The Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea has historical significance for the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia as the site of some of the fiercest battles between Japanese and Australian Forces in World War II. It is a powerful symbol of the goodwill and enduring relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The track is popular for trekkers who want to experience the physically challenging 96-kilometre walk, attracting over 3,000 trekkers each year.
The Kokoda Initiative is a partnership between the Government of Papua New Guinea and Australia to sustainably develop and protect the Kokoda Track and the surrounding Owen Stanley Ranges. The Kokoda Initiative reflects the strong commitment of both governments to continue to enhance the quality of life of communities living along the track, to protect the environment, cultural values and to keep the track open and well managed.
The Kokoda Initiative is led by the Government of Papua New Guinea. The Australian Government plays a supporting role in implementing the Initiative, including through co-funding and technical and policy advice. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), through the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, leads Australia’s involvement in the Kokoda Initiative. It works with Papua New Guinea’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority to deliver the Kokoda Initiative.
The Department of the Environment and Energy provides technical and policy advice to Papua New Guinea’s Conservation and Environment Protection Authority on environment and heritage conservation and protection activities, including seeking World Heritage listing for the Kokoda Track and the Owen Stanley Ranges.
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Raphael Oimbari leading Australian Soldier, Private George ‘Dick’ Whittington to a field hospital (1942). Photo: George Silk
Working together – 1942 and now
The defeat of the Japanese along the Kokoda Track is amongst Australia’s most significant campaigns of World War II. During the second half of 1942 Australian troops took part in a series of punishing military actions as they tried to stop the Japanese advancing across the Owen Stanley Ranges towards Port Moresby. If they became ill or were wounded, the Australians relied on help from local Papuan civilians who carried them on stretchers or guided them through the rugged country that the Track runs through.
Their dedication and courage saved the lives of many, and today the Track remains a symbol of the lasting bond of mateship that exists between the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.
In 2006 the Papua New Guinea Government signalled its intention to seek World Heritage nomination for the Owen Stanley Ranges and Kokoda Track and included them on their World Heritage Tentative List. In 2008, the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments signed a joint agreement to work together to protect and manage the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges, and improve the livelihoods of communities living along the Track. This is known as the Kokoda Initiative. The Second Joint Understanding (2010-2015) continued this work.
In September 2015, the Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea and Australia signed the Papua New Guinea-Australia Joint Declaration on the Preservation of the Kokoda Track Region. This extends the Kokoda Initiative beyond 2015 through an enduring partnership which recognises the significance of the Kokoda Track, its people, and the environment. Phase Three of the Initiative began in January 2016 and is scheduled to conclude in June 2020. Phase Three prioritises three Pillars of Support:
- Pillar 1: The Track: Track management, keeping the Track open, safe, well-managed and preserved as shared heritage.
- Pillar 2: The People: Development for track communities, including in service delivery and improved economic opportunities.
- Pillar 3: The Environment: Environmental (biodiversity and cultural heritage) protection, including potential working towards a World Heritage listing of the region.
The Papua New Guinea Government has developed a governance structure to oversee the strategic planning and implementation of the Kokoda Initiative through the Kokoda Initiative Committee and its Technical Working Group activities are carried out with many partners, including the Oro and Central Provincial Administrations, district and local level governments, local communities, the Kokoda Track Authority, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery, and tour operators.
Protecting the special values of the Kokoda region
The Kokoda Track passes through the Owen Stanley Ranges, which are rich in natural resources. The ranges are home to thousands of unique plants and animals, making them one of the most biologically diverse and important areas in the Asia Pacific. There are also many cultural sites and artefacts which show people’s long relationship with this land, such as old village sites, spirit places, cemeteries and archaeological sites. The Brown River catchment, located within the Owen Stanley Ranges, has been identified as a potential source of clean water and energy for Port Moresby.
High use of the Track by trekkers and other potential land uses such as mining and forestry could put pressure on the conservation of these special values. Through the Kokoda Initiative, the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments are working together to promote sustainable development of this area and protect its important natural, cultural and military heritage values.
“Voices From the War – Papua New Guinean Stories of the Kokoda Campaign, World War Two”
Funded by the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments, this book is a collection of the wartime stories and experiences of the men and women of the Kokoda Track region.
"The Track" - A Historical Desktop Study of the Kokoda Track
The Track was commissioned as a reference document by the Department to assess the wartime routes of the Kokoda Track and to assist the Department's work under the Kokoda Initiative.
For more information
For more information on the Kokoda Initiative please contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Want to find out about trekking the Kokoda Track?
- Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority - For general information about trekking.
- Kokoda Track Authority - For information about planning your walk, trekking permits and safety.