deeds not words | wokim ino toktok

A Week in the Life of a Kokoda Track Foundation Ambassador

Our 93-year old Ambassador and friend Captain Bede Tongs MM shares with us what an ordinary week as an Amabassador of the Kokoda Track Foundation entails:

“One thing about being an Ambassador for The Kokoda Track Foundation is there is no typical week.  A lot of things can happen in a week and there can be a lot of different weeks in a month, so it is best if I give an idea of what can happen.

Activities may be scheduled and unscheduled. Some are known weeks ahead and others  result from a phone call or an idea I have.

A very important aspect is getting out into the community to talk about the Foundation. I have found that Rotary Clubs are very interested in what we do so I have spoken at Tumbarumba, Jerrabomberra and Orange. Services Clubs are also interested and that has taken me to Goulburn and Dubbo. I have a friend who is the Scouts Australia International Commissioner so I have spoken to a gathering of the State and Territory International Commissioners.

I am pleased to say that a number of young people have been inspired by me before and after walking the Kokoda Track. This has resulted in a number of visits to Kapooka Army Camp to be there when they march out. I also attend training courses at Duntroon for Army Reserve Officers when they are role-playing the Isuarava battle on the Kokoda Track…

read more at the Kokoda Track Foundation’s website

Tickets sales stronger than ever Ralph Honner Oration Dinner 50% sold

Bede at KokodaThe Kokoda Track Foundation is aiming for another sell out for their annual fundraising gala, the Raph Honner Oration Dinner. Taking place on the 18th of October, the Foundation reports that half of the tables are already sold.

Genevieve Nelson, executive director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, said: “The Ralph Honner Oration Dinner is always a very special evening, it allows us to show our achievements and highlight all the work that still needs to be done to help the people of PNG.”

“I believe this year’s speaker, our wonderful Ambassador the 93-year old Captain Bede Tongs MM, is the big draw card. Bede will deliver the oration and will reflect on leadership and how this impacted his life during his time on the Track as well as after.” Genevieve continued.

The fundraising focus of the evening will be the Kokoda College – the Foundation’s most ambitious and biggest project to date. In a bid to break the poverty cycle, the Foundation is building a training College in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. The College will operate a School of Education and a School of Health and will train urgently-needed teachers and community health workers for the Kokoda region and PNG.

“We have raised the funds for the construction of the college, however we need further vital funds to operate the Kokoda College. We hope our guests will be generous. We look forward to making it one of the best events, for both our guests and the communities in PNG, who need our assistance so badly.” Genevieve concludes.

For more information or tickets for the Ralph Honner Oration Dinner please visit our dedicated event page.  For more details on the Kokoda College please go to

Foundation’s Ambassador 93-yr old Capt Bede Tongs MM calls on Australians to volunteer

Kokoda College site IMGP9779 copy

George Palmer 39th Bn, Patrick Lindsay, KTF Chair, Bede Tongs MM, 3rd Bn Garnett Tobin 2/31st Bn, George Palmer 39th Bn & Owen Baskett 3rd Bn

On 3 November last year, four Kokoda Veterans turned the first sod at the site of the new Kokoda College, which will be built by the Kokoda Track Foundation.

Today, some 8 months later, nine shipping containers are being packed by Tereno Constructions, the provider of the building materials, at their distribution centre in Ulladulla in NSW. The containers will be shipped to Oro Bay and then transported over land to Kou Kou village which is a 20 minute walk from the Kokoda plateau.

For the construction of the Kokoda College the Foundation is looking to engage a large group of Australian volunteers. For two months in October and November, our volunteers will work alongside local villagers from Kou Kou and construct the College – literally out of the jungle!

“Just imagine what could happen: the College is there in the containers, plans are laid out, and tools are in their boxes … and no one to build it. The old truism that many hands make light work applies here” said Captain Tongs.

It is planned to have seven teams to work on different parts of the College and to do the majority of construction in the months of October / November, before the rainy season starts. There will be about 40 volunteers in total, with groups of 6 staying in the guesthouses in Kou Kou Village for two weeks at a time.

During WWII there were 12 Battalions on the Track and these volunteer positions offer an opportunity for family and friends to return to where their fathers fought. The Battalions who fought on the Kokoda Track and Beyond were the: 39th, 53rd, 2/14th, 2/16th, 3rd, 2/27th, 2/25th, 2/31st, 2/33rd, 2/1st, 2/2nd and 2/3rd.


Bede inspecting the shipping containers full of building materials for the Kokoda College at Dalmeny NSW

“The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels were there for us in 1942 and the work of the Foundation means that we are there for their families and descendants now ” said Captain Tongs.

“Access to an education and basic health care must be available to these villagers as near as possible to where they live.  The country is rugged and it is not easy to travel long distances to go to school or receive medical attention. The graduates of the College will make a huge difference to communities along the Track and, when the current short-fall is met, to communities in other regions of Papua New Guinea as well” he added.

On 2 July, Bede Tongs visited Dalmeny to see the building materials, tools and other resources for the construction of the College being packed into the containers. Bede, who turned 93 last week, is one of the Ambassadors for the Kokoda Track Foundation and is keen to see the College operating to educate much needed teachers and health workers.

The Kokoda Track Foundation is building the Kokoda College in October and November this year and making a vital contribution to improving the education and health standards of the Oro and Central Provinces in PNG. The College will train urgently needed elementary and primary teachers and community health workers who will operate the schools and aid posts across the region.

For more information regarding the Kokoda College, please visit

If you know of someone who was in the Kokoda Campaign but are not sure of their Battalion, a good place to start is the World War 2 Nominal Roll at Some Soldiers moved to different Units after the Kokoda Campaign, so you might have to do some more searching after looking at the Roll.


Bede’s Medals

Australia helping to build the Kokoda College

Think of Darwin, Hobart and Cairns. If you add every man, woman and child in these cities together you’ll reach around 500,000 – the number of kids in Papua New Guinea who are missing out on an education because they have either no school or no teacher.

This week the Kokoda Track Foundation took a major step towards addressing this sad situation. After three years of planning, we gave the green light to our most ambitious project to date, Kokoda College, the first teaching college to be built in the rural Kokoda region in PNG.

Kokoda College will be a game changer: it will be able to provide all the needed teachers and community health workers in the Kokoda catchment region within the first three years of operation. The college can then open its doors to students from around PNG, making an impact on the national shortage of teachers and CHWs.

We’ve created a special website, where you can check out all details of the college, including plans for the campus and buildings.

We still need the help of as many Australians and Papua New Guineans as possible. Please visit the website to see how you can make a financial donation to help us build and run the college. Or register your interest if you are keen to join our volunteer teams in October/November to help build it.

PNG is a mere 3.6km from Australia – our nearest neighbour – and yet of all nearest neighbours in the world, PNG and Australia have the greatest disparity of poverty and wealth. Our motivating aim is this: “They were there for us in our darkest hours… now it’s our turn to lend a hand.”

Listen to our Chairman’s interview with ABC’s Campbell Cooney for more information.

Kokoda College initiative moving ahead

The Kokoda Track Foundation has announced its Board has given the green light to start the physical construction of the Kokoda College. This means the Foundation is moving ahead with its ambitious plan to build a college in the jungle of Papua New Guinea.

The idea to build this college originated about a year and half ago, when the Foundation realised that the shortage of teachers and community health workers was preventing the development of the communities along the Kokoda Track back.

Genevieve Nelson, executive director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, said: “When we started researching, we discovered that some 500,000 children are currently not going to school because of a shortage of teachers.”

“And in healthcare, things aren’t looking much better, with a severe shortage of community health workers for PNG’s population living in the rural areas” she added.

The Kokoda Track Foundation has been working in PNG for over a decade in the areas of education, health, community development and microbusiness supporting the communities along and around the Track. Building the College is a necessary step and the Foundation’s most ambitious project yet.

“It’s busy days at our Sydney office and our PNG project officers are in full steam.” Nelson comments.

“Sending engineers to Kou Kou village where the College will be built, to survey the land, liaising with the builders about how and when to start preparing the site for construction, shipping and transportation of the building materials and tools – all before we can start the actual construction.”

The Foundation is on track to open the College doors at the end of 2014. The College will be capable of graduating 50 elementary teachers, 30 primary teachers, and 30 Community Health Workers each year. That’s enough teachers and health workers to satisfy the needs of the entire Kokoda track catchment area within the college’s first 3 years of operation. Kokoda College can then open its doors and accept applicants from other regions throughout PNG.