GALA DINNER HONORS AUSTRALIAN WAR VETERAN WHO TREKKED KOKODA WITH NO LEGS

Thursday 27 July

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) International Business Summit committee is proud to announce details of the Summit Gala Dinner to be held in Brisbane on Tuesday August 22.

The dinner will feature an on-stage chat between journalist Kathy Novak and inspirational Australian veteran of the war in Afghanistan Damien Thomlinson.

The story of Damien Thomlinson is one that continues to evolve and inspire people around the world.

Inspired by the military history of his Grandfather, Damien joined the Australian Defence Force and at the age of just 24 achieved his dream of becoming a Commando. This elite group is tasked with the most physically demanding, mentally challenging and dangerous roles in the armed forces, often behind enemy lines.

It was while serving in Afghanistan with the 2nd Commando Regiment that Thomlinson’s life was changed forever. In April 2009, whilst on night patrol in Southern Afghanistan, Damien’s unit drove over an improvised Taliban bomb. Damien suffered horrendous injuries in the explosion, which resulted in both of his legs being amputated. The damage to his body was so severe his medical team claim it is a miracle he wasn’t killed. In fact there were many times throughout his immediate treatment and beyond that medical staffdid not think he would pull through.

Most people could not imagine recovering and moving on from something as debilitating as the loss of two limbs – but Damien isn’t most people, and giving up is not in his nature. Instead of sinking into depression and retreating from the world, Thomlinson decided to treat the loss of his legs as another challenge to be overcome, a challenge that would forever change his life.

With no time for self-pity, Damien threw himself into his rehabilitation and set about re-claiming his life, on hist terms– a testament to his incredible drive and determination. With a great deal of commitment and hard work he taught himself to walk again with state of the art prosthetic legs.

His inspirational mission has seen him undertake that would faze an able-bodied person, let alone someone with prosthetic legs. He has even walked the demanding Kokoda Track – a 96km trek through the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

In June 2011, Thomlinson walked the 96-kilometre Kokoda Track on prosthetic legs as part of a team of 25 Australian soldiers, including several other soldiers with disabilities, as part of an effort to honour his best friend Private Scott Palmer, who had been killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan a week before he had been due to return to Australia.The pair had talked about walking the Track together before Palmer’s death.

Private Scott Palmer had also been one of the first responders when Thomlinson’s legs were blown off in Afghanistan. Today, Damien uses his experiences, passion for life and journey to the Paralympics to inspire and motivate through corporate public speaking engagements and ambassadorships. He also continues his fundraising initiatives for Legacy, the Commando Welfare Trust and other organisations aimed at raising awareness and funds for injured soldiers and their families.

Damien Thomlinson also made his acting debut recently in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. Damien played the part of Ralph Morgan, a soldier found with his legs blown off during the Battle of Okinawa in the World War II drama. “A remarkable young man. Unstoppable.” – Ray Martin, 60 Minutes

“When we found out Damien’s story, it was like, ‘Wow, we have to get this guy on-board,’ and he was an example to all of us. Even shooting the battle scenes was incredibly courageous for Damien, since he had to essentially re-enact what happened to him.” – Mel Gibson, Director, Hacksaw Ridge

KOKODA ALSO ON THE SUMMIT AGENDA

Damien Thomlinson’s inspiring story of courage and survival comes as we commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign.

On that topic, the PNG International Business Summit 2017 will also feature an address by Hon. Charlie Lynn on the importance of wartime tourism in Papua New Guinea.

Charlie pioneered the Kokoda trekking industry in Papua New Guinea and has led 88 expeditions across the trail since 1991. His treks have featured in all media networks throughout Australia, bringing unprecedented exposure for Papua New Guinea. In 2015 Charlie was inducted as Officer of the Logohu for his contribution to the legacy of the Kokoda campaign in Papua New Guinea.

Charlie is also a Director of Network Kokoda, a charity organisation that honours the war time legacy of WWII Kokoda veterans and the PNG wartime carriers through sustainable agriculture, education, health and leadership initiatives along the Kokoda Trail.

Network Kokoda will be a key exhibitor at the PNG Trade Expo, being held in conjunction with the Summit.