Australians and Papua New Guineans are today working side by side together on the Kokoda Track, just as they were 73 years ago, when defending Port Moresby from the invading Japanese forces during some of the most significant and bloody World War Two battles.
In 1942 the alliance of our two countries during those hard won battles prevented the fall of Port Moresby, and therefore the potential invasion of Australia. Under the Kokoda Initiative we now work together to protect and manage both the track and Owen Stanley Ranges, and improve the livelihoods of communities living along the 96km narrow track across mountains.
The Coffey-managed Provincial and Local Governments Program in PNG manages community development along the track, in particular health, education and water sanitation initiatives.
Recent initiatives include the building of a new elementary school in Vesulogo. This initiative has been supported by the whole community – with men mixing gravel to assist the builders and women providing food and cleaning the site. Crucially, the new classrooms include water taps, and safe and clean toilet facilities, a measure known to increase attendance at school by girls.
Similarly, village health volunteers recently led a 10-day patrol, conducting more than 75 life-saving tuberculosis vaccinations of babies to five year olds.
Kokoda Initiative Development Program Community and Health Officer Philip Noah said the program was delivering significant community benefit.
“Knowing that we can prevent serious illnesses for these babies has been a rewarding experience for me,” he said.
“We are trekking with the volunteers through rugged terrain to directly reach these communities and administer vaccines, raise awareness on maternal and child health, as well as assess the volunteers on their competency.”
Coffey has been working with the PNG Government and PNG in-country partners on behalf of the Australian Government for more than 30 years, and currently manages the Economic and Public Sector Program, the Provincial and Local Governments Program and Deployee Support Services.