Kokoda Conspiracy: World Heritage – Military Heritage?

In the world of commerce a 46 percent drop in profit would lead to serious analysis of cause and effect. Volatile AGMs would see Directors seeking to reassure shareholders of strategies to arrest the decline.

This is in stark contrast to Government which is unaccountable for results because of the craft of its practitioners and the complexity of its bureaucratic machinery.

Since Australian Environment officials assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2009 trekker numbers have declined by almost 50 percent from 5621 in 2008 to 3033 in 2018 – despite an injection of more than $50 million of Aid funding.

The official response to the decline inevitably refers to an aircraft crash in 2009 and a couple of deaths around the same period. The reality today is that whenever the scene of the crash-site is pointed out to trekkers the usual response is ‘what crash?’

Prior to the discovery of the $3billion Kodu gold and copper deposit on the southern slopes of the Kokoda Trail near Mt Bini there was no interest in the area or its people from either the PNG or Australian Governments.  The appearance of bulldozers from Frontier Resources in 2006 changed that. (more…)

C’mon – show us your tat’s

Cooeee troops,

As we kick off our 2019 Kokoda trekking season it’s time to show us your tat’s.

The best 5 tat’s will receive a bronze Kokoda lapel pin – send them through to Tracie at tracie@kokodatreks.com.au

Nicola Gage: ‘Ego-tok’ for her ‘big walk’ across the Kokoda Trail

‘The porters are the unsung heroes of this trip. They cook all our meals, carry our belongings, pitch our tents and sing us songs’  
so gushed ABC journalist, Nicola Gage, as she recounted her trek across the Kokoda Trail in the recent Air Niugini inflight magazine (‘The big walk’ – Jan-Feb 2019).

Apart from this observation it was difficult to ascertain her motive for her ‘big walk’.

It wasn’t the history of the Kokoda campaign as it only received scant mention.

Nor was it the ‘fascinating cultural heritage’ of the Koiari and Orokaiva people along the trail as neither tribal group was acknowledged.

It couldn’t have been the desire to go where few had been as some 50,000 Australians had already beaten a fairly well-worn path over the trail before her.

It didn’t appear to be an attempt to validate any facts. For example the Kokoda Trail is not a 96 kilometre journey as described by Nicola – it is a 138 kilometre pilgrimage. Her estimate of 5000 trekkers a year crossing the trail was a big stretch. Since the Australian Government assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2009 trekker numbers have declined by 43 percent – a little more than 3000 now trek across it each year.

And it certainly wasn’t for the economic wellbeing of the porters she gushed over. (more…)

Network Kokoda secures first Colombo Plan project for PNG in partnership with WSU and DFAT

Network Kokoda is proud to announce 20 scholarships for students from Western Sydney University (WSU) to allow them to participate in a 12 day study program at the Iaowari High School on the Sogeri Plateau in Papua New Guinea.

The scholarship program is a collaborative project in partnership with the Hawkesbury Campus of Western Sydney University, Richmond Rotary, Network Kokoda and DFAT. It is being funded by the Australian Government’s new Colombo Plan and is the first project of its kind in Papua New Guinea under the plan.

The scholarship provides WSU students from all disciplines with the opportunity to travel to PNG and will showcase and highlight our shared wartime history and the legacy of our veterans.  Students will connect with a diverse group of local organisations including Network Kokoda, Sogeri Community Resource Centre and Iarowari High School and work on local projects aligned to their area of interest and/or discipline for credit. These activities will include:

  • Australian World War 2 history including a day trek on the Kokoda Trail and an overnight camp on Goldie River
  • Cultural immersion activities, ‘Tok Pisin’ language lessons and community development workshops
  • Site tour of Varirata National Park for bird watching and war monuments
  • Week long internship/project with local partners: Sogeri Community Resource Centre, Iarowari High School and Network Kokoda

This new partnership is the culmination of a long association between Network Kokoda and Iaowari High School.

Our association with the school started with a chance meeting with a group of female teachers at the school in early 2010.  They had all studied agriculture but the subject was not taught at the school because they could not secure their gardens and their produce ‘kept going missing’ soon after the seedlings had matured. (more…)

Shame on the Australian Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA)

 ‘Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte’ wrote Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher, mathematician and physicist, in 1657. ‘I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter’ is the English translation

Pascal was trying to explain that his letter was longer than it needed to be, because he hadn’t worked out the correct answer.

The Kokoda Tour Operators Association used a similar approach in their latest 620 word diatribe to justify the ongoing exploitation of local PNG porters they engage.

Buried amongst a plethora of motherhood statements is the admission that they will continue to exploit their porters by overloading them.

What part of the fact that a 22.5 kg backpack is too heavy for porters to have to lug across difficult, muddy, mountainous terrain doesn’t the KTOA get?

The weight of 22.5 kg was imposed by an Australian bureaucrat under pressure from Australian trek operators who wanted to minimise their costs by having to employ fewer porters. The bureaucrat who made the decision had never trekked Kokoda and would have had difficulty lifting his 22.5 kg case onto aircraft luggage scales at any check-In counter.

The KTOA has a long history of lobbying – some would say bullying – the PNG Kokoda Track Authority (KTA).

At a PNG Tour Operators Forum in Port Moresby on 8 November 2017, sixty-three (63) PNG delegates representing Provincial and Local Level Government, landowners, trek operators and porters voted unanimously to reduce the maximum weight to 18 kg.

Three (3) KTA management officials, the CEO, the Operations Officer and the President of the PNG Guides and Porters Association were tasked with presenting the motion to the Australian Tour Operators Forum in Brisbane the following week.

For reasons known only to the KTA team the CEO did not table the motion and the President of the Guides and Porters Association went missing. The Minutes of the forum have never been produced despite numerous requests.

This has all the hallmarks of a cover-up and begs the following questions:

  • Why were the Minutes not tabled nor discussed at the Cairns Forum?
  • Why did the representative of the Porters and Guides Association absent himself from the meeting?
  • Was the motion discussed ‘out of session’ between KTA officials and the Kokoda Tour Operators Association KTOA)? and
  • Why have the Minutes of the Cairns Forum never been released?

Whatever the reason the KTOA was able to get away with the abhorrent practice of overloading their porters for another year despite the fact that one of their porters, who was allegedly overloaded, had died on the trail. According to a preliminary investigation by the Sogeri Police Sergeant, Max Maso: ‘It is evident that the group on this particular trip . . . engaged by . . . (KTOA tour operator) . . . were all overloaded in breach of the Code of Conduct stipulated under this code’.

Over the past year the KTOA has used fake research and dubious comparisons to justify the overloading of their porters in spite of the fact that the maximum weight allowable by both military and civilian authorities on the Kokoda Trail in 1942 was 18 kg.

They have been assisted by the fact that the current management structure put in place by the Australian Government from 2009 – 2012 has collapsed. The system is currently under under administration while a review, ordered by the PNG Prime Minister, is carried out.

Until then local PNG guides and porters will continue to be exploited by KTOA members until a mandated code of practice, with specific minimum standards, is put in place by the management authority – or until the KTOA accepts that the welfare of guides and porters should be in accordance with standards established during the Kokoda campaign in 1942. (more…)

Adventure Kokoda Good2Give $10,000 to villagers along the trail

Adventure Kokoda is proud to announce a $10,000 (K25,000) donation to Network Kokoda to support our ongoing philanthropic work along the Kokoda Trail. This donation has been made possible through the support of those great Australians who chose to trek with us in 2018 – tenk yu tru olgeta!

We have also been advised that Network Kokoda has been approved as an authorised charity by Good2Give  – this means that if you work for any of the companies listed below you can make a small tax-deductable donation from your pay and the company will forward it directly to Network Kokoda – to sign in all you have to do is click here.

You might also like to contact the manager in charge of their workplace charities to see if they will seek donations from their employees as many will have a link to PNG or veterans who fought in the War in the Pacific.

If you don’t belong to one of the listed companies you can click on the Donate button on our Network Kokoda website.

This year we completed the TB Isolation Ward at the Popondetta Hospital in partnership with the Oro Development Project as well as a Commercial Fish Farm at the Iaowari High School in partnership with Richmond Rotary. We have also established a partnership with the PNG MiBank to run financial literacy classes for the women’s groups on the Sogeri Plateau. We have also established a partnership with the PNG Ginigoada Foundation to run classes for women in literacy, sewing, cooking and village agriculture. All the classes are conducted in the Womens’ Learning Centre we built next door to the Sogeri Lodge.

We have also been successful in obtaining approval from the Colombo Plan to fund 25 academics and students from the University of Western Sydney to be deployed to Iaowari High School for two week periods over the next three years.

Over the past 12 months we have evacuated three village families from across the trail for urgent medical treatment at the Pacific International Hospital.

We still have much to do but we need some regular donations to allow us to meet the demands for help from villagers along the trail. If all of our past trekkers were to donate the equivalent cost of a cup of coffee each day we would be able to meet most of these demands.

‘Can you spare us a cuppa Dig?’

(more…)