Seventy-five years ago, Australia’s liberty, and that of modern-day Papua New Guinea, was under threat. Crucial battles were fought from July 1942 to January 1943, along a jungle path over the precipitous Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea; the infamous Kokoda Track.
Young militia soldiers held on against odds of five or six to one for just long enough for Australia’s seasoned AIF Diggers to be rushed back from the Middle East and to eventually turn back and defeat the invading Japanese forces.
The spirit exhibited by the Diggers and their PNG comrades has since inspired generations of Australians and Papua New Guineans. As Gallipoli symbolized the Anzac spirit of the First World War, Kokoda became its Second World War equivalent.
Today, the Kokoda Track Foundation is committed to keeping the spirit of Kokoda alive, by educating children, building healthy communities and helping them lift themselves out of poverty, including by empowering women. KTF delivers aid and development activities across six provinces throughout Papua New Guinea in the vital areas of education, health, livelihoods and leadership.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary, KTF has partnered with the Australian High Commission and PNG artists and authors to create a children’s book that commemorates the Kokoda campaign. The children’s book will be written with the help of children from both Papua New Guinea and Australia at workshops held at the Kokoda College in July this year. Working with renowned PNG artist, Jeffry Feeger, and PNG authors, Rashmii B. Amoah and Iriani Wanma, the children will come together to create stories and artwork that keep the story of the Kokoda campaign alive so that the messages of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice are told for many generations to come.
“It is such an important year for the Kokoda Track communities and all of us who have an association with Kokoda and Papua New Guinea” said KTF CEO Dr Genevieve Nelson. “We know that many children in both Papua New Guinea and Australia have grandparents who fought in the battles that saved our two countries, or provided vital care and assistance along the way. The stories told through the children’s book reflect the shared values between our two countries and the enduring relationship that was forged out of those battles 75 years ago.”
Australian High Commissioner Bruce Davis said the 75th anniversary provided a poignant opportunity to reflect on the strength and the endurance of Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea. “The Australian High Commission is very pleased to be able to support this initiative by the Kokoda Track Foundation. Projects like this bring together young people and teach them about their countries’ shared history, strengthening and further developing the enduring friendship between our people.”
The children’s book will be launched at the Kokoda Day celebrations at Kokoda station in November 2017. KTF will distribute copies of the book to all school libraries across Oro and Central Provinces and sell the book in Australia to support its ongoing distribution to schools across PNG.
For more information, please contact Seba Siming, KTF’s Projects Coordinator, on the contact details below.
KTF Projects Coordinator