PRIME minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday visited Kokoda and laid a wreath at the Bomana war cemetery outside Port Moresby, and there will be a ceremony held in Canberra in November.
Kokoda is considered Australia’s most significant battle of the war in the Pacific, in which the Japanese were for the first time defeated on land.
Veteran George Palmer points to his figure in one of the most famous Kokoda campaign photographs by Damien Parer: of Australian soldiers trudging through the mud.
“I’m the second one, there, now of the six of us there are two still alive, myself and Arnold Forrester, who lives in Townsville,” he said.
The 95-year-old veteran of the 39th Battalion is now fighting another battle, to preserve the memory of Kokoda, and is upset the official Australian commemoration will not be held in PNG.
“It’s wrong, just wrong. You must never forget the sacrifices my mates made,” he said.
Kokoda was fought between July and November 1942 on what was then Australian soil, the territory of Papua.
Historian Patrick Lindsay, the chair of the Kokoda Track Foundation, said he has been asking the government since last year about when the PNG commemoration would be held.
“I’m dismayed and disgusted,” he said.
“It’s the second time we’ve done this to these diggers, they didn’t get the credit they deserved at the time and after the war.”
Kokoda tour operators say they have also been awaiting confirmation since last year and feel they will now have to take up the commemorative task.