As Trojan’s Trek enters its sixth year of operations and completes the first since incorporation, it behoves me to highlight the key achievements since that day in 2008 when the concept of commencing a program catering for younger or contemporary veterans was floated.
The program was nationally incorporated in February 2013 as The Trojan’s Trek Foundation Limited. There are many advantages offered by incorporation not the least of which is the ability to apply for funding from various avenues which would not be otherwise available. The board currently comprises five directors and includes me as the company secretary and public officer. The treasurer is the other member of the administrative team but he is not a board member.
The Foundation has run one trek each year since and including 2009. The target is younger veterans and excludes other veterans. The reason for this is the facilitators have discovered that the programs outcomes are dependent to some degree on behaviour and life-style change which is much more difficult to achieve in old dogs. Having reported that, a number of Vietnam veterans have been included in past treks to their advantage. The ideal number of veterans for each trek is 12. Veterans from all three services have participated although Army make up 92% of participants.
To date, the treks have catered for male only participation but that will change this year with a pilot female version being run in parallel. This decision was made on the basis of equity combined with the awareness that stress illness is not gender biased. It is also a fact that women now fulfil many of the roles which only three years ago were male only. It would appear that this decision has been justified by subsequent female responses. Female fracilitators have been identified and will be trained prior to the 2014 trek deployment.
Currently ten staff members are used to run the program. Of these the three main facilitators are vital elements in maintaining consistent and effective delivery. Efforts continue with selection and identification of suitable staff to fulfil the succession plan. Two understudy facilitators will be assessed on the 2014 trek. All the staff from the chef to the general hands, from the cooks offsider to the drivers show initiative and are brilliant, compliant and compassionate.
Since the commencement of the program in 09, the requirement to produce evidence based outcomes to justify expenditure and effort have been complied with. To that end on each trek, four standard psycho-social measuring instruments have been administered to every trekker on three occasions. These are; prior to commencement, immediately on conclusion and two to three months after completion. This provides the quantitative data for later analysis. In addition, personal journals are completed on a daily or more frequent basis progressively during the trek. These provide a good measure of qualitative gains, which are also important in the measurement of outcomes.
These results have been interpreted on two separate occasions. The first was done by the ACPMH following the first trek and a further study was concluded last year by UniSA. Of interest, the first set of results from ACPMH was inconclusive largely due to the inability of the contracted person to gather the completed instruments. Although in the interests of independent action this course is preferred, it did not collate the necessary responses to justify accurate findings. As a consequence the findings did not reflect the outcomes witnessed by the staff.
This was unfortunate and the ACPMH findings are sometimes quoted if a negative outcome is sought. The last Minister of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, adopted this stance. Since that experience all data collection has been accepted as a Trojan’s Trek staff responsibility. This has worked well with 97% of all forms and journals being collected.
The most recent study into the program outcomes was completed by UniSA in 2013. The results were released at the Australasian Military Medicine Conference in Dec 2013. The study established new bench marks for peer support programs of this nature, justifying our firm belief in the program value. The full report of both investigations is on the web site.
Longer Term Tracking
Although Trojan’s Trek is a circuit breaker with no formal follow-up process, UniSA have offered to conduct a long term follow-up of trekkers through one of their Honours student’s projects. The offer was accepted and that study was commenced in April. Efforts continue to involve other agencies in follow-up as reinforcement of the lessons learned will maximise outcomes. This year VVCS will be on hand when the trekkers return to Adelaide.
Trojans Trek has formed a partnership with the RSL in SA. This is seen as beneficial to both organisations. For Trojan’s Trek the involvement with an established brand is seen as a boost to status, and for the RSL, association with an organisation which is directly contributing to veteran’s welfare is a plus. Trojan’s Trek also retains good working relationships with a number of other companies and organisations. They are:
• RSL SA. Underwriters of the program
• Health SA. A major financial contributor until 2013
• Families and Communities SA. A major financial contributor
• RSL Care SA. A major financial contributor
• Adelaide Exercise Physiology. A major financial contributor
• Adelaide Rotary Club. A major on-going financial contributor
• Pioneer Tanks. Source of loan 4WD vehicles
• The Lion Hotel. Hosts information lunches at no cost
• Harvey Norman. Source of raffle prizes
• Battlefield Tours. Donor of the $8,000 raffle prize tour to SE Asia battle fields.
• RSL Sub Branches. Marion, Adelaide, Pinnaroo. Support for Sponsor a Trekker program
• Marryatville Primary School. Regular donations
• Generous Individuals and Corporations. Some have provided large donations
Approaches from sources in SE QLD to commence running the trek there have been received. The demand is present and providing the resources can be found in QLD the project appears feasible. Negotiations continue to identify a funding source in QLD. No detailed plan has yet been outlined apart from seeking to locate a suitable area for the trek.
Once that has been completed it is envisaged that the current staff would be involved in running the initial trek/s until it was determined that the QLD chapter could be accredited. The QLD chapter would then operate under the TT banner as a separate entity.
The foundation is in a sound financial position at the time of publication. Cash totals including the trading account and three term deposits was $142,000.00. The foundation conducted a fund raiser in Brisbane in March 2014 which raised $4,200.00. This will become an annual event. The SA operation will continue to be boosted by the Veterans’ Support Walk and major raffle which is run in October each year raising in the vicinity of $10,000.00.
The program is running well and provides valuable advice and assistance to veterans. The method of delivery is different and in many cases more effective than other means. The staff provide outstanding delivery and the results reflect that. Although the program does not provide follow-up support, most of the facilitators provide a welcome shoulder to the trekkers long after the trek has concluded. The female version to be run later this year will complete the suite of peer support to the veteran community in this form.
Moose Dunlop OAM
28 May 2014