The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:39): I rise today to speak about the annual Kokoda
commemoration service which I attended on 2 November this year. The service is organised every
year on that date by the Tea Tree Gully RSL sub-branch, and for many years was passionately
coordinated by the late Ben Martin, a former stockman, builder, drover, police officer and army
servicemen. Ben was a tireless worker in the community and a proud Australian.
The Kokoda Track campaign was arguably Australia's most significant campaign of the
Second World War. The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought on the Kokoda Track,
Papua, from July to November 1942 between the Japanese and Allied (mostly Australian) forces.
After initial losses, Australians were able to push back the Japanese and, while the battle was won,
unfortunately more than 600 Australian soldiers were killed.
In 1995 the Tea Tree Gully Community Management Board, together with employment,
education and community groups, constructed a walking path as a replica of the Kokoda Track along
a deep creek running from Anstey's Hill through Doxiadis Reserve at St Agnes. That creek goes on
to join into Dry Creek. Eight engraved plaques dedicated to the various battles of the Kokoda
campaign were placed along the path, but unfortunately they were subjected to continued vandalism.
Ben Martin brought this vandalism to the attention of former federal member for Makin Trish Draper,
who invited the then minister for veterans affairs, the Hon. Bruce Scott, to assess the situation firsthand.
It was decided to construct a single permanent granite monument, which Ben immediately
set to work designing. The memorial was constructed with support from the City of Tea Tree Gully
while the Tea Tree Gully District Garden Club donated 12 particularly prickly red Trumpeter roses to
further deter the vandals. Ben took it upon himself to take care of the roses, and took great pleasure
in their care and upkeep. However, being accident-prone, one day he got his foot hooked on a bush,
fell headfirst into the rose bushes, and had to be taken to Modbury Hospital to be treated for several
scratches and fitted with a neck brace.
Through Trish Draper Ben organised federal funding of $2,000 for an initial commemoration
ceremony. This was held on 2 November 2001, the anniversary of the retaking of Kokoda. Ben
coordinated what became an annual service every year from 2001 to 2008, and in 2009 the then
governor, His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, attended. Sadly, Ben passed away in June
2009 not knowing that his invitation to the then governor had been accepted. In honour of Ben and
his contribution and effort in the design, organisation and maintenance of the monument, the Tea
Tree Gully RSL and council of the City of Tea Tree Gully had an engraved plaque placed at the
monument. The then governor unveiled that plaque at the Kokoda commemoration service in 2009.
I commend the Tea Tree Gully RSL sub-branch for its ongoing commitment to the only
Kokoda commemoration service that is held in South Australia, and which, I understand, is one of
only two in the country. That is a bit of a concern, but I think it is something that members, broadly,
in the RSL are trying to do more about, to ensure that the commitment of the men who fought along
the Kokoda Track, saving Australia from invasion, should never be forgotten.
Of particular interest at this year's service—and I must say that I think I have attended all but
one of those services—one of the last surviving veterans of the Kokoda campaign in South Australia,
Mr Bert Ward, aged 96, impressively walked up to the monument and laid a wreath unassisted. A
wonderful man, and a great example of the people who gave everything to serve Australia and save
us on the Kokoda Track.