THE inaugural Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Day – a commemoration to honour those who fought alongside and helped the Australians in World War II – has been cancelled because of a lack of money.
On a day when thousands flocked to the betting shops, lounges and hotels to back their favourite horses in the Melbourne Cup, the Government could not find the money to stage this event.
But in Sydney, NSW state parliamentarian Charlie Lynn led a memorial to honour these PNG heroes.
Yesterday was supposed to be a special day of remembrance for the 50,000 Papua New Guineans who helped Australian soldiers during World War II.
When the Government announced the creation of Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Day last month, it said ceremonies would be held at historical sites across PNG.
But these ceremonies did not go ahead as planned because no money was provided.
Culture and Tourism Minister Charles Abel explained that the decision came too late in the year and no money had been set aside in the budget for the celebrations.
He said the Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) would organise an event for next year.
The plans came after the Australian government officially recognised the Angels with the release of a commemorative medallion in July.In a separate joint statement yesterday afternoon, the TPA and KTA said the deferral of formal activities this year for Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Day was due to the short notice immediately after NEC’s approval last month to organise the event given the logistical and infrastructural challenges to host it, especially in a remote area such as Kokoda.
They vowed to take the lead in organising the events through the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Tourism, Arts and Culture.
They hoped that funding would be allocated in next year’s budget.
They said the programme then would include a remembrance service, unveiling of a memorial plaque, medal presentations, a Kokoda marathon and cultural activities.
The TPA and KTA expect the event to become a major drawcard for locals and international tourists seeking to remember the heroic actions of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
At the memorial in Sydney yesterday, Charlie Lynn, director of Sydney’s Kokoda Track Memorial, said: “At Gallipoli (Turkey), we fought for Britain and lost; at Kokoda we fought for Australia and won.”
Mr Lynn, who is also director of Kokoda tour operator Adventure Kokoda, was speaking after a ceremony at the Kokoda Track Memorial in Concord, western Sydney, to raise the historic Australian flag that was raised 67 years ago at Kokoda.
The flag originally fluttered above Kokoda when Diggers retook the village from Japanese forces in a turning point of World War II.
The flag was brought to Sydney by Soc Kienzle, whose late father Captain Bert Kienzle, a plantation owner at Kokoda before the outbreak of war, played a key role in organising the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who made the victory possible.
The flag was raised by a Kokoda veteran, alongside a PNG flag raised by a surviving Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel.
He said the Kokoda Diggers had fought in the worst conditions imaginable and forced the enemy to retreat.
“They stopped a threat which, if successful, would have exposed the entire Australian mainland to invasion,” Mr Lynn told the gathering.
“It’s been said that the first Anzacs created a nation, but Kokoda saved a nation.”
He praised the 10,000 Fuzzie Wuzzies.
“They were paid 10 shillings a month,” Mr Lynn added, “and we would have been defeated without them.”