The PNG flu epidemic of 1969
The other side of the looking glass

What's with these new Kokoda 'kiaps'?

New kiaps
Charlie Lynn argues it's about time the Kokoda Track came under the management of locals not imported park rangers


SYDNEY – The Australian foreign affairs department (DFAT) 'Kokoda Initiative' has managed the Kokoda Trail through their surrogate Kokoda Track Authority for the past 11 years at a cost of more than $50 million (K105 million).

But in that time they have not been able to identify a single Papua New Guinean with the expertise to maintain the trail in a safe condition and protect the local environment.

Not a single one from PNG’s eight million citizens who include CEOs, professors, scientists, teachers, builders, pilots, doctors, geologists, anthropologists, conservationists, businessmen and expert bushmen as well as a host of professions and trades.

So the Kokoda Track Authority has reverted to a patronising colonial system of management by engaging Queensland park rangers as the new kiaps to do the job for them.

To add to the insult, the Authority is using local PNG rangers to show the new kiaps the trail so the kiaps can then tell the PNG rangers how to manage it - something they, their fathers and grandfathers have been doing for generations.

It will be interesting to see the reaction of Papua New Guinea’s leaders to the reintroduction of colonialism on the trail.


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Chips Mackellar

They might welcome it, Charlie. After all, the vast majority of PNG citizens probably attach no sentiment to the Kokoda Trail, and especially to the Highland elite which now governs PNG, it would have little importance if any at all.

And who would blame them because Kokoda has no ethnic connection to them whereas to us it does.

To us the Kokoda trail is an Australian icon - a symbol of our nationhood, with an impact on our traditions and national psyche far greater than that of Gallipoli which was, after all, a defeat.

The significance of Kokoda is that it was an Australian victory and together with Milne Bay it was the first on land against the Japanese in the Second World War.

The memory of Kokoda and its commemoration of suffering, privation, death, disease and ultimate victory belongs to the people of Kokoda and the people of Australia.

So in my opinion, because the memories of the Trail with all its significance belong to us, we should welcome Australians controlling the management of the Trail with whatever assistance the people of the Trail might offer.

The Trail to us is like a war grave of gigantic proportions, and it holds for us the same sacred aura. Therefore DFAT should make whatever treaty arrangement is appropriate with the PNG government for Australians to continue to manage the every day affairs of the Kokoda Trail.

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