On Anzac Day Australia will reflect on the legacy of World War II, and recall the shared history and celebrate the special bonds created between Papua New Guineans and Australians during the conflict.
These bonds are embodied in the iconic Kokoda Track, a monument to the friendship, courage, endurance and sacrifice that both countries demonstrated during World War II in defence of our shared values.
While Covid-19 has interrupted the thousands of trekkers who would usually walk the Track, the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) continues to preserve, protect and promote the military and cultural heritage of the Kokoda Track and surrounding area.
This work forms part of the Kokoda Initiative – a partnership between the governments of PNG and Australia to conserve the special military, cultural and environmental values of the Kokoda Track, Brown River Catchment and Owen Stanley Ranges, and improve the livelihoods of the people living along the Track.
NMAG Director Dr Andrew Moutu has said that: “The historical items scattered along the Kokoda Track and beyond are not just remnants from the war, they are treasures and memories of an event that prompted the emergence of our nation”.
NMAG has worked with local communities along the Track to build museums at Efogi, Alola and Buna on the Northern Beachheads of Oro Province. These museums protect collections of war relics, are a place for tourists and locals to visit, and a gathering place for communities.
Other collections of artefacts in remote locations have also been secured and protected at Ioribaiwa Ridge and at Guvava near Alola, with another protective structure in the works for Fabula (Vabula Ridge) between Eora Creek Campground and Templeton’s Crossing.
NMAG is also undertaking long-term work at the Etoa Battlefield site above Eora Creek, and working with landowners and the community to develop the site for visitors and to protect its special heritage. The project was also the subject of an award-winning film – ETOA: A Kokoda Track Story – that has aired on NBC.
NMAG modern history intern Hamaru Turia said the enthusiasm of locals shows in the delivery of the projects and sense of ownership. She said: “I’ve found that people take a great interest in learning about and preserving their local military heritage”.
Landowners and community leaders are custodians of this heritage, like Community Museum curators Gaksy Siossi at Efogi, Ivan Senisi at Alola, and Basil Tindeba at Buna, and on-site collection custodians like Jack Avo at Ioribaiwa, Sam Sega at Guvava and Sai Lami at Fabula.
This work, under the Kokoda Initiative Partnership, is geared towards improving local livelihoods through preserving and developing local heritage for tourists.
Despite the difficulties presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the governments of PNG and Australia remain committed to maintaining the Track, helping the people, and protecting the environment in the Kokoda Track region.
Over seventy-five years after our people fought together in the region, the Kokoda Track continues to be an important meeting place where we can reflect on the virtues demonstrated by Papua New Guineans and Australians in times of hardship.
Australians recognise that the communities living in the Kokoda region are custodians of a land that has spiritual connections for both Papua New Guineans and Australians.
Every Anzac Day the famous words ‘Lest We Forget’ are recalled by Australians to recall the ultimate sacrifices made by the ANZACs, fighting alongside Papua New Guineans, including on the Kokoda Track.
For further information, including access to related materials, please contact the Australian High Commission media team: +675 7090 0100
Efogi Community Museum and Trade Centre opening ANZAC Day 25 April 2019. To celebrate ANZAC Day the VIP’s did a short game of Two-up with an ADF representative tossing the coin as others look on.