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Straight talk Charlie tells it as it is

Slouch-Hat No one would call THE HON CHARLIE JOHN STUART LYNN a blushing violet. He’s the NSW State MP who’s made a name for himself not only by stimulating the Kokoda trekking boom but also by throwing himself wholeheartedly into projects that do some good for Papua New Guineans. In 'Straight Talk' Charlie’s most recent Kokoda newsletter (it runs to an entertaining 48 pages), he rails against some trekkers who use the experience to earn money for Australian charities. Read on…..

Charity begins in … PNG

The recent popularity of Kokoda has spawned a new breed of 'trekking Samaritans' who plan to use the experience to raise money for various charities in Australia.

While the cause is always noble, and the individuals are often well intentioned, there is some irony in the fact that we seek to exploit a jungle track in a third world country to raise funds for a cause in our 'land of plenty'.

There is no doubt these new 'trekking Samaritans' know little about the plight of our neighbours in Papua New Guinea before they land in the country.  However it is difficult to understand how anybody can spend a couple of nights in Port Moresby, then trek across the rugged Owen Stanley Ranges, and not observe the subsistence needs of local people.

One can only wonder at their power of observation during their Kokoda experience.

Did they drive around Port Moresby with their eyes closed?

Did they not communicate with their PNG guides during their trek?

Did they not observe the lack of basic health and education facilities in the villages they passed through?

Did they not learn about the ravages of HIV/AIDS/Malaria in the country?

Did they not think it might be a good idea to share the benefits of their fundraising efforts with a similar charity in PNG?

Or do their own 'feel-good' needs blind them to the plight of our closest neighbour, wartime ally, former mandated territory and fellow Commonwealth member?

There is no shortage of worthy programs in desperate need of financial support. For example, the Friends Foundation Inc provides support and care for women and children living with HIV/AIDS. And 'Buk bilong Pikinini' (with its subsidiary 'Kaikai bilong Pikinini') is an independent registered charity based in Port Moresby.

There are many other worthy causes for the new trekker samaritans to support. I recently visited a settlement at Gerehu on the outskirts of Port Moresby. The community comprises 147 West Papuans who have no access to education, health, welfare or employment because they are stateless. They have been evicted from previous settlements five times in less than a year. The only future option for the boys is crime and, for the girls, prostitution.

Those who trek with their eyes wide open are appalled at the reality of the squalor and the sense of hopelessness they observe. The thought of using a section of land such as the Kokoda Trail to benefit charitable causes in our 'land of plenty' is perplexing.

Lets hope the new breed of 'trekking Samaritans' decide to leave some of what they raise in PNG - there is no shortage of worthy causes for those who trek 'with their eyes wide open'.

It would be far more noble for them to leave their ego in Australia and their money in PNG!


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Leave your trekking money in PNG. As our closest neighbour we should be appalled that these people continue to live in such abject poverty, devoid of basic infrastructure of education and medical services while we live so high on the hog. As for violence against women in PNG it defies belief that in 2008 it goes so unchecked. If I trek Kokoda again it will be to raise funds to support awareness of what really goes on in PNG. Thanks for your time and I'll hop off my soap box now.

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