A new community museum and trade centre in Buna is seeking to grow tourism along the coastline of Northern Province in recognition of the area’s strategic importance during World War II.
The building in Buna is the third of three community museums delivered across the Kokoda Track corridor through the Australian-supported Kokoda Initiative in partnership with the National Museum & Art Gallery (NMAG).
The museum was officially opened on 5 November after Kokoda Day, by Northern Governor Hon. Gary Juffa MP, Ijivitari MP Richard Masere, NMAG Director Dr Andrew Moutu, Australian High Commission Minister-Counsellor Andrew Egan and Mr Andrew Wallace MP, Member for Fisher (Queensland) and Chair of the Defence Sub-Committee of Australia’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.
The museum houses artefacts collected around the area and donated by a group of local families under the curatorship of Buna resident Basil Tindeba.
NMAG Director Dr Moutu said the history of the Kokoda campaign can be better understood by travelling to Buna and surrounding villages to see where the Kokoda Campaign started and ended.
“Currently only around 10 per cent of the 3,500 trekkers who tackle the Kokoda Track each year, extend their stay to visit the northern beaches of Buna, Sanananda and Gona,” said Dr Moutu.
“The Kokoda Track is only one part of the story and we hope the new community museum in Buna will encourage trekkers and other visitors to travel to the northern beaches to appreciate the military history and artefacts on display.”
Japanese forces landed in the area in July 1942 to begin their advance along the Kokoda Track from Kokoda Station towards Port Moresby. At the end of the Kokoda campaign in January 1943, the northern beaches were the site of fierce battles between retreating Japanese soldiers and allied forces.
Mr Egan from the Australian High Commission reflected on the close ties between Australians and the people of Buna and acknowledged the community for their support and sacrifice during the war.
“Australia’s connection to this area was forged during World War II when Allied forces were assisted by the local communities during the Battles of Buna, Gona and Sanananda over 75 years ago. This community museum and other education and health projects in this village recognise the close bond between our people,” said Mr Egan.
Construction of the community museum and trade centre in Buna completes a range of infrastructure investments funded by Australia over the last year. A new health centre and double classroom was built in 2018, with the old health centre recently refurbished into accommodation for health staff. Each household has also received solar lighting kits with the support of Australia and the Kokoda Track Foundation.
Two additional community museums were opened in the villages of Efogi in April and Alola in September, both located directly on the Kokoda Track. Consultations are now underway to explore potential income-generating activities for each of the trade centres attached to the three museums, particularly for local women selling handicrafts and refreshments to trekkers.
Feature Pic: Northern Governor Hon. Gary Juffa accompanied by Hon. Andrew Wallace MP, Member for Fisher (Queensland), Australian High Commission Minister-Counsellor Andrew Egan, NMAG Director Dr Andrew Moutu and other dignitaries gather for a picture in front of the newly opened Buna Museum and Trade Centre