FAQs

  1. Adventure Kokoda is the only specialist trekking company operating on the Kokoda Trail - we do not trek to any other location - Kokoda is all we do.
     
  2. We have the most professional and experienced trek leaders - our team has 130 years combined military experience - we have led more than 520 expeditions safely across the trail over the past 27 years.
     
  3. We specialise in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.
     
  4. We are the only trek operator to have established a philanthropic Not-for-Profit company - Network Kokoda - to provide assistance to local villagers in the fields of health, education and local agriculture.
     
  5. We pioneered the Kokoda trekking industry - we had been operating on the trail for more than a decade before it was 'discovered'' by eco-tour operators.
     
  6. We operate from a secure lodge at Sogeri which has 24/7 back-up communications and our own helipad for emergencies. The owner of our lodge is a former PNG Patrol Officer who has lived in PNG for 52 years.
     
  7. We are the only trekking company to provide for the welfare of our PNG guides and carriers by issuing them with sleeping bags, sleeping mats and a full trek uniform to our guides and carriers.
     
  8. We are the only trekking company that limits the maximum backpack weight for our guides and carriers to 18 kg which was the maximum weight allowed during the Kokoda campaign in 1942.

Adventure Kokoda was rated as the best trekking company on the Kokoda Trail in 2015, 2016 and again in 2017.

What is the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence?

The TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence honours businesses that deliver consistently great service.  The award is given to establishments that consistently achieve great traveller reviews.

We are very proud to be rated #1 on TripAdvisor for the 3rd successive year which shows our commitment to providing an outstanding experience to all our trekkers, ensuring they have an enjoyable, challenging and informative historical and cultural experience among friends.

TripAdvisor reviews

 

When planning to complete the journey along the Kokoda Trail the most common question we are asked is whether it is safe. 

The Kokoda Trail is a rugged and remote 130 kilometre jungle path across some of the most hazardous terrain most people will ever traverse. The trail itself can be quite dangerous with steep jungle clad mountains and swift-flowing rivers/creeks strewn with large rocky boulders.  Much of the area is inaccessible by helicopter.  Rivers and creeks can rise rapidly after heavy rain in the catchment area and can be dangerous to cross.

In order to minimise risk it is therefore essential to trek with a reputable trek operator.

If an emergency occurs it is vital that your trek leader be experienced and capable of handling the situation.  Ideally they should also be equipped with a satellite phone and VHF radio with a reliable back-to-base line of communication that maintains a 24/7 listening watch..

As a trekker you need to ensure you are protected with a personal Travel Insurance policy to cover your medical evacuation and treatment costs should you become sick or suffer a personal injury.  It is your responsibility to ensure the insurer you select will approve immediate air evacuation from the Kokoda Trail if the call is made by your trek leader.

You also need to ensure the operator you choose to trek with has suitable Public Liability Insurance protection.  If they don't have it don't even think about trekking with them.

You should not confuse Personal Travel Insurance (your responsibility) with Public Liability Insurance (trek operator's responsibility).

Adventure Kokoda only use trek guides and personal carriers from the Koiari and Orokaiva people who live along the trail. These are the sons of the famous 'fuzzy-wuzzy angels' who look after our trekkers just as their fathers looked after our diggers.

Our trek leaders are trained in emergency evacuation procedures and are qualified in emergency first aid.  They also carry satellite phones and VHF radios with direct links to our rear base at Sogeri for use in emergency situations.

Adventure Kokoda is one of the few trekking companies to complete a comprehensive risk assessment of the trek and has been able to secure public liability insurance protection for trekkers as a result.  The policy has a limit of A$10 million per claim. 

Our good relationship formed over the past 27 years with our guides, carriers and the people living along the trail ensures our trekkers have a safe passage.

Anybody can – and many do – walk in off the street, fill out an application, pay a small fee and become an authorised Kokoda tour operator.  There are no due diligence checks.  They do not have to have a registered company.  They do not need a Public Liability insurance policy.  They do not need satellite phones, VHF radios or medical kits - and if something bad happens they have no assets to reclaim.

Trekkers should therefore take note of the old Latin proverb of Caveat emptor which means ‘let the buyer beware’ – as it is applicable to the current management system put in place by the Australian Government.

PNG Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill recently initiated a review of the Kokoda Track Authority.  The current management system, put in place by the Australian Government during the period 2009-2012 has not worked.

Prior to the year 2000 the Kokoda Trail was only crossed by small numbers of hardy adventurers.

A rapid increase from 76 trekkers in 2001 to a peak of 5621 in 2008 transformed it into Papua New Guinea’s premier tourism attraction.

In 2003 the PNG Government established a ‘Kokoda Track (Special Purpose) Authority (the ‘KTA’) as a statutory government body of the Koiari and Kokoda Local-level Governments to manage the emerging Kokoda trekking industry and ensure local villages across the trail received shared benefits from it.  Unfortunately it has not worked out as it was envisaged.

In 2004 a PNG expatriate CEO was appointed to manage the KTA with a part-time secretarial assistant.  During the next four years trekker numbers increased 255% from 1584 in 2994 to 5621 in 2008.

In response to a public outcry over a threat to mine a large part of the Kokoda Trail in 2006 the Australian Government entered into a ‘joint’ agreement with the PNG Government to assist in developing a case for the Owen Stanley Ranges to be listed as a World Heritage site.  Responsibility was delegated to the Department of Environment in Canberra.

This led to a vertable army of taxpayer funded environmental officials, academics, contractors and consultants to 'assist' PNG manage the emerging Kokoda trekking industry.  For most it was their first trip to PNG.

In 2009 an Australian CEO was appointed to the KTA on an eye-watering salary package.  It was his first time in PNG and he did not trek across the Kokoda Trail until just prior to his departure in 2012.  He was supported by a 10-fold increase in staff and a multi-million dollar budget.

Despite this injection of resources annual trekker numbers declined by 44 per cent from 5621 in 2008 to 3156 in 2012!

A desktop study titled ‘Kokoda Track Authority Strategic Plan 2012 – 2015’ was developed over a long period of time.  It is instructive that not a single one of the five strategies or 33 key performance objectives contained in the plan were achieved.

The Australian CEO departed towards the end of 2012 without leaving a single management protocol in place for his PNG successor - no draft legislation; no management database; no campsite booking system; no integrity in the trek operator licensing system; no safeguards for the welfare of PNG guides and carriers; no audit system for campsite owners; no trail maintenance plan; no community development plan; etc. etc. etc.

The PNG management team were left with an unworkable model which has led to a call for a review by Prime Minister O'Neill.

They do not understand the Principles of Commemoration and know little about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.

Trekkers should be aware that they currently have no protection from the KTA.  There is no integrity in the licensing system.

 

No - we are not.

We declined the invitation to join the Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) which was established to protect the interests of Australian companies operating in PNG and does not provide for the welfare of the PNG guides and carriers they engage.

We believe the reasons for establishing the KTOA were well-intentioned however whilst they tolerate practices that allow some of their members to exploit local PNG guides, carriers and subsistence villagers we will not join.

The failure of the KTA to provide proper welfare support to local villagers they engage is evident in their reluctance to require all KTOA members to provide such basics as a sleeping bag and mat for each guide and carrier they employ.  We do not believe that PNG guides and carriers should have to sleep on wet ground because they are not provided with such essential items of comfort.

One KTOA tour operator has a record of failing to meet their legal and moral obligations in regard to the payment of trek fees which are meant to benefit local subsistence villages along the trail. 

Recently a local carrier employed by KTOA tour operator tragically died on the trail.  A local Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) Ranger has alleged that the load he was carrying was far in excess of the 20 kg recommended in the KTA Code of Conduct for tour operators.  According to other KTA Rangers the overloading of local carriers is a common practice by many Australian tour operators as a means of keeping their costs down.

Adventure Kokoda will not join to the KTOA until they weed out those who don't provide for the proper welfare of their local guides and who deprive subsistence villagers of their rightful share of benefits from the Kokoda trekking industry.

The difference between Adventure Kokoda and KTOA members is that we provide the following for each of our PNG guides and carriers:

  • Maximum allowable weight of 18 kg (which means we have to engage more carriers);
  • Full trek uniform - cap, shirt, shorts
  • Sleeping bag;
  • Sleeping mat;
  • Wholesome meals - equivalent to what we provide for our trekkers;
  • Gratuity equivalent to one day's pay at the end of each trek; and
  • A 'Walk-Home Allowance' of PNGK250 to allow our guides and carriers to walk back to their villages after each trek.

In addition to this we engage a PNG medic with a full medical kit to look after their specific medical needs across the trail.

If our guides or carriers suffer serious illness or injury during their trek we arrange for them to be evacuated by helicopter and treated at the Port Moresby Private Hospital - they receive the same care, attention and treatment as our trekkers.

 

Charlie Lynn served in the Australian Army for 21 years.  He is a Vietnam Veteran, a qualified military free-fall parachutist and a graduate of the Army Command and Staff College.

During his time as an exchange instructor with the United States Army he completed their Special Forces HALO parachute program which involved high altitude jumps from 20,000 feet at night with full combat equipment.  He was appointed Captain of the Parachute Display Team at Fort Lee in Virginia and completed 200 jumps during his tour of duty.

After leaving the army Charlie specialised in organising ultra-marathon events and ran outback survival programs for mining companies in remote areas.

In 1986 he held the NSW Ultra-marathon record by running a distance of 213 km in 24 hours.

Charlie was elected to the NSW Parliament in 1995 and served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans Affairs under Premiers’ Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird. He retired in 2015 after almost 20 years’ service in the NSW Legislative Council.

Over the past 27 years he has led 90 treks across the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

Prior to his first trek in 1991 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 $30,000 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 at the time and there was little interest on either side.

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 K20,000 to enable it to 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 had generated approximately K335 million into the PNG economy.  Approximately K63 million of this has benefited local villages directly in wages, campsite fees, food and souvenirs.  But most importantly in 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 would have received approximately $16 million in GST as a result of the trekking industry. 

As a result, the Kokoda Trail is now the prime 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 $500,000 which was used to purchase seeds for villagers in the highlands.  Charlie accompanied the consignment to PNG which was then delivered 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 developed and funded the established Network Kokoda as a Not-For-Profit company that builds Community Development Centres in villagers along the Kokoda Trail and has introduced Agricultural Learning Centres at the Sogeri National High School and Iaowari High School.  These centres are now providing fresh produce for approximately 1200 boarding students and the programs have been replicated in seven villages on the Sogeri Plateau.

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.

For the past two years Charlie has hosted the PNG Independence Day Celebration in the NSW Parliament on behalf of Mr Sumasy Singin, Consul General in Sydney.

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.

Record of Service:

Title

The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC

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

Retires 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

 

Following is a summary of positive publicity Charlie has generated for Papua New Guinea and the Kokoda Trail:

Newspaper/Magazine Articles  promoting Kokoda Treks

GWP Magazine
‘The Enshrinement of Kokoda’

The Enshrinement of Kokoda

The Bulletin with Newsweek
‘Kokoda: A walk on the wild side’

The Bulletin with Newsweek

The Canberra Times – November 1992
‘A Hard Slog to Kokoda’

The Canberra Times

Qantas Magazine - 1993
‘Kokoda Travels’

Kokoda Travels Qantas Magazine

News Limited Magazine - 1994
‘Trek into history’

News Limited on Kokoda

Australian Defence Information Bulletin - 1994
‘Adventure on the Kokoda Track’

Defence Force Academy on Kokoda

The Australian Magazine - 1995
‘Kokoda – the new campaign’

Kokoda The New Campaign The Australian

The Northern Herald – August 1995
‘On the beaten track’

On the Beaten Track

The Sydney Morning Herald – November 1995
‘Is this the world’s meanest tour guide?’

Kokoda Is this the Worlds Meanest Tour Guide

The Australian – 1996
‘Stars rise and fall on Kokoda’

Stars Rise and Fall on Kokoda

The Sunday Magazine - 1996
‘Lessons in Life’

Sunday Life Magazine

Women’s Day Magazine – 1996
‘Kokoda Startrek’

Womens Day on Kokoda

Impressions Magazine – 1996
‘Colette’s life-changing challenge’

Collette Mann on Kokoda

Australian Geo Magazine – May/June 1997
‘Trekking to hell and back’

Trekking to Hell and Back

The Australian Women’s Weekly – 1997
‘My Kokoda Trail Trek’

Womens Weekly on Kokoda

Runners World – January 2000
‘No Soldier of Fortune’

Charlie Lynn on Kokoda

Sydney Swans Football Magazine - 2002
‘Sydney Swans conquer Kokoda’

Sydney Swans Conquer Kokoda

South Pacific Magazine - 2002
‘Commemorating Kokoda’

South Pacific Magazine

Great Walks Magazine - 2008
‘Age before beauty’

Kokoda in Your 50s Great Walks Magazine


Following is a list of the national television stories Charlie has generated through his treks:

Television Shows promoting the Kokoda Trail

Channel 9
‘Angry Anderson Kokoda Challenge’

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCz7qUl9FFmplk_GItGEAJ33D0bNZunFh

Channel 9
‘Getaway on Kokoda’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLCz7qUl9FFmoxNQ0ZJCWX4Kla_pcxL235&v=2DPL3qaO5NQ&feature=player_embedded

Channel 7
‘Sydney Swans on Kokoda’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&list=PLCz7qUl9FFmrNAQ8E39IeWYEZyZDW5sKf&v=BAiajXkG_m0

Channel 7
‘Dareing Kokoda’

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCz7qUl9FFmrPkKNK9DLeZ4aqnUADCBIU

Channel 10
‘Father Chris Riley’s Kids on Track’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KVKcFFTHIY0&list=PLCz7qUl9FFmodfixqBw7VwVs5xzQu7juu

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:

1994

Proposal for the Kokoda Trail to be developed as a National Memorial Park

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/PROJECTKOKODAPROPOSALbyCharlieLynn.doc

1997

Proposal for Olympic Torch to be carried across the Kokoda Trail for Sydney 2000

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/ProposaltocarrytheOlympicTorchacrosstheKokodaTrailin2000.pdf

SOCOGs spurious rejection of Kokoda Torch Relay Proposal

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/SOCOGsSpuriousRejectionofKokodaTorchRelay.pdf

SOCOG must compensate PNG for stealing ‘Kokoda’ name

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/MediaReleasereSOCOGCompensationforKokoda.pdf

2004

Letter to Prime Minister John Howard supporting a medal for PNG Wartime Carriers
 

http://newsletter.kokodatreks.com/documents/PrimeMinisterJohnHowardreCarrierMedals15February2004.pdf
 

Produced Interim Report for the development of a Strategic Plan for the Kokoda Trail

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/KokodaTrackFoundationInterimReportof6July2004.pdf

2005

 

Produced the Inaugural Report for the Kokoda Track Foundation

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/2005KokodaTrackFoundationInaguralReport.pdf

2006

Presented A Strategic Plan for the Kokoda Trail to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare
 

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/StrategicPlanfortheKokodaTrailNoPics.pdf

Submission to Australian Senate supporting access for seasonal labour from PNG

http://newsletter.kokodatreks.com/documents/SenateSubmissiononSeasonalLabourfromthePacificRegion1_000.pdf

Proposal for a Civilian Service Medal for the New Guinea Wartime Carriers

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/ProposalforMedalforPNGCarriers.pdf

Speech in NSW Parliament calling for official recognition of ‘Kokoda Day’

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/KokodaDay.pdf

Kokoda – a neglected jungle shrine

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2006/02/15/kokoda-a-neglected-jungle-shrine

The Australian Newspaper:
‘PNG so near,

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/charlie-lynn-png-so-near-yet-far-from-friendly/story-e6frg6zo-1111112404497

Submission to the Kokoda Track Authority

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/WarrenBartlett24Aug06reSuggestionsfortheKTA.pdf

Kokoda gazetted as a place of historic significance

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2007/08/10/kokoda-gazetted-as-a-place-of-historic-significance-to-australia/#more-466

The Kokoda Track Authority
 

http://newsletter.kokodatreks.com/001-February_2006.html
 

2007

Issued a Discussion Paper on the Kokoda Trekking Industry
 

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/ADiscussionPaperontheKokodaEcoTrekkingIndustryNoPics.pdf
 

2008

Article on Kokoda’s ‘Forgotten People’

http://newsletter.kokodatreks.com/009-MiningKokoda_February_2008.html

Published Blog: Kokoda Villagers need charity too

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/08/07/kokoda-villagers-need-charity-too

Published Blog: Military Heritage at risk on Kokoda

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/06/28/military-heritage-at-risk-on-kokoda 

Published Blog: Let’s not forget the Villagers along the Kokoda Trail

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/09/16/lets-not-forget-the-villagers-along-kokoda

Published Blog: Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels deserve a medal

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/06/27/png-carriers-deserve-a-medal

Education: A trekkers legacy

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/09/07/education-a-trekkers-legacy

Kokoda: More than a jungle track

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/09/07/pacific-png-guest-worker-scheme

Pacific (PNG) Guest Worker Scheme

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2008/09/07/pacific-png-guest-worker-scheme

PNG – A difficult place to help

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2007/01/10/png-%E2%80%93-a-difficult-place-to-help/#more-648

Proposal for ‘Kokoda Day’ to be Proclaimed

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/ProposalforKokodaDayProclamation1March2008.pdf

Kokoda gazetted as a place of historic significance

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2007/08/10/kokoda-gazetted-as-a-place-of-historic-significance-to-australia/#more-466

2010

Why Kokoda Day?

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2010/11/03/why-kokoda-day

Kokoda Day proclaimed in PNG

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2010/04/04/kokoda-day-proclaimed-in-png

Trekker downturn weighs heavily on Kokoda porters

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2010/06/20/trekker-downturn-weighing-heavily-on-local-kokoda-porters

PNG Payback

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2010/07/20/png-payback

Giving back to the track

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2010/11/07/giving-back-to-the-track-in-2010

2011

Wartime Tourism: Presentation to UPNG

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2011/09/19/wartime-tourism-university-of-papua-new-guinea-conference/#more-1532

Removal of war relics from the Kokoda Trail

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/01/21/removal-or-war-relics-from-the-kokoda-trail/#more-1675

Kokoda: Battlefields have never been ‘lost’

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2011/09/30/kokoda-battlefields-have-never-been-lost

The Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2011/01/18/the-kokoda-youth-leadership-challenge

2012

Presentation to the Australian War Memorial Conference: Kokoda – beyond the legend

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/09/16/kokoda-a-paper-on-the-kokoda-trekking-industry-by-charlie-lynn

Kokoda 70: Launch by Prime Minister Peter O’Neil at Parliament House

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2011/12/07/kokoda-70-launched-by-png-prime-miniser-the-hon-peter-oneill-mp-on-70th-anniversary-of-pearl-harbour

Our Kokoda Footprint

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/12/28/our-kokoda-footprint

The Spirit of Kokoda 70 years on

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/06/10/the-spirit-of-kokoda-70-years-on

War Cemeteries in Papua New Guinea

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/06/09/war-cemetries-in-papua-new-guinea

The Kokoda Trail: It’s about respect for the PNG Government and the men who fought across it

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/07/19/the-kokoda-trail-its-about-respect-for-the-png-government-and-the-men-who-fought-across-it

Bomana War Cemetery – the only place to be on Anzac Day in PNG

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/08/18/bomana-dawn-service-the-only-place-to-be-on-anzac-day-in-png

Military Tradition behind the awarding of the Battle Honour – Kokoda Trail

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/09/28/military-tradition-behind-the-awarding-of-the-battle-honour-kokoda-trail

Speech regarding NSW Schools commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Kokoda campaign

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2012/10/28/nsw-schools-to-commemorate-70th-anniversary-of-the-raising-of-the-flag-on-kokoda

Perpetuating the Spirit of Kokoda

http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2013/01/14/perpetuating-the-spirit-of-kokoda

2013

 

Kokoda: Time for a Rethink

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/KokodaTimeforaRethink.pdf

2014

 

Speech to the PNGAA Forum at the NSW Parliament by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC on 18 September 2014: The Great Divide: White Australia – Black Melanesia

 

http://www.kokodatreks.com/docs/SpeechbyTheHonCharlieLynnMLCtothePNGAAForuminSydney.pdf

 

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
 

http://www.networkkokoda.org

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 bursaries
  • your kindness in sponsoring Margaret Aitsi and Alfreda Nakue on the trip of a lifetime to Australia
  • over 2500 books received for the library and classrooms
  • a plethora of stationery supplies
  • medical equipment and supplies
  • a wide variety of sports gear
  • K3500 in cash for special needs aspects in the school
  • Exposure 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 friendfoundinc@daltron.com.pg 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

The difference is the dialogue we have within the group during and after our presentations.

We have a combined total of 130 years professional military experience - our trek leaders have served in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are able to relate discuss the ground and conditions to the strategic situation of the time and the various principles that apply to the different phases of war.

They have also experienced the emotional aspects of perhaps never seeing their families again - and they understand mateship because they have experienced it under combat condtions.

As a result they are able to provide informed debate surrounding some of the decisions made by commanders in the heat of the campaign and relate many of the personal stories of veterans they have previously served with.

This is not stuff you can learn from a book - it comes from personal experience in the army and makes for interesting and lively dialogue.

According to Major General Gordon Maitland, a distinguished military historian there are three types of military historians:

  • Journalist historians, who show little respect for the facts in order to tell a good story
  • Academic historians, who have the time and facilities to unearth new and valuable information, but mainly at the political and strategic levels
  • Soldier historians, who are the only ones one can trust at the tactical level, for they have been taught to understand the key factor – ground'.

Adventure Kokoda engages 'soldier historians'! who meet Major General Maitland's criteria of understanding key tactical factors and are able to incorporate them into interesting and entertaining battlefield presentations.

Some claim that 'there are many tracks to the Kokoda Trail' - this is code for them using eco-shortcuts that allows them to cut costs by getting groups across in shorter periods of time.

Much of the wartime trail is much as it was in 1942 because fewer trekkers use it today. 

Those interested in the authentic history of the Kokoda campaign trek via the original wartime trail over the Kagi Gap to Lake Myola.  Those who wish to explore the mystic charm of the Lake Myola area should allow for an additional day otherwise all they will get is a quick glance at it. 

The map below shows a popular eco-shortcut via Naduri village - neither the track itself nor the village existed during the Kokoda campaign.

 

 

 

NO! PNG trek guides are masters of their environment however their knowledge of the Kokoda campaign and their presentation skills do not rate at this stage of their development.

Adventure Kokoda organises PNG led Kokoda treks for groups who are looking for a physical challenge in preference to learning about the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.

Whilst our PNG leaders have been well trained in expedition leadership and are the best in the business they do not have the knowledge of the military history of the Kokoda campaign or the presentation skills to conduct battlesite briefings. 

Trekkers meeting PNG support crew on arrival at Kokoda airfield

According to reports we receive we are the only operator to provide real fresh meals along the trail.

We have obviously trained our PNG guides to prepare, cook and serve meals and this has proved to be a most attractive option to trekkers.  Life is too short for ration packs!

Our menu includes breakfast cereals, tropical fruits, biscuits, jam-vegemite-nutella-peanut butter-cheese, pasta, noodles, rice, meat and vegetables with potato, tea/coffee/hot chocolate etc as standard fare.

We are able to provide for special diets as required.

 

 

 

Most of the emergency evacuations from the Kokoda Trail are caused by gastro problems which cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea leading to dehydration - the most likely source of this condition is contaminated food cooked and served by villagers.  This is why we carry ALL of our food with our trek groups.

Security and service are our main consideration in Port Moresby.  Our Adventure Kokoda groups stay at a secure and comfortable lodge on the Sogeri plateau - about halfway between Port Moresby and the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers Corner. 

The lodge is owned and operated by Warren Bartlett, a former Patrol Officer (known as 'kiaps') who has lived in Port Moresby for 50 years. The lodge is equipped with a satellite dish, satellite phones and a VHF radio base station.

We provide a personal tent for each trekker. 

Our tents are fully screened and provide protection from malarial mosquitos, leeches, cockroaches, mice and other creepy-crawlies.

For personal protection, privacy, comfort and convenience our guides will set up your tent each night - pack it up the next morning - carry if to the next campsite and have it ready for you again.

Guesthouses in villages along the trail are built from local bush materials - they offer basic shelter from the elements but don't have any privacy or screened protection from malarial mosquitos, leeches, cockroaches, rats and mice, etc!

The increase in trekker numbers over recent years has led to an increase in infestation in villages guesthouses.

If you have to sleep in these because your trek operator does not provide mosquito proof tents make sure you sleep with your mouth closed and that you don't mind the pitter-patter of little mice running across your forehead - if you are a bit sensitive in this area the only guarantee you have against the local infestation is to sleep in an insect proof tent.

There is also no protection from the inevitable snorer in guesthouses where everybody is required to bunk together.

The VHF radio net along the Kokoda Trail has improved however there is only one channel and it is sometimes difficult to break into the chatter.  The system does not have a base station with a 24/7 listening watch which could be critical in an emergency.

Adventure Kokoda are equipped with satellite phones for use in emergencies.

Operators who do not have a satellite phone with an active account fall into the 'dodgy' category - unfortunately they exist and the only protection trekkers have is the old caveat emptor of 'Let the buyer beware'.

Trekking without a satellite phone in your group is classified as 'unnecessary risk'.

 

Most evacuations from the trail are due to gastro-intestinal problems which cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea and chronic dehydration.

Unhygienic handling and preparation of food is the most common cause of the gastro problems which lead to medical evacuations.  Most evacuations result from trekkers who eat vegetables prepared by local villagers. 

To avoid this we carry all of our own food which we purchase from supermarkets in Port Moresby.

We actively discourage our trekkers from eating food prepared in villages as we cannot guarantee the standard of the local hygiene.

Some operators rely on village food to save costs - If the operator you choose includes ‘village food’ as part of their catering plan it might save them money but it could lead to your evacuation from the trail.

 

Yes he does. 

The VHF radio net along the Kokoda Trail has improved however there is only one channel and it is sometimes difficult to break into the chatter.  The system does not have a base station with a 24/7 listening watch which could be critical in an emergency.

Professional operators are equipped with satellite phones for use in emergencies.

Trek Operators who do not have a satellite phone with an active account fall into the 'dodgy' category - unfortunately they exist and the only protection trekkers have is the old caveat emptor of 'Let the buyer beware'.

 

You should not have any worries if you are travelling with a reputable trek operator who utilizes a secure hotel and pre-arranged transport in Port Moresby.

Our trek leaders meet you on arrival at the Port Moresby airport; accompany you to your accommodation; provide detailed pre-trek briefings and equipment checks; lead you safely across the trail; and escort you back to the Port Moresby airport at the end of your trek.  We are with you the entire time you are in PNG.

Our relationships with local villagers along the trail is based on mutual respect because of the employment we provide to their local Koiari and Orokaiva guides; the money we have invested into their local campsites; and the community benefits we provide through our not-for-profit company, Network Kokoda.

 

 

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle you will need a minimum of three months physical training and preparation.

You should start with a complete medical check-up then consult with your local gymnasium to prepare a personal training program aimed at increasing your aerobic fitness level. As a guide we recommend you start with minimum of 45 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, power-walking, jogging, cycling, tennis, etc) at least four times per week.

You should aim to increase your work rate by ten percent each week after that.

Your training needs to include extensive walking, preferably in a hilly-area, carrying a weighted pack. In the last month of your training you need to be capable of walking at least 10 km daily, carrying 3 to 5 kg more than the weight you expect to carry on your trek.

Think of your training as a deposit in your fitness account – everything you do between now and the trek will pay a dividend on the trail.  If you haven’t made enough ‘deposits’ into your fitness account you will have to go into ‘debt’ on the trail – and debt of any kind is always painful!  

You can’t cheat yourself on Kokoda – if you have done the work you will complete it OK – if you haven’t you will be a candidate for an emergency evacuation!  

39th Battalion preparing for the Kokoda campaign on the Sogeri plateau in 1942

The trek across Kokoda is the toughest physical challenge most people will encounter. 

The decision as to whether to carry your own backpack is important because it can mean the difference between enjoying the experience or suffering and having to withdraw from the trek.

Some trekkers in the past have stubbornly refused to engage a personal carrier because they want to do it like ‘the diggers did it!’

If this is your rationale we suggest you purchase a pair of hobnail leather boots, carry a canvas backpack with webbing pouches; travel with a half-blanket which you will willingly share with up to six other trekkers; borrow a rifle and ammunition; sleep outside your tent and leave your underwear and toiletries at the hotel in Port Moresby!

For those who are young, confident and physically fit it will not be a problem.  But for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle; who might be carrying an extra kilo or two; who might be harbouring some self-doubt about their ability to burden themselves with extra weight; or who do not maintain a daily regime of physical training it will be a struggle – you will find the track does not make concessions to anybody!  It is therefore important that you do an honest assessment of your physical capabilities.

If you are physically fit, are an experienced extreme conditions trekker, and have prepared yourself with a strenuous training program then you should be able to carry your own pack.  On the other hand if you have any doubts about your ability then you should consider engaging a personal carrier for yourself or sharing one with a mate. 

If you engage your own Personal Carrier prior to your trek we provide them with a trek uniform and purchase additional food and camping gear for them before we leave Port Moresby – there is none available along the track.

The cost of a Personal Carrier is between $660 - $790 per person, depending on the trek type/duration.  The cost will be displayed when completing the online Booking Form.

If you decide to engage one after you arrive an additional $150 surcharge will apply to cover the additional costs we have to incur as short notice.

From time to time we have trekkers who realise they cannot carry their backpack after the second or third day - we then have to try and recruit additional carriers along the trail. This is a difficult exercise in the middle of the Owen Stanley Ranges as we are not able to arrange for additional food, uniforms or camping gear for the additional carriers.  It’s also unfair as our PNG trek guides and carriers, who already work hard under extreme conditions, don’t appreciate having the size of their meals reduced whenever we have to engage additional personal carriers during the trek.

A Personal Carrier will carry your backpack and act as your ‘trek caddy’ for the duration of your trek – he will often catch you before you fall; will assist you over the most difficult sections of the trail; assist you with packing up and setting up and proudly introduce you to his family in his village.  

Yes - Adventure Kokoda treks include International economy class return ticket to Port Moresby (for bookings ex-Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane or Sydney), all accommodation, meals, transport, trek fees etc.  The price also includes the provision of a roomy mosquito-proof tent. 

If you engage a Personal Carrier, a backpack (75 Litre) is included; otherwise you can hire our backpack for $35.

You will find that some trek operators offer much cheaper treks - you need to check the small print to find out if there are any 'hidden extras' - which is often the case.  If you have to pay for additional items or 'hidden extras' such as accommodation and meals in Port Moresby, airfares to/from Kokoda, personal camping equipment etc, then any saving on price can prove to be a false economy.  Make sure you check the fine print with the tour operator you choose. 

The following list is an indicative guide of the cost of 'hidden extras' to budget for if they are not included in the price of the trek operator you choose:

  • International return airfare - e.g. Sydney - Port Moresby - $1,100
  • Two nights accommodation in Port Moresby - $600
  • Meals in Port Moresby - $150
  • Backpack - $250 - $350
  • Tent - $180 - $300
     

 

 


If your trek operator does not have a Public Liability Insurance policy then you will need to arrange for your own cover.  This is an essential requirement but will be a difficult and expensive exercise to arrange on an individual basis.

Most trekkers bring some of their favourite snacks to nibble on between meals during the day.  These include biscuits, chocolate bars, jelly beans, etc.

Try and avoid too many dried fruit and nut mixes as they are heavy and can be a bit hard on the digestive system.

Your daily snack pack should not exceed 150 grams.

The average size of our groups in 2017 was 12 trekkers - groups are larger during school holiday periods.

 

The best time to trek Kokoda is during the 'dry' season from April through to October.  Trekkers can still trek comfortably during the wetter periods provided they are equipped with proper gear.

The temperature on the Kokoda Trail is a constant 29 - 30 degrees Celsius during the day.

Humidity is very high however trekkers are protected from direct sunlight most of the time because they are under the jungle canopy.

Over the higher part of the Owen Stanley's the temperature can drop to 1 - 2 degrees Celsius during the night.

And it can rain in the 'dry' season and be quite dry in the 'wet' season - so always be prepared for rain!

 

If you trek from Owers Corner to Kokoda via the wartime trail you follow the footsteps of our young Diggers as they advanced across the Owen Stanley Ranges to meet the Japanese 144th South Sea Islands Regiment.

If you trek from Kokoda to Owers Corner via the wartime trail you follow the route of the Australian withdrawal in the face of overwhelming Japanese odds back to the last line of defence on Imita Ridge.

There is no 'best' way to trek Kokoda. The experience is just as powerful in either direction (that is the opinion of Charlie Lynn who has trekked 61 times from Kokoda to Owers Corner and 29 times from Owers Corner to Kokoda).

The difference is the experience and knowledge of your trek leader.  If your trek leader has a detailed understanding of the history of the Kokoda campaign you will get maximum value from your trek.  If they don't you will be disappointed and will soon realise the savings you made from going 'cheap' are a false economy in more ways than one.

The distance across the Kokoda Trail between Owers Corner and Kokoda as the crow flies is 96 km. However if you were to strap a Garmin 64st GPS to the leg of the crow and get him to trek it via the wartime trail the actual distance is 143.7 km - you would also climb a total of 6748 metres.

 

The situation is assessed by the trek leader.  If it is an emergency he will immediately contact the Adventure Kokoda base at Sogeri via satellite phone or VHF Radio.  The person in charge of the office will initiate immediate evacuation procedures by telephone with the appropriate emergency authorities in PNG and will advise the Australian High Commission of the details.  Immediate action will be taken to move the patient by stretcher to an area accessible by helicopter or to a nearby airfield.  The patient will be met on arrival by our representative from Sogeri who will then liaise with the appropriate medical authorities and the Australian High Commission for the most appropriate treatment or further evacuation to Australia if necessary.

The villages along the Trail are Seventh Day Adventists. They are vegetarian, don't drink alcohol and strictly observe their Sabbath between 4.00 PM on Friday and 4.00 PM on Saturday each week.  They also have two church services in each village each day - one at 6.00 AM and one at 6.00 PM.  Trekkers are asked to respect these religious protocols.

Each village has a designated area for trekkers to camp.  They also have dedicated toilets for trekkers. Your guides will identify these areas for you.

There are also separate bathing areas for males and females.  To avoid embarrassment you should ask your guides to show you where they are.  Ladies should wear a sarong to their bathing area. 

The Kokoda Trail - Official Naming Rights 

A paper by Major Charlie Lynn OL
13 September 2011
 

  • Ownership of the naming rights for the Kokoda Trail is a keenly contested point of debate in Australia. 

  •  Do they belong to the nation which retains sovereign ownership of the land between Owers Corner and Kokoda i.e. Papua New Guinea?  

  • Or to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian Battalions who were awarded the official battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’?  

  • Or to the custodians of political correctness in the Australian Government who dislike the name ‘trail’ because it's not Australian?
     

Background

Over the past decade almost 40,000 Australians have trekked across the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.  Most trekkers are motivated by the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign and this has led to a range of books and television stories on the subject.  It has also led to some extensive debate about the official name of the trail.

Contemporary debate over the name evolved after former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating kissed the ground at Kokoda on the 50th anniversary of the campaign in April 1992.  This was accompanied by much ‘talkback’ noise about ‘trail’ being an American term and ‘track’ being the language of the Australian bush (ignoring the fact that our bush is criss-crossed with fire-trails).  This suited Keating’s agenda for an Australian republic at the time.

The debate suited those in the Australian commentariat who harboured a strong anti-American bias over their engagement in Iraq around the time of the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign.  As most of the commentariat had never served in the regular armed forces they could be excused for not appreciating the esprit de corps associated with a battle honour.  This, however, does not excuse them for ambushing a name that doesn’t reflect their political bias.

‘Kokoda Track’ has since emerged as the politically correct term in Australia in spite of the fact that the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ was awarded to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign.  It is also in defiance of the Papua New Guinea government who gazetted the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ in 1972.

Australian Battles Nomenclature Committee

Immediately after the war against Japan the Australian Government established a Battles Nomenclature Committee to define the battles of the Pacific.

According to research conducted by Peter Provis[1] at the Australian War Memorial the committee conferred with official historians ‘including Dudley McCarthy.  He reported:

‘The Battles Nomenclature Committee used the ‘Battle of the Owen Stanley’s’ in a provisional list of battles, actions and engagements of the war in the South West Pacific Area produced in May 1947.  For the preparation of the final list, Warren Perry, Assistant Director, wrote that the geographic boundaries required further work with ‘very detailed research into the original day to day records of the various campaigns’.  The Committee may have deemed that the ‘Battle of the Owen Stanley’s covered a too broader area to describe the Kokoda campaign, suggesting that fighting occurred across the entire range. In June 1949 the provisional list of battles used ‘Kokoda Trail’.

‘The final report, completed and published in 1958, listed the ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the name of the battle, which included the actions Isurava, Ioribaiwa, Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing 11 and Oivi-Gorari as well as the following engagements: Kokoda-Deniki, Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing 1 and Efogi-Menari.’

Kokoda Trail Battle Honour

The Battle Honour ‘Kokoda Trail has been emblazoned on the colours of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign for the past 57 years.

Battle Honours or colours symbolise the spirit of a regiment for they carry the names of battles that commemorate the gallant deeds performed from the time it was raised.  This association of Colours with heroic deeds means they are regarded with veneration.  In a sense, they are the epitome of the history of the regiment[2].

39th Battalion Regimental Flag with Battle Honours

The full history of a regiment is contained in written records, but these are not portable in a convenient form.  On the other hand the Colours, emblazoned with distinction for long and honourable service, are something in the nature of a silken history, the sight of which creates a feeling of pride in soldiers and ex-soldiers.[3]

This is a significance that commentators and bureaucrats who have never worn the uniform will never fully comprehend.

The Australian War Memorial (AWM)

The Australian War Memorial is the official custodian of our military history.  The Memorial has honoured the battle honour of the 10 Australian battalions by naming the Second World War Galleries ‘Kokoda Trail’.

According to the Memorial’s website the ‘Kokoda Trail Campaign’ was fought over ‘a path that linked Owers Corner, approximately 40 km north-east of Port Moresby, and the small village of Wairopi, on the northern side of the Owen Stanley mountain range. From Wairopi, a crossing point on the Kumusi River, the Trail was connected to the settlements of Buna, Gona and Sanananda on the north coast.  Its name was derived from the village of Kokoda that stood on the southern side of the main range and was the site of the only airfield between Port Moresby and the north coast[4].

For trekkers the Kokoda Trail lies between Owers Corner and Kokoda.

In response to the debate over the official name of the Kokoda Trail, Australian War Memorial historian, Garth Pratten surveyed the Memorial’s collection of published histories of all the major units involved in the Owen Stanley and Beachhead campaigns in 1997.  Pratten found that of the 28 published histories 19 used ‘Kokoda Trail and 9 used ‘Kokoda Track’ - a majority of 2:1 in favour of ‘Trail’.[5]

Pratten noted that ‘these histories were usually written, edited, or published by men who had participated in the campaign’.[6]

It is ironic that 75 years on we now have city-based academics, commentators and bureaucrats who have never worn the uniform deem themselves to be more of an authority on the issue than those who saw active service in the Kokoda campaign.

The Returned Services League of Australia (RSL)

The RSL is the largest ex-service representative body in Australia. They accepted ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the official title after the battle honour was awarded in 1958. 

A motion by the NSW Branch of the league to have the Kokoda Trail renamed ‘Kokoda Track’ was defeated at the RSL National Congress held in Dubbo on 14-15 September 2010.[7]

Australian Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA)

The Australian Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Environment who have responsibility for the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea refuse to acknowledge the correct title of the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ and the right of the PNG Government to name their own geographic features.

According to the DVA website[8] ‘the Australian official historian of the Papua New Guinea campaign, Mr Dudley McCarthy, studied this issue more than any other historian.  He corresponded with and spoke to many Kokoda veterans, and the fact that he chose 'Track' carriers considerable authority’[9].

If this is true then why do unit histories of the battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign refer to the Kokoda Trail on a ratio of 2:1?

And why did McCarthy take poetic license to caption the map he used on page 114 of his official history ‘Kokoda Track’ when the name on the map clearly identifies the route as ‘Kokoda Trail’?

Dudley McCarthy was a most credible historian however there were many others such as Osmar White and Raymond Paull who had a different view.

The Department of Veterans Affairs believe that McCarthy ‘was certainly influenced by veterans, including senior officers such as Brigadier JE Lloyd, 16th Brigade Commander, who said 'we on the track referred to it as the Track not trail[10]'.

They are obviously unaware that Lieutenant-General Sir Sydney Rowell, former Commander of New Guinea Force during the Kokoda campaign, refers to ‘Kokoda Trail’ in his forward to Raymond Paull’s book, Retreat from Kokoda in 1953[11].  Major General ‘Tubby’ Allan, Commander of the 7th Division and Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner, Commanding Officer of the 39th Battalion at Isurava also refer to ‘Kokoda Trail’.

Captain Bert Kienzle, a plantation owner from Kokoda who trekked across the trail more than any other soldier before, during and after the campaign also has a different view to Brigadier Lloyd. In an address to 40 members of the 39th Battalion on the Kokoda plateau in 1972 Kienzle referred to the track Vs trail debate[12]:

‘We, who fought and saved this nation, PNG, from defeat by a ruthless and determined enemy knew it as the Kokoda Trail not track. . . so I appeal to you and all of those who helped us defend this great country to revere and keep naming it the Kokoda Trail in memory of those great men who fought over it.  Lest we forget.’

Departmental officials will go to extraordinary lengths to justify their refusal to accept the official title of the Battle Honour. They have advised that:

‘On 6 March 2008, at a joint press conference in Port Moresby with the then Prime Minister, The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, and the PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, the word ‘Track’ was used nine times and there was not mention of the word ‘Trail’. Both Prime Ministers and the reporters asking questions all used the word ‘Track’.

‘In the Australians at War Film Archive, there are 614 references to Kokoda Track and 462 references to Kokoda Trail by the veterans interviewed.’

This could hardly be classified as ‘qualitative’ research and indicates that they have far too much time on their hands!

The Department is obviously not averse to using sleight-of-hand ‘amendments’ to their own references to support their opposition to the name ‘Kokoda Trail’.  Spot the difference below:

 

Department of Veterans Affairs Website[13]
 

Department of Veterans Affairs
letter to  Charlie Lynn date 23 February 2011

‘There has been a considerable debate about whether the difficult path that crossed the Owen Stanley Range should be called the "Kokoda Trail" or the "Kokoda Track". Both "Trail" and "Track" have been in common use since the war. "Trail" is probably of American origin but has been used in many Australian history books and was adopted by the Australian Army as an official "Battle Honour". "Track" is from the language of the Australian bush. It is commonly used by veterans, and is used in the volumes of Australia's official history. Both terms are correct, but "Trail" appears to be used more widely.’

‘There has been a considerable debate about whether the difficult path that crossed the Owen Stanley Range should be called the "Kokoda Trail" or the "Kokoda Track". Both "Trail" and "Track" have been in common use since the war. "Trail" is probably of American origin but has been used in many Australian history books and was adopted by the Australian Army as an official "Battle Honour". "Track" is from the language of the Australian bush. It is commonly used by veterans, and is used in the volumes of Australia's official history. Both terms are correct, but "Track" appears to be used more widely.’


What a difference a simple word transition can make!

Papua New Guinea

Although the Kokoda Trail is situated within the geographic borders of the sovereign nation of Papua New Guinea their views on the official name have been ignored by Australian academics and armchair historians. Indeed there is no known record of their views ever being canvassed.

Papua New Guinea Geographical Place Names Committee

During the establishment of self-government in PNG in 1972, PNG government officials from the Department of Lands decided to examine the name of the mail route between Owers Corner and Kokoda with a view to formalising an official name for it.  They determined that the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ would be proclaimed.  One can assume they would have been influenced by the name of the Battle Honour which had been awarded to their Papuan Infantry Battalion in 1958.

Chief Minister Michael Somare assumed office on 23 June 1972 when the nation achieved self-government as part of the process to independence in 1975.  Somare accepted the recommendation of the Place Names Committee and the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ was gazetted four months later on 12 October 1972 (PNG Government Gazette No. 88 of 12 October 1972, page 1362, column 2. Notice 1972/28 of the PNG Place Names Committee refers).

In a breathtaking display of patronising arrogance bureaucrats in the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs recently advised that 'the notice included in the PNG Government Gazette of 12 October 1972 was a declaration of the Australian Administration of Papua and New Guinea and not a declaration of the PNG Government!'[14].  They conveniently ignored the fact that the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ has been on the PNG Government statute books since they obtained independence 40 years ago!

Another patronising historian went further when he declared ‘this was a bureaucratic decision, made under the Australian administration, and therefore doesn’t necessarily reflect the view of the people of PNG’[15].  No references were listed to support his fallacy.

Papua New Guinea Publications

The ‘view of the people of PNG’ is reflected in their own publications.

The Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea compiled by Peter Ryan in 1972 refers to the ‘Kokoda Trail’.  Ryan served with intelligence behind enemy lines in New Guinea during the war.  He was decorated with a Military Medal and mentioned in despatches.  Ryan was later a Director of Melbourne University Press.  His book, ‘Fear Drive My Feet’ has been described as ‘the finest Australian memoir of the war’[16].

Wartime journalist, Osmar White, reported directly from the Kokoda Trail in 1942.  Books on his experiences in PNG include Green Armour, Parliament of a Thousand Tribes and Time Now Time Before.  These books, along with the ‘Handbook of Papua New Guinea’; ‘Port Moresby, Yesterday and Today’; and ‘Papua New Guinea’ were all published well before the PNG Government gazetted the name ‘Kokoda Trail’.

Professor John Dademo Waiko, a former Member of the PNG National Parliament, academic and respected historian published a ‘Short History of Papua New Guinea in 1993. Professor Waiko is from Oro Province which contains a large section of the Kokoda Trail.

PNG publications which refer to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ include:

  • Handbook of Papua New Guinea published in 1954’[17].
  • Parliament of a Thousand Tribes. Osmar White. Heinmann: London. 1963. P.125
  • Port Moresby: Yesterday and Today. Ian Stuart. Pacific Publications. 1970. P. 362
  • Papua New Guinea. Peter Hastings. Angus and Robertson. 1971. P. 53
  • Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea. Peter Ryan. Melbourne University Press. 1972. P. 147
  • PNG Fact Book. Jackson Rannells and Elesallah Matatier. 1990[18]
  • A Short History of Papua New Guinea. Professor John Dademo Waiko. Oxford University Press. 1993. P271
  • Sogeri: The School that helped shape a nation. Lance Taylor. Research Publications. 2002. P337

PNG military history books relating the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles which also refer to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ include:

  • Green Shadows: A War History of the Papuan Infantry Battalion. G.M.Byrnes. 1989. P. 12
  • The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles 1939-1943 – A History. Ian Downs. Pacific Press. 1999. P. 164
  • To Find a Path. The Life and Times of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment. James Sinclair. Boolarong Publications. 1990. P. 143
  • The Architect of Kokoda: Bert Kienzle – the Man who made the Kokoda Trail. Robyn Kienzle. Hachette Australia. 2011. P.311

Stuart Hawthorne, author of the most definitive history of the Kokoda Trail[19] (a 30 year research project) recently wrote on the Australian War Memorial blog:

‘Exploration and development of the early parts of the overland route near Port Moresby began about 130 years ago. In this light, the campaign constitutes a very small part of the track’s history (about a third of one percent) yet the importance ascribed to the WW2 period often assumes a considerably high significance.  Of course the Kokoda campaign is very important in Australia on many levels but notwithstanding this, I often wonder whether the presumption that our Australian perspective displaces all others and borders on the arrogant’.

These publications span a 70 year period and make a mockery of the statement that the decision of the PNG Government Place Names Committee ‘doesn’t necessarily reflect the view of the people of PNG’.

Official Maps

The Royal Australian Survey Corps published a series of 1:100 000 topographical maps in 1974 (Port Moresby – Efogi – Kokoda). The source data for the maps were wartime aerial photographs, sketch maps and survey patrols.  The maps identify the original mail route across the Owen Stanley Ranges which are clearly marked ‘Kokoda Trail’.

The PNG National Mapping Bureau published a ‘Longitudinal Cross Section of the Kokoda Trail’ in 1991.  The map was derived from the Department of Works and Supply, Drawing Number A1/100897 dated May 1982 with field verification by 8 Field Survey Squadron in June 1991 and May 1992.

The PNG Department of Lands and Physical Planning produced a 1:200 000 ‘Kokoda Trail Area Map’ of Oro and Central Provinces.

There are no known maps published by the PNG National Mapping Bureau which contain the name ‘Kokoda Track’.

Australian Military History Publications[20]

The following books include the unit histories of the three battalions (2/14th, 2/16th/2/27th) of the 21st Brigade who fought at Isurava, Brigade Hill and Imita Ridge – all refer to ‘Kokoda Trail’. Other distinguished historians including Professor David Horner, Colonel E.G. Keogh and Raymond Paull, refer to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ in the following publications:

  • Khaki and Green. Published for the Australian Military Forces by the Australian War Memorial in 1943[21] P.157
  • Jungle Warfare. Published for the Australian Military Forces by the Australian War Memorial in 1944[22] P. 70
  • Green Armour. Osmar White. Angus and Robertson. 1945. P. 187
  • The Coastwatchers by Eric Felt published in 1946[23].
  • The History of the 2/14th Battalion. W.B. Russell MA B.Ed. 1948
  • Blamey. John Hetherington. Cheshire Press. 1954. P174
  • Retreat from Kokoda by Raymond Paull published by William Heinemann. 1958. P. 314
  • A Thousand Men at War: The Story of the 2/16th Battalion. Malcolm Uren. Trojan Press. 1959. P. 119
  • The Brown and Blue Diamond at War: The Story of the 2/27th Battalion. John Burns MM. 2/27th Battalion Association. 1960. P. 105
  • The South West Pacific 1941-45. Colonel E.G. Keogh MBE ED[24]. 1965. P.169
  • Crisis of Command. David Horner. Australian National University Press. 1978.
  • War Dance: The Story of the 2/3rd Battalion. Ken Clift. P.M. Fowler. 1980. P. 286
  • New Guinea 1942-44. Timothy Hall. Methuen Australia. 1981. P.101
  • High Command. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 1982. P. 549
  • Recollections of a Regimental Medical Officer. H. D. Steward. Melbourne University Press. 1983. P. 167
  • The First at War: The Story of the 2/1st Battalion. EC Givney. Macarthur Press. 1987. P. 261
  • The Odd Couple: Blamey and MacArthur at War. Jack Gallaway. University of Queensland Press. 1990. P.266
  • Blood and Iron: The Battle for Kokoda 1942. Lex McAulay. Hutchinson Australia. 1991. P. 23
  • A Young Man’s War: 37th/52nd Battalion. Ron Blair. 37/52 Battalion Association. 1992. P. 106
  • Forever Forward: The History of the 2/31st Battalion.  John Laffin. Australian Military History Publication. 1994. P.329
  • Damien Parer’s War. Neil McDonald. Thomas C. Lothian. 1994. P. 365
  • Salvos with the Forces. Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hull. The Salvation Army. 1995. P. 154
  • Inside the War Cabinet. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 1996 P. 137
  • Blamey. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 1998. P. 674
  • The Kokoda Trail: A History. Stuart Hawthorne. Central Queensland University Press. 2003
  • Kokoda Commander. Stuart Braga. Oxford University Press. 2004. P. 368
  • Strategic Command. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 2005. P. 441
  • The Silent 7th: History of the 7th Australian Division. Mark Johnston. Allen and Unwin. 2005. P. 271
  • All the Bull’s Men: 2/2nd Commando Squadron. Cyril Ayris. 2/2 Commando Association. 2006. P. 384
  • Wartime: Kokoda Then and Now. Official Magazine of the Australian War Memorial. P. 11
  • Hell’s Battlefield: The Australians in New Guinea in WW2. Phillip Bradley. Allen and Unwin. 2012. P. 494
  • Kokoda Secret. Susan Ramage. Eora Press. 2014. P. 101
  • To Kokoda (Australian Army Campaign Series-14). Nicholas Anderson. Big Sky Publishing. 2014. P. 234

Kokoda Trail Signage

All signage between Owers Corner and Kokoda referred to ‘Kokoda Trail’ prior to the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 2002.  The Department of Veterans Affairs, which refuses to recognise the battle honour or the PNG gazetted name, Kokoda Trail, built a significant memorial at the Isurava battlesite.  The historical value of the memorial was besmirched with their insistence that the politically correct name ‘Kokoda Track’ be inscribed into it.  The memorial was opened by Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare, on 26 August 2002.  The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs who oversaw the project was later sacked by the Government over his handling of road constructions at Gallipoli.  He should have been sacked earlier over his arrogant management of the Isurava project which created issues that continue to fester 15 years later!

Sign at McDonald's Corner: 1942

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1991

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1991

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1991

   PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1993

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Owers Corner 2004

WW1 Remembrance Trail on the Western Front[25]

In 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs was allocated $10 million to develop a Remembrance Trail on the Western Front in France and Belgium for the Centenary of Anzac commemoration period.

See http://www.dva.gov.au/commemorations-memorials-and-war-graves/memorials/australian-remembrance-trail-along-western-front

The use of the word ‘trail’ in this context creates an interesting paradox for both the Department and the commentariat.  There was not a whimper about the ‘Americanisation’ of our WW1 battlefields in France and Belgium.  Why did DVA use ‘trail ‘when they could have just as easily used ‘track’ to identify it as Australian?  And why did the commentariat not try to mobilise public opinion against that ‘American’ word that does not reflect their interpretation of the ‘language of the Australian bush’?

The decision makes a mockery of their refusal to acknowledge the official name of the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

Conclusion

It is not surprising that there were so many variations amongst troops and war correspondents in the terms describing the track/trail/path/dala/front/road between Owers Corner and Kokoda because it didn’t have a name.  However the four books produced in the 1940s (Jungle Warfare, Khaki and Green, Green Armour, the Coastwatchers and History of the 2/14th Battalion) indicate that ‘Kokoda Trail was the adopted term well before the Battles Nomenclature Committee was established.  It is therefore easy to understand why the committee adopted the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ for the battle honour.

Subsequent to the awarding of the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ more history books were produced on the Kokoda campaign in the lead-up to self-government in Papua New Guinea.  These include the Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea, Blamey, Retreat from Kokoda, a Thousand Men at War, The Brown and Blue Diamond at War and South-West Pacific. All refer to the Kokoda Trail which would have influenced the deliberations of the Papua New Guinea Place Names Committee in choosing ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the official geographic name.

The name ‘Kokoda Trail’ is now officially recognised by:

  1. The Government of Papua New Guinea
  2. The RSL of Australia[26]
  3. The Australian War Memorial Second World War Galleries

It is not recognised by DVA or Department of Environment - post 1992 - who stubbornly refuse to accept the decision of the Australian Battles Nomenclature Committee or the traditional owners of the land, the Papua New Guinea Government.

Their decision to now use the politically correct term ‘Kokoda Track’ in preference to the official name ‘Kokoda Trail’ is a patronising breach of international protocol towards Papua New Guinea - our closest neighbour, former mandated territory, fellow Commonwealth member and wartime ally.

It is also highly discriminatory against them.  If it is OK for the Australian Government to use ‘trail’ in France and Belgium then surely it should be OK to use it in Papua New Guinea – after all they do own the land!

Recommendation

The Australian Government should now put up or shut up.  If they don’t like the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ they should:

  1. make a submission to the PNG Government to have them change their gazetted name ‘Kokoda Trail’ to Australia’s politically correct version;
  2. reconvene a Battles Nomenclature Committee to redefine the battle honour from ‘Kokoda Trail’ to ‘Kokoda Track’ or
  3. change the name of the WW1 ‘Remembrance Trail’ in France and Belgium to ‘Remembrance Track’ .

Until then they should respect the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ and PNGs sovereign right to name their own geographic features.

Em Tasol

Charlie Lynn OL

[1] ‘Track’ or ‘Trail’? The Kokoda Debate. Peter Provis. Australian War Memorial. 27 July 2009

[2] Looking Forward Looking Back: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Army. Christopher Jobson. Big Sky Publishing. 2009. P 50

[3] Ibid P.50

[4] Australian War Memorial Website https://www.awm.gov.au/military-event/E291/

[5] Australian War Memorial – Blog Article – The Kokoda ‘Track or Trail’? Karl James. 27 July 2009. P 4

[6] Ibid. P. 4

[7] RSL National Congress Resolution 6.1.2 refers

[8] DVA website: http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/about-the-kokoda-track

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Retreat from Kokoda. Raymond Paull. Heinemann Publishers. 1953. Forward P. xv

[12] The Architect of Kokoda. Robyn Kienzle. Hachette Australia. 2011 P

[13] Dept of Veterans Affairs Website: https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/kokoda

[14] Department of Veterans Affairs letter to Charlie Lyn (sic) dated 23 February 2011 advising why they would not use the official title ‘Kokoda Trail.

[15] Kokoda Spirit. Patrick Lindsay. Hardie Grant Books. 2009. P. 243

[16] Peter Ryan’s Fear Drive My Feet remains Australia’s finest war memoir. The Australian. 27 June 2015

[17] Handbook of Papua and New Guinea. Sydney and Melbourne Publishing, 1954. P103

[18] PNG Fact Book. Jackson Rannells and Elesallah Matatier. Oxford University Press. 1990. P. 260

[19] Stuart Hawthorne, ‘The Kokoda Trail – A History’ Central Queensland University Press, 2003

[20] These books are from my own library - according to Australian War Memorial historian, Garth Pratten, there are many more.

[21] Khaki and Green. Halstead Press. Published in 1943. P157

[22] Jungle Warfare. Australian War Memorial Canberra. 1944 P.70

[23] The Coastwatchers by Eric Feldt. The Oxford University Press. P190

[24] Greyflower Productions 1965 P. 177

 

Kokoda Day

The day they raised the Australian flag at Kokoda

Australia was unprepared for the war in the Pacific in 1942.  Our faith in ‘great and powerful friends’ coming to our aid in the event of Japan entering the war was shattered with the sinking of HMAS Prince of Wales and HMAS Repulse near Singapore on 10 December 1941 and the secret deal struck by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt for American aid to be directed to the European theatre of operations at the expense of the South West Pacific.

The defence of Australia and its mandated territory of New Guinea was dependent on untrained militia forces and a small band of New Guinea Rifles as our experienced AIF units were returning from Europe to meet the new threat.

Resources were so scarce in New Guinea that young males were forcibly recruited to support the war effort.  Many of these men from remote mountain villagers had no idea of the war and were conscripted against their will.  They were told that men from Japan were the enemy.  For many of these men other villagers living in remote tribal lands were also considered ‘enemy’.  One can only imagine the fear and uncertainty they felt as they were forcibly marched away from their families and clans.

They were designated as Carriers but were to become known as ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ because of their selfless sacrifice in assisting wounded and sick diggers during the various campaigns.

They carried vital war supplies on their bare shoulders in endless lines over hostile and inhospitable terrain.  Modern day trekkers are in awe of their efforts.  Without this vital link in the chain of our war effort Japan would have been successful in the conquest of New Guinea.

Today, 71 years after the Pacific War, they are the only link in the chain not to have received any official recognition.  Many claim they were not properly paid.  None were ever issued with a medal.  No day has been set aside to commemorate their service or sacrifice.

It is difficult to understand why successive Australian governments have ignored this important omission.

The recent upsurge in interest in the Kokoda campaign by Australian trekkers indicates there is a strong desire for our wartime links with Papua New Guinea to be recognised.  This can be achieved by providing them with an incentive to visit, or revisit the country.

The proclamation of a ‘Kokoda Day’ dedicated to the wartime carriers would provide this incentive.

This paper recommends that November 3rd be officially proclaimed as a day of commemoration for the carriers.  This is the day the Australian flag was raised at Kokoda – a ceremony that would never have been possible without the support of the New Guinea Wartime Carriers.

An earlier proposal was approved by the PNG Government National Executive Council however the name was changed to ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angel Day’ in the process.  This decision defeated the purpose of the announcement as most Australians do not know anything about ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ until they have visited Papua New Guinea. 

In marketing terms the name ‘Kokoda’ is priceless whereas the term ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angel’ only has emotional appeal to those who have already trekked.

Objective

To seek the support of the National Executive Council to proclaim 3rd November as ‘Kokoda Day’ to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Papua New Guinea wartime carriers.

Background

The PNG Carriers who supported Australian troops during the Pacific have never been properly recognized.  Some were never paid and none ever received a medal for their service.

According to our official history of the war in the Pacific by Dudley McCarthy (Australia in the War 1939-1945, p116) the Australian New Guinea Army Unit (ANGAU) was authorised by the Australian government to provide for:

‘the conscription of whatever native labour might be required by the Services..’

Rates of pay were to be determined and the Senior Military Officer or District Officer was empowered:

‘to have the natives so employed to enter into a contract with the Australian Government.’

It has been estimated that some 10,000 PNG nationals served as Carriers in support of the Australians during the Kokoda campaign in 1942.

A further 42,000 are estimated to have been indentured to support Australian troops in the Milne Bay and the Buna/Gona campaigns.  They were paid 10 shillings per month.

According to wartime journalist, Osmar White[i]:

‘ANGAU contrived a maximum mobilization and use of native labour.  At the critical period, its method of conscription was even more arbitrary than German recruiting in the early days.  In some villages every able-bodied male over the approximate age of sixteen years was rounded up, transported to the clearing centres, and thence drafted to whatever type of work had priority in the immediate emergency.  Brutal disciplinary measures had often to be taken in the field; but when the first and worst crises of invasion were surmounted, ANGAU did what ti could to conserve the life and health of its native levies and to maintain the viability of native communities depleted of 40 or 50 per cent of their able-bodied men.  Under military rule, the labourers’ health was more carefully considered and their diet in general better than under private employers before the war.  ANGAU was fully aware of the value of native labour and co-operation to the Allied effort.

What is not understood by many is that male villagers indentured for work as Carriers faced two potential enemies – the invading Japanese and traditional clans whose customary land was foreign to them.

During the period 1944 to 1957 approximately 2 million pounds was paid by the Australian Government in compensation for property damage to PNG nationals by the Australian Government.  In 1975 PNG gained independence and the PNG Government assumed all legal obligations for compensation of its veteran community.

Unfortunately the PNG Carriers were excluded from benefits under legislation for compensation of PNG nationals who served in the Defence Force.  In 1980 they were also deemed to be ineligible for the PNG War Gratuity Scheme for ex-Servicemen.

In 1981 the Australian Government paid $3.25 million to the PNG Government under the Defence (PNG) Retirement Act as a final payment for compensation for Carriers.  In 1986 the PNG Government introduced payments of PNGK1,000 for each surviving Carrier.  The payments ceased in 1989 and many Carriers claim to have not received any money.

During the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign the issue of payment and compensation for many of the Carriers who claim they were never paid was raised with the Keating Government.

On 21 April 1992 The Australian newspaper reported that returned servicemen in PNG had called on the Australian Government to pay hundreds of local war veterans who helped Australian troops during the Kokoda campaign.  According to the report:

“The President of the PNG Returned Services League, Mr Wally Lussick, said Australia had sent about $3.5 million to PNG to help compensate local war veterans in the early 1980s, but much of the money had gone to the wrong people and a large group of carriers missed out.

“Mr Lussick said much of the money went to those press-ganged into being carriers for the Japanese and many people who took no part in the war received payments.

“The visit to PNG later this week by the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, for Anzac Day services to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda battles would provide a good opportunity for Australia to make a commitment to the surviving carriers, he said.”

In the PNG Post-Courier of 24 April 1992, the Prime Minister of PNG, Sir Rabbie Namaliu called on Australia ‘to help compensate WW2 carriers and stretcher bearers”.  He raised the issue with Prime Minister Paul Keating at the time.  According to the Post-Courier:

“Most of the carriers and ex-servicemen received compensation payments from Australia in the mid-1980s, but many legitimate veterans from the Southern Kokoda Trail near Port Moresby, missed out.

“PNG authorities estimate up to 200 surviving carriers are still waiting for some kind of payment from Australia for their wartime labour and service.

“Mr Namaliu said the Government was considering making an approach to Australia to identify and pay those carriers who have gone unrewarded for half a century.”

On 5 May 1992 the Bulletin with Newsweek reported:

“Keating says compensation cases will be dealt with on their merits and all worthy claims examined; but no concrete sum for individuals has been discussed.  The difficulty of maintaining a list of the original carriers is underlined by how few speak English.  Family members of dead carriers are calling for posthumous compensation – after all, they took part in a battle that Keating described this week “as more important to Australians than any other battlefield in Europe or Africa.”

Whilst Prime Minister Keating was genuine in his desire to resolve the issue it is clear that his bureaucracy put it in the ‘too hard basket’ at the time.

The argument that ‘it would be inappropriate for the Australian Government to consider taking any further action on this matter in the absence of a detailed proposal from the Papua New Guinea Government’ was a cop-out.

The increasing numbers of Australians trekking Kokoda (Federal and State politicians, prominent media personalities, successful business people and a number of private schools)- and reconnecting with the ‘sons of the fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ will be enthusiastic supporters of a day dedicated to their memory. 

Remembrance Day – Papua New Guinea

Remembrance Day commemorates Papua New Guinean servicemen who sacrificed their lives in World War 11 and Bougainville.  It occurs on 23 July which commemorates the day in 1942 when the Papuan Infantry Battalion first fought against Japanese soldiers near the Kumusi River in Oro Province.  Remembrance Day is a public holiday.

In 2008 Governor-General Paulias Matane paid tribute to these soldiers and added:

"Also we must remember those who provided intelligence reports, coastwatchers and the fuzzy wuzzy angels. All these fallen heroes contributed in a significant way to the strategic defence of our land then and today."

Kokoda Day

Whilst Remembrance Day commemorates the service of uniformed Papua New Guinean servicemen who served, and those who sacrificed their lives in action during the Pacific War and the Bougainville crisis, Kokoda Day would be dedicated to the service of the Wartime Carriers.

Kokoda Day would not be a national holiday.  It would be a day of commemoration which could include:

  • a morning service in schools (thus providing an opportunity to educate Papua New Guinean students on the achievements and sacrifices of their grandfathers);
  • a flag raising re-enactment at Kokoda; and
  • a service at Remembrance Park in Port Moresby.

Why 3 November?

The Kokoda campaign began with a full scale attack on the Australian 39th Militia Battalion on 29 July 1942.  The campaign lasted three months as the Australians were pushed back to last line of defence on Imita Ridge.  The Australians rallied at this point and pushed the Japanese back across the track.  Kokoda was recaptured on 2nd November 1942 and the Australian flag was raised at a service the following day.

The flag raising ceremony symbolised the turning of the tide in the Pacific War.  It also symbolises the service and sacrifice made by Carriers in all campaigns throughout PNG.

This victory would not have been possible without the vital support of the PNG Carriers across the track.  In addition to their contribution to the war effort hundreds of Australian soldiers owe their lives to the selfless sacrifice of the Carriers who guided and carried them to safety over inhospitable jungle terrain in the most adverse of circumstances.

Tourism Benefits for Kokoda (Oro Province)

The proclamation of Kokoda Day would provide an incentive for Australians to travel to Papua New Guinea for the commemoration services.

Following is a monthly comparison of Australians trekking Kokoda in July and November since 2008:

YEAR

JULY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

2008

1368

802

765

412

83

2009

1017

507

733

305

107

2010

662

450

509

310

103

2011

671

356

354

339

128

2012

770

532

631

480

176


The proclamation would effectively extend the trekking season into November by providing an incentive for Australians to visit PNG.  There are many Australians who are not physically able to trek Kokoda however they would visit the village if there was a strong reason for them to do so.

Commemorative activities would not be limited to a single day in Kokoda.  It could include short treks up to the Isurava Memorial, across to Abuari and down the Eastern side of the range which was defended by the 53rd Militia Battalion.  It would also provide them with an opportunity to extend their stay and visit Tufi Resort and the beachheads at Buna and Gona thus bringing increased tourism benefits to this region.

In addition to the re-enactment of the raising of the flag Kokoda Day would provide an opportunity for local clans to showcase their Orokaiva culture with sing-sings, traditional dances, markets and craft displays. 

In Port Moresby a service could be held at Remembrance Park in the morning and a beating of the retreat at Bomana War Cemetery in the evening.

Digger Tributes to PNG Wartime Carriers

In a report on the medical aspects of the fighting withdrawal in the face of overwhelming Japanese forces after the Battle for Isurava was lost, Colonel Kingsley Norris, Assistant Director Medical Services with the 7th Division praised the work of the Australian medics.  No living casualty, claimed Norris, was abandoned to the enemy and overall 750 wounded and sick were shepherded down the track to safety.  Norris was also full of praise for the ‘walking wounded’.  They had, in Norris’ words, to be treated with ‘absolute ruthlessness’ and not provided with stretchers:

‘Those alone who were quite unable to struggle or stagger along were carried.  There was practically never a complaint nor any resentment … One casualty with a two inch gap in a fractured patella, splintered by a banana leaf, walked for six days …’

Captain ‘Blue Steward, Regimental Officer, 2/16th Battalion:

“… they never forgot their patients, carrying them as gently as they could, avoiding the jolts and jars of the many ups and downs.  The last stretcher was carried out by the Regimental Aid Post boys, two volunteers, Padre Fred and myself.  Till then we never knew the effort needed, nor fully appreciated the work the carriers were doing.  Their bare, splayed feet gave them a better grip than our cleated boots could claim on the slippery rocks and mud.

“Some of the bearers disliked the tight, flat canvas surfaces of the regulation army stretchers, off which a man might slide or be tipped.  They felt safer with the deeper beds of their own bush made stretchers – two blankets doubled round two long poles cut from the jungle.  Each time we watched them hoist the stretchers from the ground to their shoulders for another stint, we saw their strong leg, arm and back muscles rippling under their glossy black skins.  Manly and dignified, they felt proud of their responsibility to the wounded, and rarely faltered.  When they laid their charges down for the night they sought level ground on which to build a rough shelter of light poses and leaves.  With four men each side of a stretcher, they took it in turns to sleep and to watch, giving each wounded man whatever food, drink or comfort there might be.

Laurie Howson, 39th Battalion:

“The days go on.  You are trying to survive, shirt torn, arse out of your pants, whiskers a mile long, hungry and a continuous line of stretchers with wounded carried by ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzies’ doing a marvellous job.  Some days you carry your boots because there’s no skin on your feet.  But when I look around at some of the others – hell!  They look crook!  Then I have seen the time when you dig a number of holes in the ground and bury your dead.  Nothing would be said, but you think ‘maybe it will be my turn next.”

Conclusion

The Australian army would have been defeated in the Kokoda campaign if they had not received vital logistic support from the New Guinea Wartime Carriers.  Hundreds would have died of their wounds and tropical illnesses if they had not been carried off the track.

These wartime Carriers have never been officially recognised.  The Australian government specifically excluded them from benefits under legislation for compensation of PNG nationals who served in the Defence Force.  In 1980 they were also deemed to be ineligible for the PNG War Gratuity Scheme for ex-Servicemen.

The service of the wartime carriers and the sacrifices they made towards the allied victories in Papua New Guinea should be honoured and enshrined in a special day dedicated to their memory.

The most appropriate day is November 3 as the Australian flag would never have been raised on the Kokoda plateau if it had not been for their service.

Recommendation

‘Kokoda Day’ be proclaimed on 3rd November each year to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the New Guinea Wartime Carriers.

AWM Photo of the raising of the Australian Flag on the Kokoda plateau on 3 November 1942 

[i] Parliament of a Thousand Tribes, The Cataclysm. P.129-130

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure Kokoda has a strict policy of carrying our rubbish off the track.  All rubbish is collected by our PNG guides and carriers from our campsites and carried off the track for disposal. 

Why Trek with Adventure Kokoda

Our primary goal is to lead you safely across the Kokoda Trail and ensure you have an unforgettable wartime historical and cultural experience.

Charlie has led more than 90 expeditions across the Kokoda Trail over the past 26 years.

He previously served in the Australian Army for 21 years. During this time he saw active service in Vietnam; was assigned to the joint Australian, New Zealand and British (ANZUK) Force in Singapore/ Malaysia from 1970-72, and as an exchange instructor in Airborne Logistics with the United States Army from 1977-78. He is a graduate of the Army Command and Staff College.

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