The following introduction is an extract of then-Prime Minister Paul Keatings ANZAC Day 1992 speech at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. It put in no uncertain terms, the place of the battle for Kokoda and the track that connected it to Port Moresby in the south and the beaches in the north, in our nation's history. The circumstances under which it was fought marked a turning point in Australia's international relations. Australia turned from Great Britain, the traditional 'protector' and mother country, and looked to the United States of America, the only Allied nation in any position to assist Australia in what looked set to be a fight for its life.
"The Australians who served here in Papua New Guinea fought and died, not in the defence of the old world, but the new world. Their world. They died in defence of Australia and the civilisation and values which had grown up there.
That is why it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought. They were fought in the most terrible circumstances. One correspondent wrote: "Surely no war was ever fought under worse conditions than these. Surely no war has ever demanded more of a man in fortitude."
They were fought by young men with no experience of jungle warfare. By the very young men of the militia with no experience of war at all. They were fought by airmen of outstanding courage, skill and dedication. They were fought against a seasoned, skillful and fanatical enemy.
At Milne Bay the Australians inflicted on the Japanese their first defeat on land. Sir William Slim, who was then commanding the 14th Army in Burma, wrote: "It was Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of invincibility of the Japanese army: those of us who were in Burma have cause to remember."
On the Kokoda Trail it was again the young and inexperienced militia men - this time of the 39th and 53rd battalions - later reinforced with soldiers of the 7th Division, who fought gallantly - and eventually won.
When it seemed that Papua New Guinea would fall, when it seemed it would be another Singapore, another Rabaul, these troops gallantly held out and finally drove the enemy back to the sea. These were the heroic days of Australia's history.
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AWM link https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/kokoda/ (www.awm.gov.au)