Our country owes a debt of gratitude to the Australians who fought in the Kokoda and Beachheads campaigns as we mark the 75th anniversary today.
Eleven veterans of the Kokoda campaign will be guests of honour at a reception in Canberra followed by a Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial today where Minister for Defence Marise Payne will represent the Government.
The Kokoda Track campaign ran from July 1942 to 2 November 1942 and the Beachhead campaign occurred between November 1942 and January 1943.
More than 55,000 Australians served across both campaigns. There were more than 600 Australian deaths and 1600 sick and wounded on the Kokoda Track and more than 1200 dead and 2000 sick and wounded in the battle for the Beachheads. The Kokoda Track is 96 kilometres long and traverses the Owen Stanley Range of Papua New Guinea, it is regarded as some of the most difficult terrain and conditions Australian soldiers have ever fought in.
The Australian Government recognises the importance of the Kokoda Track to Australians and is committed to helping Papua New Guinea manage the track today through a joint partnership called the Kokoda initiative.
We also remember that an estimated 50,000 Papuan civilians – known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – provided supplies to Australian soldiers and evacuated our sick and wounded. It is testament to Australia’s enduring friendship with PNG.
On the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kokoda we will pause and reflect on the experiences of the Australians who defended our country and values in PNG.