75 YEARS OF KOKODA

A word from our Director Mick O’Malley about the 75th anniversary:

August 15 2017 marked the 75th anniversary years of the Kokoda Campaign in which Australian soldiers, merchant navy men, airmen, and members of the Papua and New Guinea local forces, fought & died defending an Australian territory.

In particular to this trek, I speak of the initial battles of the campaign where the Japanese and Australian forces met, and the battles of Kokoda, Isurava, Mission Ridge, Brigade Hill.

Today Isurava is a beautiful, peaceful place where four pillars stand. ‘Courage -  Endurance – Mate-ship & Sacrifice’ - and I can think of no better words or qualities to describe the spirit of all the men and women who served our country in the Kokoda campaign.

However, 75 years ago it was a much-changed landscape, that of mud, blood, and luckily for us, unwavering strength and patriotism.

Australian forces faced wave after wave of Japanese attacks and in fear of being over-run performed countless acts of heroism. Acts in which I’m sure many men of today would have cowered from.

I have walked the trail over 50 times and my mind constantly wanders of these men, these ragged bloody heroes.

The scorching, burning days and the freezing, wet nights. The torrential rain - the raging rivers - the plunging ravines of Eora Creek and near vertical ascents of Mission Ridge. Not to mention the sinking, decomposing floor of the tree-strangled mud.

This is where our men, fought, ate, slept and died. Although starved and weakened, their weary bodies gamely fought on.

Not days or weeks but months of dysentery and malarial fever, lack of sleep, lack of food, these men were physically destroyed, but nothing could destroy their morale, or their raw courage and will for their country and their mates.

The sick, the wounded, and the dying kept going, one gamely step after another.

Even those shot would not be persuaded to be carried; they insisted on crawling, as not be a burden to their mates. It is beyond extraordinary what these men were able to do in the most relentlessly, indiscriminating jungle.

The stories of the AIF & Militia are abundant regarding their bravery, their readiness to give everything, physically and mentally, to the defence of Australia and their mates.

In the past years, we have learnt much about the history of Kokoda, but one thing that resonates from story to story is the bond of mateship.

I am unbelievably privileged to be able to guide trekkers across the Kokoda trail and convey the astonishing stories of our diggers. I hope these stories of our men and women can continue to be told and even taught as part of our school history. 

As a nation, we must never forget the debt we owe to these fellow Australians and we must never forget the responsibility we have to their families. Unfortunately, I’m sure we will continue to ask our sons and daughters to risk everything for the sake of our country.

So as I walk the trail, with the amazing butterflies of stunning colours, flowing rivers & postcard waterfalls, I find it hard to comprehend one of the most brutal wars, was fought in this jungle.

I come back to the same thought every trek, thank god for the boys of 1942.

It would be an honour to have you trek Kokoda with me in years to come, to continue to remember the immense sacrifice made 75 years ago.

Don't wait any longer; the time is now!

Mick O’Malley 

 Honouring our fallen heroes during the 75th anniversary trek, August 2017.

Honouring our fallen heroes during the 75th anniversary trek, August 2017.

Jacqui Thebes