25 April 2023
“They never gave up the fight.
They never admitted defeat.
They never asked for help.”
These were the words of war correspondent Osmar White writing from the Kokoda Track in September 1942.
The Kokoda Track bore witness to some of the most desperate and vicious fighting encountered by Australian troops in the Second World War.
Their suffering was immense; their endurance beyond measure.
From the carnage in the mountains of Kokoda.
To the beachhead battlefields of Buna, Gona and Sanananda.
To Salamaua and Lae, Bougainville and Milne Bay.
They died in defence of Australia.
What happened here is important to our national story.
It also forged a deep friendship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
We will never forget the Papuans and New Guineans who fought alongside and supported the Australian soldiers in the most challenging of times.
3,824 Commonwealth service personnel lie buried here, in Bomana.
Over 3,300 are Australian – more than in any other war cemetery in the world.
40 graves here are of soldiers from the Papuan Infantry Battalion, who fought bravely alongside the Australians.
And a further 740, who have no known grave, are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing.
On Anzac Day, we remember those who fought for us and those who fought with us.
And we remember the tenacity and compassion of the Papua New Guineans who risked their lives.
They made a vital contribution.
Australia remembers them all.
We remember Sergeant Arthur Taylor of 22 Squadron, killed in action when his Boston bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Gasmata in New Britain.
We remember Marie Craig, an air evacuation nurse whose plane went down, killing all 27 patients and crew on board. She is buried here, at Bomana.
We remember Private Pata Topipin, born in New Britain, from the Papuan Infantry Battalion, who fought with the Australians. He was thought to be 16 when he died, making him the youngest casualty here.
And we remember Private Robert Hillman of the 2nd 27th Battalion, killed on the 8th of September 1942 in the bloody withdrawal from Mission Ridge along the Kokoda Track.
We remember the families and communities they never came home to.
Over 2,000 Australian servicemen from World War Two remain unaccounted for throughout Papua New Guinea.
Private Hillman is one of them.
We take comfort from the fact he lies among our friends, the people of Papua New Guinea.
We thank locals who, to this day, help us recover and identify the remains of our fallen.
On behalf of all Australians, we thank the people who carefully tend the last resting places of the fallen, here at Bomana, and at the war cemeteries in Rabaul and Lae.
The people of Papua New Guinea suffered greatly as war tore through their homeland.
And we pay our respects to those who died and to the families who still grieve their loss.
The fighting between the Empire of Japan and the allied countries of Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Great Britain was fierce and terrible.
We acknowledge the terrible suffering and sacrifice on both sides of the war.
Friends, today is Anzac Day, and the name Anzac itself is the treasured legacy of the brave Australians and New Zealanders who fought side-by-side in the Gallipoli campaign.
We honour the New Zealanders who fought and died here in Papua New Guinea, and in every war and conflict since the landing at Anzac Cove.
Thank you to everyone who stands with us today as we honour those who have served Australia in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
We hold in our hearts the families and friends who have suffered the loss of a loved one in the service of the nation.
And we remember the more than 103,000 Australians who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
In their names, we will forever strive for peace.
Lest we forget.