“In recent years the academics have discovered New Guinea. Grave, plump, portentous, they swarm north in their hundreds each winter, generally finishing somewhere near Goroka in the Eastern Highlands where at times they become so numerous that every bush and stone seems to conceal a lurking bureaucrat or anthropologist. After a few weeks or a few months they return home to prepare brisk solutions for all the problems which beset the land. Too often they see New Guinea coldly as an exercise in nation-building to be carried out as quickly as possible, with one eye on the taxpayer at home and the other on some ranting demagogue in the United Nations”. Keith Wiley. Assignment New Guinea. 1965
We met 28 years ago when you welcomed me into your villages on my first trek with Alex Rama in 1991. At the time you told me that few people trekked across the trail – probably less than 100 each year – and you only made a few kina selling your vegetables at markets.
The following year Paul Keating put Kokoda on the map when he became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit the plateau since the war. He was moved by the experience and his words resonated throughout Australia.
The first 20 trekkers I led across the trail to honour the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 1992 were also moved by the significance of the occasion; the traditional welcomes you provided; and the support of your guides and carriers.
Network Kokoda was established by Adventure Kokoda who specialise in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign. Their trek leaders have a combined total of 160 years professional military experience ranging from the Vietnam war to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have worn the uniform and are committed to the legacy of our Kokoda military heritage.
Our community projects across the Kokoda Trail continue to improve the livelihoods of the subsistence villages who live along it.
Our objective, as the major
philanthropic organization on the trail today, is to earn the respect of local
landowners who are the custodians of land sacred to our shared wartime
We exist to honour the legacy
of our Kokoda veterans the PNG wartime carriers.
As a result we have a different approach to normal civilian NGOs in PNG in that we use our networks to establish local partnerships. We don’t hand out funds on behalf of Government or other well-intentioned individuals as this inevitably leads to an attitude of Aid dependency.
Adventure Kokoda Leadership Plus 4 Schools Program
Essential Due Diligence Checks for School Principals
Why Adventure Kokoda
Our ‘Kokoda Leadership Plus 4 Schools Program‘ is based on the historical adversity of the Kokoda campaign. It’s not about victory or defeat – it’s about the ability of the human spirit to conquer adversity. It’s about understanding that their legacy is our liberty.It’s about the development of personal leadership.
‘If you want to discover new horizons you must be prepared to lose sight of land’. The Dalai Lama
Our Leadership Plus 4 Schools program does just that as students embark on a journey to the ‘land of the unexpected‘ – ‘a land with a thousand cultures’ represented by a ‘Parliament of a Thousand Tribes‘.
Papua New Guinea is also our closest neighbour; our former mandated territory; our wartime ally; and our fellow Commonwealth of Nations member.
Students will be supported by, work with and learn about two of the 850 cultural groups that comprise the island nation – the Koiari and the Orokaiva.
They will be led by experienced army veterans who have a combined total of 160 years professional military experience in combat zones from Vietnam, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan as well as peacekeeping duties around the globe. Their leadership text-book is based on their own personal experiences – and they know how to handle emergencies in remote areas.
Our ‘Kokoda leadership Plus Program’ is based on our collective wartime experiences and the evolution of Australian leadership from Gallipoli, where we fought for Britain and lost – to Kokoda where we fought for Australia, and won!
Early this year we were alerted to the plight of a 14-year old Kokoda schoolgirl who needed a a lifesaving heart operation – one that had to be performed overseas due to the medical complexity of her condition.
‘Our daughter’s health is our priority and the further delay of her operation has been a concern for us which is becoming desperate, thereby resulting in our plea for your assistance’ wrote Mrs Doreen Dumu, a nurse at the Kokoda Hospital on 29 January 2019.
Her daughter, Freda, has a ‘tetralogy Fallot‘ which is a serious congenital heart defect. The surgery she requires is not available in PNG and the cost of the operation and rehabilitation in Australia was in excess of $100,000.
We contacted the PNG Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) and suggested that they get every trek operator to submit the name and contact details of each of the trekkers they would be leading across the trail during the Anzac period – a practice that should have been put in place a decade ago to capture the contact details of the 50,000 Australians who have trekked Kokoda since then. Unfortunately numerous requests to establish such a database for fundraising purposes over the years have been ignored.
Their refusal to assist Freda was perplexing in view of an earlier decision by their Acting CEO to ‘donate’ $150,000 to an Australian NGO to hand-out as ‘educational supplements‘ to local villagers on and beyond the Kokoda Trail. Calls for those funds to be reimbursed have been ignored.
We also sought assistance from a close friend and supporter, Jeff Hudson, a Director of the Children’s First Foundation. Jeff worked tirelessly to help ‘create the miracle‘ for Freda but as it transpired it was beyond their resources.
We then tried Rotary Oceana Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC). They were also keen to assist but there seemed to be an issue with Children’s Hospitals in NSW accepting patients from the Pacific.
We wrote to the Minister for Health to see if he could check it out on our behalf but didn’t receive a response.
We also arranged for Emily Kleing from the Oro Community Development Project to assist us with any liaison necessary as she is now residing in Port Moresby, We had previously worked with Emily to help build a TB Isolation Ward at the Popondetta Hospital,
Just as we neared the edge of desperation an ‘Angel’ emerged from PNG:
Dear Charlie, I am so very pleased to inform you that Pastor Dr Kirk head of our Paediatric cardiology partners “ For Hearts and Souls” will be organizing free surgery for Freda in San Antonio, Texas USA.!! Dr Kirk and team have successfully provided minimal invasive approach to repairing congenital heart defect for 13 PNG children at our PIH cath lab and arranged treatment for 2 very complicated children at the Mayo clinic in the US. Freda‘s family prayers ensured that I read your post on FB ( I don’t do FB regularly anymore) and was able to contact Dr Kirk before he and his team left Moresby this afternoon, upon completion of their second mission at PIH. We will contact the patient and you once we receive more information from US. I trust the Kokoda track foundation will be able support the travel expenses for the girl and a guardian. FB has received bad press recently for invasion if privacy and manipulations etc but I am glad it connected us to help this girl and hopefully save her life! God bless Dr Amyna
The long Green march through our Kokoda Heritage began when responsibility for the Kokoda Trail was allocated to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) in 2008.
Since I wrote this letter to the First Assistant Secretary of DEWHA in 2009 trekker numbers have declinedby 46% from 5621 in 2008 to 3033 in 2018 despite the expenditure of more than $50 million of taxpayers funds – not one of the issues we raised (apart from the upgrading of the road to Owers Corner) has been addressed.
Their failure to include the Department of Veterans Affairs and to engage an accredited Military Heritage Architect to develop a Military Heritage Interpretation Plan for the Kokoda Trail is indicative of their ideological opposition to commemoration.
The threat to mine a $3 billion gold and copper deposit on the southern slopes of the Kokoda Trail in 1996 caused the Australian Government to head off a public backlash against the destruction of an iconic part of our military heritage.
For some inexplicable reason the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) was ignored and the task was passed to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) to assist the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) to develop a case for a World Heritage nomination for the Owen Stanley Ranges. According to their preliminary report:
‘I cannot say enough kind words about them. Throughout the entire trek I felt supported and knew that I could turn to them for help at any time. They were always in the right spot at the right time. They were so encouraging and only wanted to see me succeed. They have so much patience, I never felt rushed or scared because I knew they’d be there to help. They would encourage me to walk at my own pace and take as many breaks as I needed to succeed. Without them I would not have gotten as far as I did. I enjoyed listening to their stories about their families and knowledge of the trek and country.’
‘All of the Adventure Kokoda team where extremely professional. The boys worked so hard to make sure we always felt safe in situations that could sometimes feel scary. Our shovel man Nelson was just incredible, always checking to make sure everyone was okay. It was amazing to witness a group of people work so hard and efficiently as a team to get all of us (the trekkers) across the finish line.
‘Overall an amazing group of people and when they all sung their National anthem …chills and tears!! I miss them already.’
By Rhys Jack on Nov 09, 2019 03:00 am Sunday Telegraph, 10 November 2019
Described as the by-product of throwing Chuck Norris and Indiana Jones into a blender, this former Australian Army Major has been trekking across the infamous Kokoda trail for more than 28 years.
One of the most difficult things I’ve attempted in my life has to be trekking across the Kokoda Trail. Over 140 kilometres in length, and climbing up over 6,750 metres. It took nine days to hike from Owers’ Corner in the south of Papua New Guinea through the most humid jungles, across torrential rivers and over never-ending mountains that made me seriously question why the hell I was doing it. And finally, after being stretched to physical and mental limits, the trail winds down to the small village of Kokoda on the Northern plateau of the island where those who complete it can celebrate an incredible accomplishment.
In 2008 Adventure Kokoda was the only trekking company out of 37 licensed trek operators to pay all of their trek fees in full and in advance – something we are very proud of.
A discreet audit revealed that operators from the Australian Kokoda Tour Operators Association tried to sneak a total of 770 trekkers across the trail without paying trek fees – so much for their fake respect for subsistence villagers along the trail!
The Australian CEO then did a secret deal with each one of them which resulted in them all receiving discounts from what they owed. As a result Adventure Kokoda had to wear a heavy financial penalty for doing the right thing.
The following ‘Freedom of Information‘ request to the Australian Government cost us more than a $1000 which turned out to be the most expensive 7 sheets of paper we have ever purchased!
So much for transparency – and they wonder why nobody trusts them!!
Speech to the Parliament of New South Wales by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC on 4 May 2006
Debate resumed from 2 May 2006.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [4.32 p.m.]: The acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican and reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor Government era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors’ wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say sorry for historical wrongs over which we had no influence. As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the Government.
I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate, not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. My view is that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The “feelgood” factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine to get some balance back into the debate and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.