I visited Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Tuesday 24 April and Anzac Day Wednesday 25 April.
I was accompanied by the Secretary of Defence Mr Duncan Lewis and Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison.
This morning I was greatly honoured to attend the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Bomana War Cemetery in Port Moresby. The Cemetery includes the graves of 3,821 servicemen who died fighting in Papua and Bougainville during World War Two, including 3,351 Australians.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of pivotal World War Two campaigns in PNG, including the Battle of Milne Bay, the Kokoda Campaign, and the Battle for the Beachheads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. These anniversaries remind us all not only of the courage and sacrifice of those Australians who fought in these battles, but also of the strength of our friendship with PNG which was forged during these difficult times.
Australians at the Dawn Service paid their respects to those who were killed and wounded across the Pacific during World War Two. The courage and sacrifice of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the local PNG population, who have affectionately become known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels for their role in transporting sick and wounded Australians during the Kokoda Campaign was also fondly remembered.
Today we reflect on the great sacrifice made by the ANZACs who landed at Gallipoli and who landed in history’s page on 25 April 1915. We remember the sacrifices of all Australian men and women who have served and the more than 102,000 Australian service men and women who have died in wars and conflicts, on peacekeeping duties, in disaster relief and on humanitarian assistance missions.
For the first time overseas, an Indigenous Australian traditional cultural ceremony was conducted at grave of Private Frank Richard Archibald. As many as 3,500 Indigenous Australians served during the First and Second World Wars.
I also met with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Defence Minister Belden Namah, PNG Defence Force Commander Brigadier General Francis Agwi and Secretary of Defence John Porti.
We discussed Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program with PNG and Australia’s assistance to the upcoming PNG election. Through the Defence Cooperation Program, Australia will contract two civilian helicopters to provide transport support during the election and to form the basis for the PNG Defence Force longer-term aviation capability.
The Defence Cooperation Program with PNG is the largest Australia has with any country. The Program assists the PNG Defence Force through training exercises, infrastructure support, capability development, governance and audit and support to PNG’s Pacific Patrol Boats.
I also met with Australian businesses representatives in Port Moresby.
The Minister’s Anzac Day Address is available at: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/04/25/minister-for-defence-anzac-day-dawn-service-address/
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392