Charlie Lynn, a former army major, first trekked across the Kokoda Trail in 1991. Prior to this only a small number of hardy adventurers trekked across the trail each year.
At this time the combined income of all the villagers along the trail was estimated to be approximately K60,000 per year.
In 1992 Charlie organised and led a group of 20 trekkers across the trail to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign. His trek featured as a cover story in the Bulletin magazine.
The publicity sparked enough interest in the trek for Charlie to organise another trek later in the year with a group of journalists. This trek led to national stories in the Australian newspaper, the Canberra Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Age.
The interest generated by these treks led to more treks the following year and this led to more media stories in national newspapers and magazines.
Around this time Charlie began to lobby the Australian government to work with the PNG Government to have the Kokoda Trail proclaimed as a National Memorial Park. Unfortunately, it was not on their radar and there was little interest from either government at the time.
In 1996, Channel 9 asked Charlie to lead a group of celebrities including Angry Anderson, Colette Mann, Darryl Braithwaite, Dermot Brereton, Shelley Taylor-Smith and Dr Kerryn Phelps across the trail for an Anzac Special. The group was joined by a young PNG botanist, Justin Tkatchenko in Port Moresby (Justin is now the Minister for APEC in the PNG Government). The documentary was titled ‘the Angry Anderson Kokoda Challenge’ and was viewed by more than 3 million people.
Over the following three years Charlie was asked to lead treks sponsored by all the major television networks. This created an enormous amount of interest in trekking Kokoda.
As a direct result of the increasing public interest in the Kokoda campaign the Australian government built a significant memorial on the Isurava battlesite which Charlie had re-discovered 2000. The memorial was officially opened by Prime Ministers’ Sir Michael Somare and John Howard on 26th August 2002.
Charlie then lobbied the PNG Government to establish a Kokoda Track Authority to manage the emerging trekking industry and ensure local villagers received shared benefits from it. He worked closely with Sir Peter Barter, the Minister for Intergovernmental Relations and his company, Adventure Kokoda, provided an advance of $10,000 to enable it operate for the first couple of months.
After the opening of the Isurava Memorial trekker numbers began to increase rapidly from 365 in 2002 to a peak of 5621 in 2008. Over the past decade more than 40,000 trekkers have now crossed Kokoda. This generated approximately $150 million into the PNG economy. Approximately $30 million of this has benefited local villages directly in wages, campsite fees, food and souvenirs. But most importantly it generates positive stories on PNG and now acts as a gateway for the establishment of firm friendships between Australian trekkers and their PNG guides and carriers.
The Australian and PNG governments have received approximately $15 million in GST as a result of the Kokoda tourism industry.
As a result, the Kokoda Trail has emerged as the most popular tourist destination in PNG.
Charlie Lynn’s commitment to PNG is broader than his involvement with the Kokoda Trail.
In 2003 Charlie developed and funded the establishment of The Kokoda Track Foundation which provides educational scholarships and health care support to villagers along the Kokoda Trail.
During the drought in PNG in 2004 he established a ‘PNG Drought Appeal’ in partnership with the National Australian Bank and the Returned Services League. The appeal raised half-a-million dollars which was used to purchase seeds for villagers in the highlands. Charlie accompanied the consignment to PNG which was then distributed by Australian Army helicopters.
Later in 2004 he undertook a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Study Tour to PNG to investigate access for seasonal work opportunities for PNG workers. This led to a submission to the Australian Senate on the issue.
In 2010 Charlie established Network Kokoda as a Not-For-Profit company. Community Development Centre at Sogeri and Abuari village have since been established plus a large fish farm at Iaowari High School.
In 2012 Charlie was invited by Mr Glenn Armstrong of Air Niugini to develop a program to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign. The program included the painting of a map of the Kokoda Trail on a new B767; the participation of singer/songwriter, John Williamson, in the official 70th Anniversary Dawn Service at Bomana War Cemetery; a concert hosted by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at Parliament House; and the production of a documentary on Rabaul which is now screened on the Air Niugini inflight program.
During his 20-years as a Member of the NSW Legislative Council hosted the PNG Independence Day Celebrations and hosted numerous PNG delegations in the NSW Parliament.
In 2014 he hosted a two day Centenary Forum for the PNG Australia Association at Parliament House. Speakers included Senator The Hon Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Major-General Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC; H.E. Charles Lepani, PNG High Commissioner to Australia; and Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston AC, AFC.
In 2015 Charlie was inducted 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.
In 2018 Charlie was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his services to the Parliament of New South Wales between 1995 and 2015.
Record of Service
|DATE||MAJOR CHARLIE LYNN OAM OL psc|
|1965||Conscripted into the Australian Army|
|1967||Served in Vietnam with 17th Construction Squadron RAE|
|1968||Graduated from Officer Cadet School, Portsea as a 2nd Lieutenant|
|1971-73||Served with the ANZUK Force in Singapore|
|1974||Platoon Commander with 176th Air Dispatch Company|
|1976||Squadron Commander with 30th Terminal Squadron|
|1977-78||Exchange Instructor with the United States Army Airborne Logistics School|
|1979-80||Officer Commanding, Army Air Movement Training and Development Unit|
|1981||Graduated from Army Command and Staff College|
|1982-84||Senior Staff Officer for Personnel and Logistics at HQ 1st Brigade|
|1985||Staff Officer at Army HQ, Canberra|
|1985-86||Senior Staff Officer for Personnel and Logistics at HQ 1st Brigade|
|1886||Retired from army with rank of Major|
|1984-1991||Race Director of Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon|
|1991||Established ‘Adventure Kokoda’ – Trekked Kokoda|
|1992||Led a 50th Anniversary Trek across the Kokoda Trail|
|1992-2014||Led 75 expeditions across the Kokoda Trail with more than 4500 trekkers|
|1995||Elected to the NSW Parliament|
|2002||Established the Kokoda Track Foundation|
|2009||Established Network Kokoda Not-For-Profit Foundation|
|2011||Appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans Affairs|
|2011||Established NSW Parliamentary Friends of Papua New Guinea Committee|
|2012||Worked in partnership with Air Niugini to host 70th Anniversary Commemorative events|
|2015||Retired from NSW Parliament|
|2015||Inducted as an Officer of Logohu in the PNG New Years Honours and Awards.|
|2018||Inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia|
|2023||Completed his 101st crossing of the Kokoda Trail|
Following is a summary of positive publicity Charlie has generated for Papua New Guinea and the Kokoda Trail:
Following is a list of the national television stories Charlie has generated through his treks:
NAIONAL TELEVISION SHOWS FEATURING THE KOKODA TRAIL
‘Angry Anderson Kokoda Challenge’
‘Getaway on Kokoda’
‘Sydney Swans on Kokoda’
‘Father Chris Riley’s Kids on Track’
|ABC Compass – Channel 2 ‘Cronulla to Kokoda’||http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q48HEYWTZVU&list=PLCz7qUl9FFmqihaijuadJPoA8sJIU0D8q|
Following is a list of submissions, papers and blogs Charlie has produced and submitted in support of initiatives to ensure the wartime integrity of the Kokoda Trail is protected and Australia’s relationship with PNG is improved:
Following is a list of philanthropic programs Charlie has initiated and funded to support the people of PNG:
|Initiated a Joint PNG Drought Appeal with the RSL that raised K1 million in 1996||Travelled to PNG to assist in distributing food and seed to affected areas in army Blackhawk helicopters.|
|Established and funded Network Kokoda|
|Initiated Integrated Agricultural Project at Sogeri National High School||http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/SogeriAgriculturalLearningProjectMarketGarden.pdf|
|Support educational programs along the Kokoda Trail||http://newsletter.kokodatreks.com/003-January_2007.html|
|Seed Nursery at the Sogeri National High School||http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/SogeriAgriculturalLearningProjectSeedNurseryPics.pdf|
|Abuari Community Learning Centre||http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/AbuariCommunityDevelopmentCentre.pdf|
|Water projects in the Sogeri community||http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/AbuariCommunityDevelopmentCentre.pdf|
|Established Kokoda Bursary Program at Port Moresby Grammar School|
|Sponsoring a Port Moresby Grammar School Student through a Commerce Degree||http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/MargaretAitsiDivineWordUniversityResultsto2012.pdf|
Following is a selection of testimonials acknowledging Charlie’s work in PNG and along the Kokoda Trail:
“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.” Sir Peter Barter, PNG Minister for Intergovernment Relations.
|The Hon Arthur Somare MP, PNG Minister for National Planning: ‘Dear Mr Lynn, I write to personally thank you for arranging to meet the members of the PNG Parliamentary Select Committee on the Pacific Economic Community in Sydney last week. We are very grateful for you hosting lunch for us at your beautiful parliament setting. Your tireless work over the years in promoting Papua New Guinea in Australia and the world is something we are very grateful for and will do everything possible to compliment your efforts in the future. I am pleased that the PNG Tourism Authority has been working closely with you on issues of interest concerning the Kokoda Trail and the promotion of tourism as a vibrant industry in PNG. I will shortly be bringing to the attention of the Ministry for Works the urgency to upgrade the road leading to Owers Corner in Sogeri area. It is my hope that our meeting in Sydney has set the foundation for further enhancement of relations at a personal level between our two countries. I very much look forward to meeting you and your co-workers again when you next visit Port Moresby. Yours sincerely, Arthur T. Somare MP|
| Major-General Peter Phillips, National President of the RSL|
‘Dear Charlie, I am pleased to advise that the National Executive of the RSL has endorsed the proposal to establish a master plan for development of a Kokoda Track Memorial Park. Thank you for taking the time to address our National Executive and for the personal effort you have put into promoting this concept. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the epic battles of the Kokoda Track, it is appropriate that we honour those who lost their lives there or served their country so valiantly. Yours sincerely. Major-General Peter Phillips AO MC”
|Senator Bob Carr Foreign Minister and former Premier of NSW|
Dear Charlie, I’ve always been impressed by your love of the Track and your determination to ensure its place in the Australian imagination is never lost. You know better than most that the Kokoda Track isn’t just a place where our salvation was won – though we should remember and document and treasure every inch of it. Kokoda’s now part of the Australian Dreaming, a sacred site. More than that the Men of Kokoda are among the greatest of heroes in a land that rightly canonizes few heroes. And as time slowly steals the survivors from our midst, its hard to resist thinking that Australians in the not too distant future will look back with almost disbelief at the giants who lived in those days. The Hon Bob Carr MP Premier of New South Wales
|Don Daniels MBE: Founder and Chairman of Port Moresby Grammar School Good morning Mr Lynn Years ago, we first met in the dining room of the Parliament of New South Wales when you invited Dame Carol Kidu and myself to a dinner. The occasion then was about assisting Papua New Guinea students, especially those from villages along the Kokoda track. Little did I know then, how much Port Moresby Grammar School is now in your debt for the support you have given the school. Among other things, this support consists of: four Adventure Kokoda bursariesyour kindness in sponsoring Margaret Aitsi and Alfreda Nakue on the trip of a lifetime to Australiaover 2500 books received for the library and classroomsa plethora of stationery suppliesmedical equipment and suppliesa wide variety of sports gearK3500 in cash for special needs aspects in the schoolExposure of our students to wonderful ordinary Australians who come to PNG….and reciprocally for Aussies to see and bond with Papua New Guineans within the school environment. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the School, please accept our sincere and grateful thanks for that you have done and we hope this special bond between POM Grammar and Kokoda will continue and strengthen. Sincerely DONALD DANIELS MBE|
|Tessie Soi, PNG Friends Foundation Inc|
‘Dear Charlie, ‘Thanks a million for the 2 computers dropped off at the office. I was in Babaka village, 3 hours drive from Pom. ‘ Staff advised me of your kind donation. ‘ My Admin Manager, Mr pana Sitapai will email you through email@example.com when the office downstairs is completed. ‘ Its great to hear that i can email you when i am in dire straits and i will also give you updates and how our programs are going. ‘ I can use someone else as a sounding board. which i hope you don’t mind. ‘ But thanks a million for helping me do my programs for our people. Tessie’
|Mike Luff, Deputy Principal, Port Moresby Grammar School|
‘Hello Charlie, ‘Hope all is well down your way. Collected a good number of books the other evening with Chad & Ron Beattie’s Group! Our number of books and DVDs totals 1035. All brought forward in the past 12 months approx. A fabulous effort! This does not include pencils, pens and other drawing materials. ‘On the turn around side Port Moresby Grammar school has done the following: 6 cartons of reading books were delivered to Taurama Barracks Community School along with a heap of stationary;7 cartons of books were presented to Bavaroko Community School (our next door neighbour);1 carton was given to a small group called “We Care” in the Hohola settlement area. Mums teaching street kids to read; and 2 cartons were sent to Gaire community school on request. ‘ All of these are a result of culling as new books come into our library. Where there is a doubling up we give these away in the cartons. Some of your books we use as incentives and prizes to kids at Pom Grammar for good work. The culture of reading has been substantially enhanced since your program has started. Popular novels are being read throughout the school. The library staff are really doing a fine job. ‘ Friends Foundation gave us a wooden coin box and in the first fortnight we collected K250- for Tessie’s group. ‘ Our next quest is to build up the culling cartons again so that Sogeri Community school and Ioiari High school are provided with books. ‘ Nixon and the West Papuans are still at Gerehu. The six we have at Pom Grammar are still in school. Many of the other school kids have been “pushed out” or have simply given up – sorry to say. However, we will keep going with our little group. The West Papuan girls especially enjoy the hockey competition on a Sunday afternoon. ‘ Things are going very well at present and a big lot of thanks to you. ‘ We would like to see you at the school when you are next up this way – is that possible? ‘Regards, ‘Mike’
|James Enage: Chairman, Kokoda Track Authority|
Dear Charlie, I wish to thank you, your lovely wife and the Adventure Kokoda Management for financially supporting the Kokoda Track Sports Development Program within this year, 2009. I had acknowledged your contribution to this very special project in various appropriate forums and have informed the boys and people along the Kokoda Track about your support. In relation to the outcome of the Program, preparations are now underway by four (4) Local Rugby League Clubs in Queensland who are keen to engage few boys from the Kokoda Track to play in the local Queensland Rugby League Competition next year, 2010. Hopefully, the various Rugby Club offers (Work, Match payments, Accommodation) for the boys should be made available towards the end of January and I will make the announcements in the middle or towards the end of February, 2010. Also the Gold Coast Titans Junior Development Team Management are keen to recruit school boys from the Kokoda Track area next year to be part of the Gold Coast Titans Junior Development Team under Football Scholarships. We will announce this program shortly. Since you have pioneered in supporting this program, I trust you will continue to support this program. I look forward to continue working with you in this very special Project in the New Year. James Enage Chairman
Two recent articles summarise Charlie’s feelings towards Kokoda and PNG as a result of his association with the country, its people and our wartime heritage:
|Wouldn’t it be great if . . .||http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/2007NewsletterArticlereAustralianElectionCampaign.pdf|
|Straight shooter soldiers on . . .||http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/straight-shooter-soldiers-on-20130208-2e3kd.html|