Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is paying tribute to the bonds of friendship between Australia and Papua New Guinea with 2017 marking the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Trail campaign in the Second World War.
Mr Turnbull laid a floral wreath at the track and also honoured the thousands of war dead at the Bomana War Cemetery, just outside the capital Port Moresby on Saturday.
Mr Turnbull is expected to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill later on Saturday.
The leaders are expected to discuss security and other arrangements for Port Moresby hosting the APEC leaders summit in 2018, as well as the upcoming closure of the Manus Island immigration detention centre and the fate of refugees who aren’t accepted for a US resettlement deal.
However, the meeting will be muted given Mr O’Neill’s government is shortly going into caretaker mode ahead of his country’s elections in June.
In March, PNG made a surprise request for direct budget support from Australia to pay for schools and hospitals. But the request has been flatly rejected.
The PNG economy has faced severe challenges as a result of the downturn in global commodity prices. The government’s coffers are strained and it has been forced to raise taxes and cut spending.
An estimated 625 Australians were killed along the Kokoda trail and more than 1600 were wounded. Casualties from sickness exceeded 4000.
Local Papua New Guinean men, dubbed affectionately as the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’, were lauded for assisting and escorting wounded and injured Australian soldiers along the trail.