book cover Kokoda Track: 101 days
by Peter Macinnis

Paperback | 180 pp | Years 5-6

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[ Developing values | Doing Your Best | Care and Compassion | Integrity | Respect | Honesty and Trustworthiness | Responding to the text]

Developing values

The true meaning

When the soldiers were on the front line they were confronted with situations that they could never have imagined. They found that they had to draw on inner reserves of strength and values that perhaps they did not know they possessed.

As you read the book, find examples of soldiers who demonstrated the true meaning of:

  • trustworthiness
  • honesty
  • integrity
  • courage
  • resilience
  • care and compassion
  • respect
  • responsibility
  • tolerance and understanding

Write a paragraph about each that shows you understand the meaning of these words.

Doing Your Best/Care and Compassion


One of the values most important to Australians is that of 'mateship'. What is mateship? Use the Y-chart to help determine what it is, and then select illustrations from the book to demonstrate mateship in action.

Part of being a good mate is doing your best to keep those mates safe and healthy. Select an episode from the book which illustrates the soldiers doing their best in difficult circumstances.

General MacArthur, who did not even go to Papua New Guinea until the last days of the campaign, had no understanding of jungle warfare and he believed that the 'extremely light' casualties meant that the Australian forces were not making a 'serious effort to displace the enemy'.

Write an article as though you were a war correspondent wanting to convince your audience that these comments are wrong. Speculate on what might have happened to the soldiers if they had not been so resilient.



Much of the fate of the soldiers was determined by the leadership of Generals Blamey and MacArthur. On p 166, the author writes: 'In spite of Blamey and MacArthur, these brave soldiers defeated the Japanese.' Use the Y-chart to help determine the qualities of a good leader.


  • Why are these qualities important?
  • Did generals Blamey and MacArthur have these qualities?
  • How is leadership in the army decided?
  • Why do we need leaders?

In organisations such as the Australian Defence Force, it is expected that subordinates will respect their superiors simply because they hold a higher rank.


  • Should this be the case?
  • What was the relationship between the Australian soldiers and their leaders including General MacArthur?

Identify examples from the book that show a justified lack of respect or a change in feeling between different groups. What were the impact and implications of these feelings?

Explore the concept of respect and how it is demonstrated within the school community. What is respect? How should it be gained? Should students respect their teachers just because they are teachers?

Develop some strategies and an action plan that will help to develop a more respectful and harmonious atmosphere at your school.

Honesty and Trustworthiness

Honesty and censorship

In the letter on pp 30-31, the war correspondent writes, 'I was a war correspondent in the thick of it, but that doesn't mean I reported everything I saw.'


  • Apart from having their writing censored, why did correspondents not report all they saw?
  • Is omitting the truth honest or dishonest?
  • Is there ever a place for lies?
  • If your family members were fighting overseas, would it be better to be ignorant or informed?
  • Is there ever a case for censorship?

Use the PMI Chart to help organise your ideas and form an opinion.

General MacArthur commented that because the Australians suffered relatively few casualties, they did not take the task seriously enough. Sometimes subordinates 'self-censor' and only tell their superiors what they believe they want to hear.


  • Was MacArthur misinformed, misled or genuinely ignorant of the plight of the Australian soldiers?
  • Is this sort of censorship ever justified?
  • What were the consequences when the President of the United States was led to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Compare the types of communications technologies available in World War II and those available now.

  • What are the key differences?
  • How did families find out about the events of World War II at that time?
  • How might things have been different if the soldiers' families had had the access to television and computers that is now available?

Responding to the text

Set the scene

On a map of South-east Asia, locate and mark the countries which fell to Japanese rule during World War II. There is evidence that the Japanese were within 11 kilometres of Port Moresby at one stage. Use the map's scale to estimate the distance between Port Moresby and northern Australia.

Examine a topographical map of Papua New Guinea and note the differences between its terrain and that of Australia.

  • What is the difference between the summit of Mount Kosciuszko and the highest peak of the Owen Stanley Range?
  • What were the other key differences in climate and conditions that the Australian soldiers had to face, remembering that most of them were recruited from the southern states?

Use the X-chart to clarify your thoughts, and add to it as you read.

Put yourself in the shoes of a member of the militia and write a letter home describing a day in your life on the Kokoda Track. Compare these to the conditions currently being experienced by the Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you were required to fight overseas what would you miss the most?

Use this conversion chart to convert the rations described on p 35 into today's measurements. Then work out how much each soldier had to eat each day. Could you survive on this? Is it nutritionally sound? Compare it to what you normally eat in a day.


At the end of the book the author has included timelines marking the stages of Australia's involvement in the conflict, the lead-up to World War II, and the events in the Pacific region. Although Kokoda is a complex story, the author has made it simpler by numbering the days. Use this template to develop a graphic timeline of the Kokoda Campaign. Have these been the most significant 101 days in Australia's history so far?

Write an editorial to support your opinion. How is it similar to and/or different from the opinions of your classmates?

Haves and Have-nots

The author argues that, 'In one sense, World War II was fought between the "haves" and the "have-nots"'. Discuss:

  • What was it that the 'haves' had that the 'have-nots' wanted?
  • If it is true that the Japanese did not want to invade Australia itself, why did they bomb Darwin, shell Sydney and Newcastle, and sneak midget submarines into Sydney harbour?
  • How might these events have helped the plans of the Japanese?

Allies and enemies

The author writes:

A notable aspect of World War II is the way Australia switched its allegiance from Britain as its main ally to the United States Curtin found that his British allies did not have the same enthusiasm for saving Australia as Australia had for saving Britain.


  • What is an ally?
  • Who were Australia's allies in World War II?
  • Why was Australia allied to Britain, a country on the other side of the world?
  • Was it reasonable for the British to expect countries like Australia and New Zealand to support them when their country was threatened?
  • Who are Australia's allies now?
  • What impact have these alliances had on our history?
  • Are Australia's enemies from World War II, still considered our enemies? What has changed?

'Only in the militia'

550 young militia soldiers of the 39th Battalion managed to hold the much larger and more experienced Japanese forces at bay, even though John Curtin was still in the midst of negotiating with Winston Churchill for more Australian soldiers to be allowed to join them from the North African and European campaigns.

Yet, in the letter to Beryl on page 11, Beryl's friend writes:

Mrs Nose-in-the-air has been swanning around, boasting how her son, Barry, is 'doing his bit', when he is only in the militia. People are fed up with Mrs N. Word around town is that the real soldiers are calling the militia koalas, because they are not to be shot at or exported from Australia!

Read p 26 to get a better understanding of the militia. Discuss

  • Who were they?
  • Why were they despised by some members of the community?
  • What did the writer mean by 'I say hand their work over to the older blokes, winkle the militia out of their cushy jobs and send them off to the real fight'?
  • Why were the militia sent to Port Moresby instead of the AIF (Australian Imperial Forces)?
  • Who was right - Curtin or Churchill?

An unheard voice

Read the Author profile above, particularly his views about war.

  • Are these views apparent in the narrative?
  • Should they be?
  • Is this book subjective or objective?
  • Why is it important to be aware of bias in texts (print, video or digital) that we read?

Compare the Peter Macinnis's account of this campaign with others that are available and explain the differences in the authors' approaches.

Find some examples of texts where bias might obscure the truth – political advertisements are often excellent examples - and identify the writer's perspective. Then find texts on the same topic that offer a different perspective.

What is meant by the statement, 'There is no truth, only perception'?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006