The Federal Member for Blaxland Jason Clare and Federal Member for Cook Scott Morrison today announced that they will spend the next year organising and training for their next Mateship Trek – along the ‘Black Cat’ Track between Wau and Salamaua in Northern Papua New Guinea.
This will be the third Mateship Trek organised by Jason and Scott since they were elected to Parliament in 2007. The first Mateship Trek was along the Kokoda Track in 2009. The second retraced the Sandakan Death March in Malaysian Borneo in 2011.
The next Mateship Trek will take place over the Anzac Day period next year and will involve eight young people, over the age of eighteen, from the electorates of Blaxland and Cook. Scott and Jason will also select four other extraordinary young people from around the country to join them.
“This Mateship Trek is all about three things – raising money for charity, raising awareness of our military history and building friendships between young people in the areas Scott and I represent,” Mr Clare said.
“If two blokes from different political parties can be mates so can people from different religions and backgrounds. Walking in the footsteps of Australian soldiers makes it clear how much we have in common and the responsibility we all have to live a life worthy of their sacrifice.”
Mr Morrison said, “These mateship treks enable us to pay tribute to our diggers by ensuring their sacrifices are not forgotten and, more importantly, that their memories are carried on by a new generation who have had the privilege to walk in their footsteps.
“They are also an opportunity for young people with very different experiences of Australian life to come together and discover what they have in common, namely the inheritance they share as Australians from the sacrifice of our Defence forces, both past and present.”
The ‘Black Cat Track’ covers an area of Northern PNG that was the scene for a series of bloody battles during 1943 that were, in many ways, the sequel to the Kokoda and Buna/Gona campaigns of the previous year.
Although not as well known as the Kokoda campaign, the battles fought along the ‘Black Cat Track’ were some of the most important fought by Australian forces in the Second World War.
After repelling the surge of Japanese forces in early 1943 to defend the allied base and airstrip at Wau, Australian forces then combined to force the Japanese back over the ‘bloody ranges’, supported by American troops, to retake Salamaua in September 1943.
The trek will retrace the path of many of these battles from the defence of Wau, then along the track to Guadagasal, Vickers Ridge, Mubo, Bobdubi Ridge, then down to “The Coconuts” and along the Francisco River to Salamaua.
Like Kokoda, these battles were captured by award winning wartime filmmaker Damien Parer. His film “Assault on Salamaua” included the iconic footage of Sergeant Gordon Ayre assisting Private William Johnson, his head heavily bandaged after being injured by a grenade, across a swollen Allen Creek in the pouring rain (http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/127971).
The campaigns had many other heroes such as stretcher-bearer Corporal Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen and the courageous Captain William Sherlock. These and many others will have their stories retold by the trekkers along the track, who will each carry the name and memory of one serviceman who took part in the battles.
The ‘Black Cat Track’ is often cited as one of the most arduous treks in the world, crossing untouched mountainous jungle. It is referred to by the Lonely Planet guidebook as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli Paratroopers”.
However, the physical challenge of the trek will be secondary to the tribute paid to our soldiers and the task of raising funds to support the people of the villages along the track, the descendants of another band of fuzzy wuzzy angels who did so much to support our soldiers during the Second World War.
The Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, is the patron of the Mateship Trek. Once again we will be seeking the support of community organisations and Australian companies to assist the young people involved raise money for the trek and for those we are trying to help.
More information about the Black Cat trail and imagery can be accessed at: http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/pushingback/wausalamaua.html