Unbreakable bonds with PNG remembered

Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, and Chief of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Major General Gilbert Toropo, lay wreaths during the Anzac Day 2019 dawn service at the Bomana War Cemetary, PNG. Photo: Corporal Kyle Genner

Unbreakable bonds with PNG remembered

Australia and Papua New Guinea’s partnership, forged in the mud of the Kokoda Track and still strong today, was highlighted during the dawn service at Port Moresby, the largest of 12 services held around the country.

The Bomana War Cemetery, the most significant war cemetery in the Pacific, with 3824 Common-wealth burials from the WWII, provided a fitting place of reflection and remembrance for the crowd who attended to pay their respects.

During his Anzac Day address, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, spoke of the bru-tal fighting along the Kokoda Track and how Australian diggers were helped by the locals.

Lieutenant General Rick Burr presents his Anzac Day address at the Bomana War Cemetary, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Corporal Kyle Genner

“We recall the famous images of the fuzzy wuzzy angels leading injured soldiers to help. We increasingly acknowledge the remarkable acts of those who fought in the Kokoda campaign,” Lieu-tenant General Burr said.

“Not only did the soldiers of our two nations fight side by side, we also remember the extraordinary efforts of the local villagers, and the PNG carriers. We know our desperate logistical situation may well have failed without their courage and support.”

It was this assistance from villagers, who became known for their compassion and loyalty, which established the steadfast partnership between the two nations.

“Australia and Papua New Guinea are forever connected through the service and sacrifice of these soldiers and civilians on battlefields … such a bond cannot be broken,” Lieutenant General Burr said.

While is important to look back and be inspired by past events and the bravery of our forebears, he also urged the crowd to “do more”.

“We are reminded of the importance of our investing in our people, of preparing them well.

“It is people who resolve to hold the line when the situation is desperate with everything to lose. it is people who innovate, and develop strategies and new tactics to overcome a tenacious foe.”

Regimental Sergeant Major – Army, Warrant Officer Grant McFarlane (left), and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, at the Bomana War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Corporal Kyle Genner

Chief of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Major General Gilbert Toropo, reflected on how his people – the local soldiers in the Papuan or New Guinea Infantry Battalions in Rabaul, Buna or Kokoda – had related to the Anzac story, forging a connection with their Australian counterparts.

“There is history which reflects a deep and enduring commitment greatly valued by those of us of the region” Major General Toropo said.

From the shared adversity of the Kokoda campaign to the current partnership Major General Toropo looked to continue working with his closest neighbours to ensure a secure and stable region.

“As Pacific Islanders we see and experience the special relationship [between Australia and NZ] very clearly; whether both nations are working in response to disasters in our region or alongside us in regional security challenges,” he said.

“This commitment to each other helped shape our enduring regional partnership today.”


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