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2022 Kokoda Day: 80th Anniversary service

PUBLISHED November 2022

Kokoda Day 2022: 80th anniversary commemorative service

On Thursday 3 November 2022, the Walkway hosted a commemorative event to mark the 80th anniversary of the Papua New Guinea/Kokoda Track campaigns. On 3 November 1942, the Australian flag was raised at Kokoda village which symbolically marked the end of this significant and historic World War Two campaign.

Our special guests were The Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Assistant Minister for Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, and The Hon. David Elliott MP, the NSW Minister for Transport, Veterans and Western Sydney.

Both were joined by four very special guests, all veterans of the Kokoda campaign:

  • Mr Bruce Robertson (aged 102)
  • Mr Les Thomson (99)
  • Mr Reg Chard OAM (99)
  • Mr David Trist (98)

The day’s ceremonies began outside the Ralph Honner Kokoda Education Centre at the Walkway with Minister Thistlethwaite officially unveiling the Private Bruce Kingsbury VC Memorial Garden.

This beautiful garden honours the brave actions of Private Kingsbury, whose actions in August 1942 resulted in him being posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the only such honour awarded for actions on the Kokoda Track itself. The garden was generously sponsored by our long-time supporters at the Bankstown, Newtown, Enfield Croydon Park and Five Dock RSL sub-branches.

Following this, Minister Elliott then officially launched the digital honour roll, which is now a permanent fixture at the Education Centre. The roll is projected (during normal office hours) onto the windows of the Education Centre, and features the names of those approximately 621 Australians killed during the campaign. This is the only such honour roll solely dedicated to those killed in action during the Kokoda campaign.

The official party then joined those who were seated at the main commemorative site. They were led in by the magnificent Burwood RSL Pipes and Drum Band. A special feature of this short procession was the inclusion of the pre-schoolers and staff from the Concord West Rhodes Pre-School.

During the commemorative service, two very significant announcements were made:

  • Minister Elliott announced the NSW Government had designated 3 November as NSW Kokoda Day, to officially acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served in the Kokoda campaign during World War Two. NSW Kokoda Day will ensure 3 November is a lasting acknowledgment to those who served in the campaign, as well as recognising the sacrifices of their families.
  • Minister Thistlethwaite then conferred two inaugural KTMW Ambassadorships to long-time supporters and advocates of the Walkway to Mr Charlie Lynn OAM OL and Mr John Haines AM (former Chair of the KTMW Board).

Both announcements were two highlights of the day which also included the services of two long-standing community KTMW supporters, the NSW Corrective Services Band and the North Strathfield Public School choir.

The service had began with the official welcome by Jennifer Collins, Chair KTMW Board of Directors, and also included the Kokoda Day address by Minister Thistlethwaite, a visual reflection of the campaign and a wreath laying service where the many government, community, ex-service, school and other groups and individuals attending paid tribute to those who served.

Another special feature of the 80th anniversary service was the releasing of doves by the four Kokoda veterans assisted by school students, plus the cutting of a cake to mark the occasion.

Ms Alice Kang OAM, KTMW Director thanked those attending in her address, where she welcomed the continued funding commitment for the Walkway from the Commonwealth Government. The many volunteers who assisted during the day were also acknowledged, plus the support and attendance by members of the Catafalque Party (from 1st Military Police Battalion) and the Music Shed Big Band who provided wartime-era tunes during lunch.

As usual, the Walkway also welcomed attendance by a number of consular officials who paid their respects (from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Croatia, Greece, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea).

Following the service, family members of Kokoda veterans plus other attendees were also invited to lay a poppy at the Memorial’s Centrepiece at two large specially designed wreaths.

The crowd attending numbered approximately 600, including nearly 200 school children as well as representatives many RSL sub-branches, family of Kokoda veterans, community groups and individuals. All enjoyed the beautiful weather and the immaculate grounds, featuring the Centerpiece water feature and creek (courtesy of City of Canada Bay Council staff who worked tirelessly in the days preceding the event). Our partners from Concord Rotary also assisted by cooking a BBQ lunch for the school children attending.

Following refreshments, those attending met up with old and new friends, visited the new memorial garden and viewed the digital honour roll.

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