Why does PNG tolerate ‘blackbirding’ on Kokoda?

Recent articles on the history of ‘blackbirding’ in the Pacific should serve to shine the spotlight on the Australian Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) whose member lead treks across the Kokoda Trail.

The most abhorrent practice condoned by many KTOA members is the ‘student discount’ which allows them to claim a 50 per cent discount for their trek fees.  This effectively means that subsistence villagers along the trail have to subsidise wealthy Australian private school students who trek with them. One can only hope that these school are unaware that they are participating in a modern adaption of blackbirding.

Of more concern is the fact that PNG leaders responsible for the welfare of their people along the trail allow themselves to be bullied into accepting such a practice by the KTOA.

Following is a snapshot of villagers along the trail who are being forced to subsidise wealthy Australian private school students. Why? (more…)

HERITAGE INTERPRETATION OF THE KOKODA TRAIL

‘At the foot of the Owen Stanleys in Papua New Guinea you can look into the ancient landscape – majestic peaceful wilderness, nature in its full glory.  There have been tracks across the mountains for thousands of years; the people who inhabit the region were gardening at the same time agriculture was developing in Ancient Egypt.  The strength of natural and cultural heritage are beyond simple words: fascinating, awesome, daunting – world class.

‘Yet the battles of 1942 and the contemporary interest in ‘Kokoda’ are what have made it Papua New Guinea’s No 1 tourist attraction.  In 1942 it was Australians and Papua New Guineans fighting Japanese for what was then Australian land.  Young men in a bloody struggle for ‘their land’.  The battle has become folklore in Australia – a place of pilgrimage like Gallipoli, Villers-Bretonneux, Sandakan, Passchendale.’[i]

In the lead-up to the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign IN 2012 Network Kokoda commissioned Michael Pender of HPA Projects to develop a Heritage Interpretation Plan and Implementation Strategy for the Kokoda Trail. We chose HPA Projects because of their commemorative heritage projects at Isurava, Sandakan, Hellfire Pass and the Australia National War Memorial in France.

The report was ignored.

The 75th Anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 2017 offered another opportunity as it was sure to be the last parade for the dwindling number of surviving veterans and its adoption would have been seen as an appropriate legacy to ensure their service and sacrifice would never be forgotten.

It was ignored again.

In view of the complete dysfunction of the management system put in place by the Australian Government during the period 2008 – 2012 and the subsequent decline in trekker numbers it is timely to review the essence of the report as it is still relevant.  (more…)

The Story of Australia’s Flags by Major General Maitland

story_of_australias_flags__57889.1439364316.1280.1280This morning I had the honour of attending the official launch of Major General Gordon Maitland’s book ‘The Story of Australia’s Flags which was hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Sydney.  It follow on from his previous publication ‘Honours and Awards of the Australian Army. Both are published by Playbill Military Productions and are essential references to anybody with an interest in the customs and traditions of our Australian military forces.

In his dedication to his book Major General Gordon Maitland wrote:

‘Australians formally announce themselves by flying our flag or singing our National Anthem.

‘Sometimes we may do so more informally by flying a flag bearing an image of one of our unique fauna or by singing Waltzing Matilda.

‘Another favourite song is: ‘We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on Earth we come, we share a dream and sing with one voice – I am, you are, we are Australian’. It was written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton in 1987 and is owned by Telstra. I am biased and would prefer ‘flag’ to ‘dream’.

‘No doubt my upbringing contributed to my bias for I am of that generation which, at school, recited:

I honour my God; I serve my King; I salute my flag.

‘Like many of our wonderful ways it has been lost by progress [?] (more…)

BOOK LAUNCH: The Battle for Australia by Bob Wurth

Battle for Australia 1This is a must read for anybody interested in the international circumstances that led to the War in the Pacific in 1941. Following is the speech by the Governor of Westerns Australia, His Excellency Malcolm McClusker AC CVO QC, when he launched the book at Curtin University:

The first Wednesday of September each year is Battle for Australia Day.  It commemorates all of the battles, great and small, fought against Japan by the United States and Australia, to repel Japanese aggression.

Bob Wurth’s book, the Battle for Australia, is a gripping account of that perilous time in Australia’s history. As our Governor-General of Australia wrote in the Foreword, it fills an important gap in our knowledge of that critical period for, 70 years after the bombing of Darwin and the invasion of New Guinea, we are still learning about what happened and just how beleaguered Australia really was – to an extent which was certainly not fully disclosed at the time, for fear of causing panic.

The sub-title to the book, “A nation and its leader under siege”, is very apt; for this book is not only a fascinating account of the military history of the war in the Pacific, when Australia truly was “under siege”; but it is also an insightful political biography of Australia’s war time Prime Minister John Curtin.  He too, was “under siege”, as Bob Wurth makes clear.

The John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library is therefore a very fitting venue for the launch of this book, which not only points out Curtin’s achievements, but also his frailties, flaws and failings. (more…)