Charlie Lynn has welcomed the decision of the PNG National Court to grant Adventure Kokoda’s application for an injunction against the revocation of our tour operator’s license by the Minister for Environment, Conservation, and Climate Change on 24 April 2023.
Today our lawyers argued that the Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change did not have any legal jurisdiction over the management of the Kokoda Trail – this rests with the Minister for Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs.
We look forward to the judicial hearing in the National Court where we will be able to prove to the court that we not only paid all of our trek fees for the Anzac trekking period in full – but we also paid an additional $5300 to campsite owners across the Trail to help them rebuild their sites after Covid. They advised this was the first additional funding they had ever received in addition to their normal campsite fees.
In the meantime, Adventure Kokoda can continue our normal operation across the Trail – but more importantly it means that 350 of our guides and porters have got their jobs back.
‘This is the first interruption we have had to our treks since we helped establish Kokoda tourism with the former Minister for Inter-Government Relations, the late Sir Peter Barter in 2004′, said Lynn
‘When we began leading treks in 1992 there was NO Kokoda tourism industry and NO benefits for any villagers across the Trail.
‘All we have ever wanted since we established the industry is to have our shared military heritage across the Kokoda Trail properly honoured and protected for the economic benefit of the traditional custodians of this sacred land.
‘Since Adventure Kokoda began operating in 1992, we have generated more positive publicity for PNG Tourism than any other organisation.
‘We rediscovered the original battle sites at Brigade Hill and Isurava.
‘We rediscovered the original wartime trail and produced the only 1:25000 topographical map of the area between Owers Corner and Kokoda.
‘We are the major philanthropic provider along the Trail. We have built a TB Isolation Ward at Popondetta Hospital, an agricultural centre at Sogeri, a community centre in Abuari village, a Fish Farm at Iaowari High School, provided scholarships from primary school to university, and made generous donations of school and health supplies across the Trail.
‘We have reduced the weights our guides and porters carry to 18 kg which was the maximum allowed during the Kokoda campaign. We provide them with full trek uniforms, sleeping bags and mats We provide for their medical welfare and feed them well.
‘We have evacuated villagers who need urgent medical care in Port Moresby and paid for their operations and rehabilitation.
‘In recent years we have been critical of the failure of the management system imposed on the PNG management authority by Australian environment officials within DFAT which has resulted in a fall of 46 percent for Kokoda tourism.
‘This has resulted in a cumulative loss of some $19 million (PNGK49 million) in foregone revenue for guides, porters, campsite owners and local village purchases.
‘We have also been critical of their failure to publish annual financial reports as well as their failures to introduce any management systems for Kokoda tourism; their failure to ensure the safety of the Trail; their failure to assist campsite owners to develop sites that meet the needs of their paying customers; and their failure to introduce any micro-business initiatives for village communities.
‘Rather than address our concerns they have decided to attack the messenger.
‘We therefore look forward to our day in court’, said Lynn
Most things we do are triggered by the combination of a thought, a picture, an experience.
This picture I took in a hut along the Kokoda Trail almost 30 years ago has never left my mind.
In those days there were few trekkers and few income earning opportunities for local villagers.
When I entered this hut and saw this woman with her boy sitting behind a fire roasting a bit of kai kai all I saw in her eyes was hope for better things to come. A school education for her boy, some work for him, some medicine in the village health centre, and some easier access to a bigger village or town.
This motivated me to lobby the PNG Government to establish a management authority to ensure this mother and her ‘wan-toks’ across the Trail received a fair share of benefits from the emerging Kokoda tourism industry.
It motivated me to sign up volunteers who had trekked with us to support our fundraising drives to support our programs in PNG – and what a team they have turned out to be.
Not everything has worked as we had hoped however our experiences have focused our strategies on the most effective way to help in the long term – and that is through providing education scholarships from village to university which will be linked to the names of those buried at Bomana War Cemetery.
We plan to honour Rudyard Kipling’s quote on the Stone of Remembrance ‘Their name liveth for evermore’ by having the names of our veterans who sacrificed their lives linked to each scholarship. Our fundraising strategy will be based on ‘Kokoda Day’ which falls on the 3rd November and commemorates the raising of the Australian Flag on the Kokoda Plateau after the Australians had re-captured Kokoda on that day in 1942.
We established Network Kokoda to assist us in raising funds for charitable projects across the Trail. Our fundraising dinners in the NSW and Victorian Parliaments as well as various RSL Clubs has allowed us to raise sufficient funds to develop a strategic plan for the Trail; to provide support to schools; build village community development centres; a Women’s Community Education Centre; a hospital ward at Popondetta;and other projects associated with village health and education,
The late Sergeant Bede Tongs MM, Kokoda veteran, addressing a Network Kokoda fundraising dinner at Parliament House, Sydney
The late Lieutenant Colonel ‘Kanga’ Moore, 39th Battalion veteran, addressing our Network Kokoda function at Parliament House in Melbourne
Former PNG Prime Minister, The Hon Peter O’Neill, addressing a Network Kokoda fundraising dinner at Parliament House, Port Moresby
Our entertainers – John Williamson in Port Moresby and Angry Anderson (who has trekked with us twice) in Sydney
Our emergency evacuations from across the Trail
Over the years Adventure Kokoda has been called upon to arrange emergency medical evacuations from along the Trail. We find it is not possible to say ‘sori, no can help’ on these occasions so we bring them down to Kokoda, put them on one of our charter flights and book them into the Port Moresby International Hospital, pay for the operation in advance, and then arrange accommodation for the parent for a week or more in Port Moresby. We have sought assistance from the Kokoda Track Authority in the past without success. Unfortunately – we find it difficult to understand why they haven’t introduced a ‘village welfare levy’ to assist in providing emergency medical support for their own people.
Billy is from Hoi village – he had fallen on a machete and been operated on at Popondetta Hospital. Unfortunately, all the internal stitching had come undone and the village asked us for help. We brought him back to Port Moresby on our charter aircraft and I arranged for Bob Howarth, Editor of the Post Courier newspaper at the time to arrange for an urgent operation. We then conducted a fundraiser among out trekkers. Billy had a full recovery and was back in the village on our next trek.
Daisy is from Hoi villager. Her baby did not seem to have any control over his movements. We brought them back to the Port Moresby International Hospital where they diagnosed the baby with cerebral palsy. There was not much more we could do and Daisy returned to her village. She has had some difficult hardships during Covid and was speechless when we presented her with a K2000 donation to assist with refurbishing her campsite during our Anzac trek last month.
The parents of baby Roger had travelled to Popondetta Hospital – 90m km from Kokoda – twice on the back of a truck. The hospital did not have any oxygen so they could not operate-they told the familty to go back to their village near Hoi. As we were finishing out trek they brought the baby out and told us the story. This is not something we could walk past so we had them join us on our charter flight from Kokoda to Port Moresby and arranged an operation for the boy – and accommodation for his parents for two weeks.
The late Faoli Bokoi was a former ‘fuzzy wuzzy angel’ from Menari village. His great granddaughter was born with club feet and he asked if we could help with arranging an operation for her. We conducted a successful fundraiser back in Sydney to cover the cost of the operation in Port Moresby.
A young boy had fallen out of his hut as we arrived in Abuari village, We provided a splint to his thigh as he was in a great deal of pain. We then evacuated him and his family to the Port Moresby General Hospital for an operation. He met us with a big grin the following day when we paid a visit. Next time we were in Abuari he was running free with the other kids.
Network Kokoda Agricultural Centre – Sogeri
A generous donation from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for 70th anniversary fundraising function he hosted for our Kokoda veterans at Parliament House in Port Moresby allowed us to lease a property at Sogeri and build our Network Kokoda Agriculture and Womens Learning Centre.
Iaowari High School
Ioawari High School is located in the former Army Signal Centre on the Sogeri Plateau – it has around 80o boarding students but was in a dilapidated condition when we were asked to provide some assistance around 20 years ago.
A dilapidated dam seeped into the Laloki River below. We engaged Warren Bartlett from Sogeri Enterprises and Oggie Erehe from Network Kokoda PNG to restore the dam and convert it into a fish farm which would provide a valuable source of protein for students as well as income stream for the school to sell fresh fist to the markets in Port Moresby. We employed local boys to clean it out with wheelbarrows and shovels. It toom almost two years and around K200,000 to create a thriving fish farm.
Ioawari High School Market Gardens
Network Kokoda engaged an Agricultural graduate from Popondetta, Oggie Erehe, to develop the vacant fields at the school into market gardens as part of a major agricultural project – pineapples, beans, casava, sweet potatoes, etc were planted and harvested by students.
Our Support for Port Moresby Grammar School
Port Moresby Grammar School is located on the old RLS Sub-Branch site. The school has a proud record of accepting students who are bright but who do not have the resources to pay for a secondary education. We formed a close relationship with them 20 years ago and encouraged our trekkers to bring books they required for their library. Over the years we donated more than 4,000 books and sponsored to female students on a ‘mateship trek’ across the Trail. Jill and I then sponsored them in their final year and flew to Port Moresby for the graduation. We then sponsored one of them through the Adventist University – she graduated with a degree in commerce and is employed by the Internal Revenue Commission.
Our support for village schools across the Kokoda Trail
Each village across the Trail has an elementary school (kindergarten) and most have a primary school. We provide a list of sporting gear and educational supplies to our trekkers and deliver them to the various schools by helicopter with our half-way food drops. For some schools they are virtually the only supplies they receive.
Our support for the village Fish Farm in Menari Village
We supported one of our PNG trek leaders, Joe Matama, to establish a small fish farm in Menari village to provide an incoming earning opportunity for his family and to assist in improving the protein diet within the village.
Our support for the TB Isolation Ward at Popondetta Hospital
We responded to an urgent request from the Oro Community Development Project, which is led by our good friend, Mr. John Kleinig, to assist in the building of TB Isolation Ward at Popondetta Hospital due an outbreak of drug resistant TB in the area, We contacted one of our trekkers, a generous benefactor, who provided the funds which allowed the ward to be built in Brisbane, shipped to Lae, then transported to Popondetta where it was erected by contractors.
Kokoda Comes to Sydney
Our reminders of who and why we want to help . . .
OUR UNFINISHED WORK
Our Kokoda Scholarship Program
(Click on picture to go to our program)
Our Fundraising Strategy – Kokoda Day
(Click on picture to go to our strategy to honour the service and sacrifice of the ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’)
OUR PROUDEST MOMENT
Being inducted as an Officer of Logohu in the 2015 PNG Honours and Awards 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.’