The Kokoda track stands as an icon for Australian participation in World War II just as Gallipoli serves the same purpose for World War I...
In 1942 the Territories of Papua and New Guinea were as much a part of Australia as the Northern Territory. Papua had legally become part of Australia in 1905 with the passing of the Papua Act that transferred ownership of British Papua to Australia while New Guinea had become a League of Nations' Mandate administered by Australia after the First World War. It is then quite true to say that Australian soil was invaded by Japan in 1942.
The Kokoda track is also significant in a symbolic sense. When Australians remember the First World War they think of the landing at Gallipoli. When they think of the Second World War the word 'Kokoda' looms large. While neither of these events was necessarily the greatest of our contributions to the World Wars, both have captured the Australian imagination. Each year five thousand Australians take up the mentally and physically challenging task of walking the Kokoda track. All are forever changed by the experience.
The Australian interest in the Kokoda track is also an important thing for those who live there. The track passes through Oro Province and Central Province. The two main communities there are the Orokaiva in the north and the Koiari people to the south. When tourists first arrived they found these people leading a wholly subsistence life, raising animals and growing produce. An important part of their income is now generated by tourism. Fees are paid to them for camping and some are employed as tour guides.
To ensure that your trip has a positive effect on these people and a minimal impact on the environment you should:
- Treat carriers with consideration
- Be respectful when in villages
- Take a gift for the children
- Dress conservatively
- Be especially respectful of places of worship
- On greeting offer a gentle handshake
- If in any doubt ask for permission to do something.
To have a minimal impact on the track:
- Stay on the track, don't make it wider to avoid muddy patches
- Don't leave your rubbish behind, take it with you
- Make sure you extinguish fires
- Don't tie tents to trees
- Don't feed animals
- Don't pollute rivers with detergents and shampoos
- As far as possible leave it as you found it.