KTF is an aid and development organisation working in Papua New Guinea. Because of our shared history, the legacy of World War Two, and the support Australia received during the Kokoda campaign, we support PNG communities overcome some of the tremendous challenges they face today. From a lack of adequate health care, to the half a million children who are unable to attend school because of the lack of teachers, resources, infrastructure and government capacity, we aim to make a tangible impact in the lives of the most vulnerable.
Kokoda Track Foundation was established in 2003 to repay the support given to Australia by Papua New Guinea during the war. Over the years, we have grown, evolved and expanded our presence across Oro and Central Provinces. We also facilitate a national leadership program – the first of its kind in PNG – that aims to find and foster the next generation of leaders.
In 2015 we rebranded. Our new logo is inspired by the ‘Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly’ only found in Oro Province – signifying the birthplace of our organisation. The butterfly embodies growth, transformation and expansion and signifies the next chapter of KTF’s evolution. We are committed to expanding our life-changing programs in education, health, livelihoods and leadership to as many communities as we are able to reach across PNG.
We remain, throughout all of this, committed to keeping the ‘Spirit of Kokoda’ alive. We honour the legacy and sacrifices made by the ‘Kokoda Diggers’ and ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’.
Our programs continue to operate in the Kokoda Track catchment region, even as we expand throughout Oro and Central Provinces, and the country. We remain dedicated to sharing the stories and spirit of the great Australians and Papua New Guineans who fought in the Kokoda battles, telling of their sacrifice, endurance, mateship and courage they displayed to ensure the next generation’s futures were safe and secure.
Their stories will live on in the hearts and minds of our growing supporter base as well as in the future generations of Papua New Guineans who we support.
They were there for us in our darkest hour… now it’s our turn to lend a hand.
After the surprise destruction of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941, the Japanese Army quickly established a reputation of invincibility. Pearl Harbour signaled an onslaught that saw Japan invade Malaya and Thailand and attack Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam and Wake Island.
On January 23 1942, 20,000 troops from the Japanese South Seas Detachment overwhelmed the 1,400-strong Australian garrison at Rabaul on New Britain Island in PNG, an Australian Protectorate.
This shock was compounded when the supposedly impregnable fortress of Singapore fell on February 15 1942. Some 130,000 Allied troops were trapped there, including virtually the entire Australian 8th Division – about 15,000 Diggers. They began the tortuous road, which would see them decimated in Changi and on the Burma-Thailand Railway.
The war was on Australia’s doorstep and we were hopelessly ill-prepared, as war correspondent, Osmar White, pointed out in his book Green Armour:
“It is difficult to imagine a nation more completely open to even the most hastily prepared invasion than Australia was in the first three months of 1942. All that stood between her and the Japanese were a few hundred miles of unguarded sea, a few hundred miles of uninhabited jungle, a few groups of palm-filled, roadless islands and her own shellback of desert – the inert armour or a neglected and undeveloped north.”
The government rushed back our most experienced troops from the Middle East and, in the meantime, sent a handful of untried militia battalions to Port Moresby to try to hold on until the AIF troops could return to defend their homeland. These young militia soldiers had volunteered just months earlier and had received minimal training before being sent to PNG.
They were under-trained, under-equipped and vastly outnumbered. Their average age was eighteen and a half.
Yet it would be these young Diggers who would shatter the myth of invincibility surrounding the Japanese invaders – hardened veterans who had been undefeated in almost constant combat since they invaded Manchuria in 1937.