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Anthony Albanese honours nation’s shared memory at historic PNG dawn service

Eleanor Campbell -

Anthony Albanese has reflected on the suffering and sacrifice of Australian troops at the site of one of the fiercest battles fought during the Second World War.

After spending two days traversing the Kokoda Track, the Prime Minister joined his Papua New Guinean counterpart James Marape to honour the lives of fallen soldiers during an Anzac Day dawn service at the Isurava memorial.

The village of Isurava was the site of one of several crucial battles fought by Australian and US troops during their retreat along the Kokoda Trail between July and November 1942.

Approximately 400 people attended the remote ceremony. Picture: X/Supplied.

Approximately 400 people attended the remote ceremony. (Image: X/supplied)

Addressing a close crowd gathered in the morning light, Mr Albanese paid tribute to the "perseverance and strength"of soldiers who fought and died for the nation during the bloody campaign.

"We gather today on ground made hallow by Australian sacrifice," Mr Albanese said.

"Where we now have the privilege of joining together in peace and liberty, Australian soldiers fought to hold back a relentless enemy.

"Six-hundred-and-twenty-five Australians were killed on the Kokoda Track. Of those, 99 fell in the Battle of Isurava and 111 more were wounded. And we remember and honour them this morning."

A wreath was laid at the Isurava memorial in Papua New Guinea. Picture: X/Supplied.

A wreath was laid at the Isurava memorial in Papua New Guinea. (Image: X/supplied)

The Kokoda campaign, fought between July and November 1942, was part of Japan's attempt to capture Port Moresby when it was an Australian territory.

Papuan Infantry Battalion soldiers fought alongside Australians during the battles, while thousands of civilians provided crucial support, delivering supplies, building bases and evacuating the sick and wounded.

Mr Albanese pointed to the unadorned strength of the Australian spirit and honoured the "powerful" bond the nation forged with the people of Papua New Guinea during the conflict.

"We thank every one of them who helped Australians in the face of retribution and sometimes unfathomable cruelty," Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese will become the first sitting prime minister to walk the Kokoda Track. Picture: PMO

Mr Albanese will become the first sitting prime minister to walk the Kokoda Track. (Image: PMO)

"The villagers who risked their own lives to feed and guide and shelter Australians in desperate need. The stretcher bearers whose courage was matched only by their kindness.

"They were angels walking tall through the hell of war."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is making a historic visit to Kokoda. Picture: PMO

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is making a historic visit to Kokoda. (Image: PMO)

In his speech, the Prime Minister will pay tribute to the perseverance and strength shown by soldiers. Picture: PMO

In his speech, the Prime Minister will pay tribute to the perseverance and strength shown by soldiers. (Image: PMO)

Six-hundred-and-twenty-five Australians were killed on the Kokoda Track. Picture: PMO

Six-hundred-and-twenty-five Australians were killed on the Kokoda Track. (Image: PMO)

The Kokoda campaign, fought between July and November 1942, was part of Japan's attempt to capture Port Moresby. Picture: PMO

The Kokoda campaign, fought between July and November 1942, was part of Japan's attempt to capture Port Moresby. (Image: PMO)

Mr Albanese spent time with the community. Picture: PMO

Mr Albanese spent time with the community. (Image: PMO)

Anzac memorial services will be held across Australia on Thursday to commemorate fallen servicemen and women. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ben Appleton

Anzac memorial services will be held across Australia on Thursday to commemorate fallen servicemen and women. (Image: Ben Appleton/NCA NewsWire)

Mr Albanese laid wreaths with Mr Marape to symbolise the bond between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

He acknowledged the hundreds of Anzac Day services held across Australia, which he commended as a "collective act of remembrance, reflection, and gratitude" for those who enlist and serve.

Mr Albanese thanked the nurses and medics who saw the country through the war. Picture: PMO

Mr Albanese thanked the nurses and medics who saw the country through the war. (Image: PMO)

"We gather each Anzac Day because how brightly the eternal flame of memory burns depends on how carefully we tend it," Mr Albanese said.

"We come in gratitude. We come in sorrow. A pilgrimage of memory as we keep the long vigil of a grateful nation.

"We hold to the solemn promise our countries made to the fallen all those years ago: We will remember them."

Mr Albanese will fly back to Australia on Thursday to attend an Anzac Day event in Townsville.

Eleanor Campbell - NCA NewsWire

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