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THE IMPORTANCE OF KOKODA IN THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PSYCHE
Transcript of THE IMPORTANCE OF KOKODA IN THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PSYCHE
HAS KOKODA ALWAYS HAD THE SAME EFFECT ON THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PSYCHE?
Kokoda was always recognised as an important Australian Battle in the WWII along with battles like The Rats Of Tobruk. However Prime Minster Paul Keeting made a determined personal effort to highlight Kokoda to a higher level of importance than Gallipoli as he thought Gallipoli was “devoid of any virtue”.This was on the basis that Kokoda saved Australia from invasion. This then spurred many Australians to visit the Kokoda Trail and link it to their identity until it became a pilgrimage.
DOES THE MAGNITUDE OF THE EFFECT OF KOKODA ON THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PSYCHE REFLECT WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED AT KOKODA?
Although there were countless acts of bravery and much to be admired about what happened at Kokoda the magnitude of the effect on our psyche simply doesn’t reflect what actually happened. It is now seen as common knowledge that Kokoda was the battle that saved our nation but as Peter Ryan, someone who served at Kokoda puts it “the Japanese archives show clearly that an invasion of Australia was never on the cards.” We have pumped this up when really it was the defence against an invasion which wasn’t going to occur. The Kokoda Campaign was important, it was one of the first times the Japanese had not got what they wanted but it was not the battle that saved Australia. Another myth about Kokoda is the courage of all the soldiers. Yes, there were extremely courageous men for example members of the 39th Battalion who after being discharged volunteered to stay and teach the new soldiers the ins and outs of Papua New Guinea but like any war there was also acts of cowardliness. As the 39th Battalion's Commander Ralph Honner says “You’re all Australians and some things you’ve just been through you must forget. Some of the men that were with you, you feel they let you down. But they didn’t. Given different circumstances they’d be just the same as you. The fact that their leaders may have failed them and yours didn’t doesn’t mean they’re any worse than you are.” He told this to his soldiers who accused other battalions of being cowardly, saying that they weren’t cowards they just were in a different circumstance to them. As Peter Ryan said “the Kokoda laurels won by Australian soldiers on the Track should be honoured for ever. The bravery and sacrifice of these men alone are what makes Kokoda immortal - nothing else.”
HOW SHOULD WE VIEW KOKODA RELATIVE TO OTHER AUSTRALIAN WAR EFFORTS?
The unique feature about Kokoda was that it was fought in one of the most brutal terrains and it was as much a battle against the environment as it was against the enemy. Soldiers had to fight not only each other but diseases,extreme weather and all on minimal food and water supplies. Relative to other battles Kokoda was one of the first important steps in stopping the Japanese but not the most vital. Shining the light too brightly on Kokoda takes the memory away from other Australian efforts. There is Milne Bay, Gona, Buna and most importantly the Battle of the Coral Sea. Strategically Kokoda was not as important as other battles going on at the same time and the main reason that the Australians were in Kokoda by themselves was because the Allies were at these other battles.
Kokoda became a huge part of the Anzac Legend and helped give Australia a name for themselves. Still now days Australian's like to relate to the qualities in the soldiers who fought for us in Kokoda.
WHAT EFFECT DOES KOKODA HAVE ON AUSTRALIA'S NATIONAL PSYCHE?
Australians have always linked their national identities to military history. Gallipoli has always been, and still is, Australia’s most important collective memory but Kokoda has recently become as almost important to the Australian psyche. The battle that “saved the nation” has joined Gallipoli as a huge part of the Anzac legend. All Australian soldiers who fought at Kokoda have been left with the identity of ‘diggers’ courageous, moral, good spirited men that valued mate ship over everything. These are all now key qualities every true blue Aussie aims to find in themselves. The Kokoda Track has become an increasingly popular place to visit and a ‘things I must do before I die’ for Australians. Along this track is a memorial for the soldiers who fought at Kokoda, four plain granite poles each inscribed with a word. These words are Endurance, Courage, Mateship and Sacrifice which not only sum up the Anzac Spirit but key values in the Australian national psyche.