Thank you.

Well thank you very, very much.

Can I start - hello everybody and thank you very, very much.

I know that for young people sitting and listening to speeches is often very difficult, so thank you very, very much for your welcome this morning.

To the school children, thank you so much, you looked fantastic to welcome me in your traditional, your ceremonial welcome; to you, Governor Juffa; to you, Henry Amuli, thank you for your very, very kind words; to His Excellency Bruce Davis; to Dr Genevieve Nelson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kokoda Track Foundation; and to you, Nelson, thank you for your kind words; and to all the teachers, the staff, and the students, and the friends of the Kokoda educational community, thank you.

I am delighted to join you here this morning as we celebrate the completion of an important health and education precinct for the people of Kokoda.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of this terrible and bloody Kokoda campaign, it is really important to remember the close ties that have been spoken about this morning, but I really wanted to reinforce the close and enduring bonds between our people. 

When war came to PNG 75 years ago, your ancestors, your fathers, your grandfathers, your grandmothers, your mothers bore the brunt of this.

As you, Governor, said, it wasn’t a war you sought, but it was a war that you had to defend.

And so therefore, I pay tribute, because as we pay and as we look back on this terrible period, we reflect with gratitude on the sacrifice that they all made so that we can all be free, that we can all sit here today and enjoy what we do.

We are very proud, the Australian Government is very proud to partner with the national government, the provincial government and the local governments here in PNG, as well as your community, to make possible the construction and the upgrade of these facilities. 

It is a wonderful project and a project which we have worked together, because it’s been a priority not just of the Australian Government, but of the management boards of the respective organisations.

As has been said, we’ve got new classrooms, staff houses, water storage and upgrading works to the Kokoda Hospital.

Now, can I take the time to also thank the construction workers, not just from the local community who were engaged in these projects, but many of the workers and thank you to those who are here today.

Now getting materials to Kokoda is certainly very challenging.

So, all of those workers who made the project possible: the kit set manufactured in Lae, the logistics and cargo operators, the Port Authority in Oro Bay, the truck drivers from Popondetta that drove the trucks up the bumpy and windy road to Kokoda, the security guards, and the cooks that made the meals for the construction workers over the last six months.

Can we just give them a round of applause!

Congratulations to you all and thank you, because without them we wouldn’t be here today.

Now, of course we know the direct economic opportunities for the businesses in Oro Province and for the local community that these projects will bring.  

This project has demonstrated that the local subcontractors could engaged in the work, they did the work, they did the work to specification and in so doing have developed very important skills and very valuable practical experience.

And so, Maino, when you talk about maintaining these classrooms etc., the skills that have been developed and going to be very important for those maintenance to happen, but they’ll happen under your watchful eye. So, you’re going to be the man responsible!

Can I also congratulate Savvana constructions for ensuring the local workers were able to participate in the project and urge them to continue to employ the local subcontractors on future projects.  It’s really good to see all the hard work that has gone into this.

Now, I actually have been told that you, Nelson, were wielding a paintbrush! Is that true? Yes, absolutely, leading from example!

So then, of course, the buildings were constructed, but then they had to be painted and they’ve just been painted in the last few weeks. So congratulations to everybody who pitched in for that to happen!

Now, can I just acknowledge the cooperation and particularly thank to you, Governor Juffa; and to the Oro provincial administration; and to you, to our local member, our new MP Amuli; and the Sohe district administration for your ongoing support and commitment to the Kokoda Initiative more generally.

None of this would have been possible without the education and the passion for education that you have all have demonstrated, not just in the lead up to today, but over the past decades. 

And we recognise that access to education and good health for all people – and can I particularly say to the women and the girls – is critical to the future of Papua New Guinea.  So we share a commitment, an important commitment to education between our two governments.

We know that education contributes to reducing poverty, to economic growth and stability, especially for the women and girls. Can I say, as you represent half the Papua New Guinean population, it is vitally important that you equally receive a good education, because that can then provide you with good economic opportunities for the future and you can contribute to the prosperity of this great country.

Now, we are working, not just to improve school infrastructure, better classrooms, but also we’ve got a new toilet facilities, and also for the teachers, so we’re very, very proud of that.

And, can I also announce today the next phase of the building works for remote Kokoda Track communities.

Now, the materials for these projects are being transported by helicopter to these schools as we speak.  New school buildings will be provided – [applause] thank you, that’s good – as similar to the ones that you’ve here and there going, including at Gorari Primary School nearby.

We’re also going to be looking at much-needed maintenance and upkeep work on existing school buildings and installing new toilets, water tanks and other infrastructures on different locations on the Kokoda Track, including Abuari, Alola and Kovello.

These works, which we will deliver in conjunction, in partnership with the Kokoda Initiative, demonstrates our importance and the importance that we place on education and health in PNG and most especially for the people of this region.

Now, today I didn’t come empty handed! I’m going to be delivering some sport balls, including rugby, netball and soccer balls.

Are they coming out now? Right. Very important!

And so, we look forward – oh, here we go! [Applause] Here they are, here they are, all these new balls! Here we go, to have here, one and two! [Applause]

And so, that’s going to be good, because we think sport is very important.

How many of you play sport? Everybody put up your hands! Very good. Very, very good!

And so, that will be… I hope that you enjoy them and that you have a lot of fun.

Now, last but certainly not least, I have great pleasure, great pleasure, in launching a new children’s book to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign. 

This book is entitled Butterflies Along the Track and this book tells the story of the Kokoda campaign, the Kokoda story, in a language that’s very easy to understand for everyone, both young and old. 

And it’s been beautifully illustrated by children from PNG, from the Kokoda Primary School and also from students from the Haileybury College in Victoria. 

This book has been produced by the Kokoda Track Foundation, with the support of the Australian Government.

We’re going to have copies available, not just in PNG, but also available for distribution in Australia. [Applause] Thank you.

I think it’s a marvellous way to commemorate the 75th Anniversary, most especially for the young people, because it’s really important that you remember the sacrifices, the courage, the commitment, that your parents, that your grandparents made so that you can be here and enjoy all of this today.

So, can I thank you, Genevieve, for all the work to you and to the Kokoda Track Foundation, to the Kokoda initiative; a modern-day reflection of the strong bonds between Australia and PNG that were forged during the War.

It is a story that is very, very emotionally portrayed in so many different ways, but for those of us who were up there at the Memorial, that is, that is what it’s all about.

I am very, very proud to be here to celebrate Kokoda, to commemorate Kokoda Day.

Can I wish you all the very, very best for the future.

Thank you.

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