbles’ for their next academic paper or PowerPoint presentation!

The cost of sealing the ‘road to nowhere’ by Port Moresby based contractors could have paid the wages of subsistence villagers to maintain the Trail in an environmentally safe condition for the next 10 years!

The cost of helicopter rides for Port Moresby based Australian officials, on eye-watering 6-figure salary packages for ‘official openings’ of projects would pay the wages of village nurses for at least the next five years!

Past trekkers will question what the multi-million-dollar sealed road to Ower’s Corner leads to.

It will come as no surprise to them that it leads to a dominant propaganda sign dedicated to themselves:

There are a couple of other politically correct, but historically incorrect, taxpayer funded signs at the site.

But there is NOTHING to interpret what lay ahead for many of our teenage diggers who stepped into the abyss of an experience that would haunt the survivors forever – or for the hundreds of broken and bloodied bodies carried to ‘safety and the care of mothers’ over nightmarish terrain by selfless, unsung ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’. Nothing but a commemorative junkyard!

If ever there was a place to symbolize the ‘don’t give a f#*k’ attitude of successive Government Ministers over the past 30 years – it is the end of the ‘road to nowhere!

Lest We Forget – indeed!

WTF one might say as they approach the end of a sealed taxpayer funded ‘road to nowhere‘ at Owers Corner!
The dominant propaganda sign at the end of the aid-funded ‘Road to Nowhere’!

Current ‘Owers Corner Memorial Junkyard’ just beyond the propaganda sign at the end of the ‘road to nowhere’.
Toilet at Owers Corner
Inside toilet at Owers Corner
A taxpayer-funded helicopter insertion of Port Moresby based officials for the ‘official opening’ of an aid-funded log-bridge at Agulogo on the Kokoda Trail – it should be noted that local villagers have been building these types of bridges for thousands of years!
Classroom in an aid-funded school for 50 students in a village with a population of 35-50 people. A helicopter load of DFAT officials flew in for the ‘official opening’ – none have been seen since!
Propaganda signs such as this are littered across the Kokoda Trail – according to locals they were inserted by helicopter borne tradesmen with an accompanying DFAT PR crew!
One of the most common questions asked by trekkers is ‘What type of tree, or plant is that?’
They never believe my answer: ‘It’s a ‘Dogwood’!
But it’s the best I can do because there is not a single environmental sign anywhere across the entire
trail to identify the wild variety of plants, orchids, or trees!
Typical non-Aid-funded toilet across the Kokoda Trail for the 54,000 Australian trekkers who have paid for the privilege of having a quite shat in the jungle during their trek across the Trail.