Kokoda Track Project
Firstly, this venture has introduced the concept of combining the discipline of archaeology and Australian military heritage which is not something that is associated together in terms of Australian history, even though the practice and expertise is well established in Europe and North America. Overseas it is well established due to the long history of major land battles such as the Roman invasions of Europe and the American Civil War. Following the recent increased interest and acknowledgement of Gallipoli and Kokoda both quintessentially related to the Australian war experience, this concept of archaeology and military heritage has now seen its formal antipodean introduction.
Secondly, this project has become more than just the expected excavation documentation of archaeological resources. It has evolved into the creation of a long-term enterprise that will benefit the local stakeholders, the Isurava tribe, both socially and economically. One of the main sources of income for the Biage people, a linguistic sub-group of the Isurava tribe who live in the village of Alola, is the tourism associated with the increasing popularity of the Kokoda Track trekking tours. Dr Kelly’s team have contributed their expertise to help catalogue the growing collection of artefacts uncovered by the locals and train them in the conservation management and exhibition of these items. Once conserved and displayed in a remote hut, this collection along with the hut was donated by the local owner and relocated to a more prominent site along the Kokoda Track to become a local museum, attracting more tourist trekkers to this area and providing valuable income for the community.
The project has also provided some important educational opportunities for the Biage people, with the creation of a written history of the local WW2 experience in the local language, aimed at teaching six to ten years old. This history provides an ongoing legacy of the information compiled from the research and oral histories documented during the 10 years of the project. More significantly, the project has established employment opportunities through the training of local archaeologists to continue the work started by Dr Kelly’s team and ensures an ongoing benefit for Biage people.
Images courtesy of Hallam Drury
by JACKY DALTON
Cultural Heritage Educator