Courage, mateship and sacrifice: What Kokoda means to Australians

Samantha Parker By Samantha Parker Jun12,2024
Each year, on 25 April, soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, acknowledging their service and sacrifices.
This year, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is spending the day in Papua New Guinea and will be walking sections of the Kokoda Track alongside PNG Prime Minister James Marape.
The gruelling journey represents one of the most significant chapters of Australia’s military history and retraces the footsteps of Australian soldiers and those who walked beside them.

“The Kokoda campaign and the Kokoda Track form part of our national identity, a defining chapter in the story of those who risked and lost their lives in defence of Australia and in our shared history with Papua New Guinea,” Albanese said ahead of his trip.

“Kokoda is a name that lives in Australian legend. It captures the spirit of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice forged between Australia and Papua New Guinea during World War Two.”
Albanese will be the first Australian prime minister to make the trek while in office. Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Scott Morrison both walked the track at other points in their political careers.

Here’s what you need to know about the history of the Kokoda Track, and what it means to Australia and Papua New Guinea.

What was the Battle of Kokoda?

The Battle of Kokoda was one of the most important conflicts in Australia’s military history.
The campaign lasted from July to November 1942, with about 56,000 Australians involved in halting Japanese forces in Papua New Guinea, which was then an Australian territory.

Much of the battle occurred on the Kokoda Track, covering rough, isolated terrain and extreme conditions through the Owen Stanley Range.

Map showing the Kokoda Track

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is in Kokoda this Anzac Day. Source: SBS News

Around 625 Australians were killed and over 1,600 were wounded along the track.

Local men also played a vital role during the conflict, carrying supplies and helping to evacuate wounded and sick troops.

The battle is considered the first time Australia’s security was directly threatened and is one of the most well-known aspects of Australia’s participation in World War Two.

What is the Kokoda Track today?

According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, approximately 5,000 Australians make the journey to Kokoda each year to recreate the soldiers’ journey.
The track is 96km long and covers rough terrain through the jungle in humid weather with frequent rainfall.

The hike takes four to 12 days and several companies run guided treks.

What does the Kokoda Track mean to Australians?

Charlie Lynn, director of Adventure Kokoda and retired trek leader, has completed the trek 101 times in 32 years and has led thousands of people along the trail.
For Lynn, who is a veteran and served in the Vietnam War, Kokoda is also a reminder of his father, who fought in Papua New Guinea during World War Two.

He believes the experience is profound for every single participant.

A man in a suit wearing military medals

Former NSW MP and Vietnam veteran Charlie Lynn is the director of Adventure Kokoda and has done the trek 101 times. Source: AAP / PR Image / Charlie Lynn

“When they get to the other end — particularly those who weren’t born here — they say, ‘Now I understand what it’s like to be Australian’, and they’re proud of it,” he said.

“It just brings out the best in everybody; it doesn’t matter what age you are, what ethnicity you are, what colour you are, you’re all one when you come off the end of it.”
Lynn said while Kokoda is a source of pride and symbolism for many Australians, the connection with Papua New Guinea must also be highlighted.
“The most important thing today is the relationship we have with Papua New Guinea; we can do a lot more to help them,” he said.

“It’s a shared experience we had with them and we have a shared responsibility for making sure that people never forget.”

Samantha Parker

By Samantha Parker

Samantha is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the truth behind the headlines. With years of experience in investigative reporting, she has covered a wide range of topics including politics, crime, and entertainment. Her in-depth analysis and commitment to factual accuracy make her a respected voice in the field of journalism.

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29 thoughts on “Courage, mateship and sacrifice: What Kokoda means to Australians”
  1. I believe that the Kokoda campaign epitomizes the unwavering bond of courage and mateship between Australia and Papua New Guinea during World War Two. The sacrifices made by those who walked the Kokoda Track will forever be ingrained in our national identity.

  2. As an Australian, I believe the Kokoda campaign is a crucial part of our national identity. The courage and sacrifices shown by our soldiers and the bond formed with Papua New Guinea during World War Two have left a lasting impact on our history. Prime Minister Albanese’s trek along the Kokoda Track further highlights the significance of this chapter in our military history.

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