BRISBANE STOMP SUCCESS

Due to the efforts of, Mick Harding ex 6 RAR, (one of the 2013 trekkers) the Brisbane 2014 RAR Stomp for Support was held as a fund raiser for Trojan’s Trek.
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The efforts of Mick and his wife Bec and some of the stalwarts of the National Memorial Walk crew AKA Dad’s Army, were rewarded by raising in excess of $ 4,000.00. A good crowd gathered for a short service in Anzac Square which preceded the 13 km walk to Enoggera while rattling cans.

Read more about Mick’s story here

Why Trojan’s Trek Works

Kendall Bird followed the progress of veterans on Trojan’s Trek as part of her Master’s Degree in Psychology at UniSA. This is what she discovered.
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When I started my evaluation of Trojan’s Trek, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. There’s no ‘quick fix’ when you are suffering. Change is often deeper, more meaningful and more complex. My question was this: can outdoor peer support work as a part of therapy for veterans? Trojan’s Trek is a good example. It takes
veterans with mental health stress on a ‘trek’ in the Northern Flinders Ranges where they are exposed to outdoor activities, with support for targeted self-reflection and learning by peers.


Through self-completed questionnaires, a substantial shift and sustained improvement in their mental health and wellbeing was seen, with much lower depression, anxiety and stress and greater life satisfaction and self-efficacy by the end of their time away. These outcomes were maintained even two months after completing the Trek.

Studies in the USA have found that veterans fare better when they have access to peer support. The USA, Canada and the UK all have peer-based services for veterans in some form. Canada, in particular, has integrated the approach with national veterans’ services.

For the men who took part in the 2011 and 2012 Royal Australian Regiment Association (SA) Trojan’s Trek, I saw remarkable results. Through self-completed questionnaires, a substantial shift and sustained improvement in their mental health and wellbeing was seen, with much lower depression, anxiety and stress and greater life satisfaction and self-efficacy by the end of their time away. These outcomes were maintained even two months after completing the Trek.

In general, the men started the Trek with extremely low levels of wellbeing, and left with much higher levels of mental health and satisfaction with life. That’s impressive, I thought. This is a big deal.
Why Trojan’s Trek Works

I was also privileged to read veterans’ diaries from the Trek. It was clear that change happened because they were ‘immersed’ with new-found mates for six days. Sharing the experience of change with others who understood was the key: they could make greater sense of the past and look forward to the future with a greater sense of personal power in their lives.

While peer support can have its pitfalls, when it’s well-managed and structured the approach is promising. There’s something real, something meaningful. If it means one more veteran taking that step to seek more help, or one less suicide, or one more veteran who makes the transition out of the military with less mental pain and panic, then it has to be worthwhile. It’s an ideal approach that can work alongside other
therapies.

As one veteran said: ‘Really, what some of us have done is put into practice a lot of concepts our medical practitioners have been talking to us about.’

Kendall Bird presented her findings at the Australasian Military Medicine Association National Conference held in Adelaide in November. Full research results are due to be published in a Special Edition on Australian Mental Health early in 2014. A link will be available via the RSL-SA & NT website.

SELECTION OF COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS JOURNALS TROJAN’S TREK 2013

When I sit back and think poor me, I know now to stop and engage some common sense, I am not alone! Being in this environment has taught me humility and respect.

Wow! Where to start? I suppose the beginning but in the journey, where is the beginning? I am surprised just how quickly and unplanned the panic sets in. I was apprehensive about doing a journal but I think, albeit slowly I am finding the process helpful.

I would seriously consider coming back as a mentor as well as trying to influence some digger mates to consider coming on 2014. I find just being in the middle of the wilderness with like-minded blokes to be very grounding, peaceful relaxing. Yesterday here was only the first day and already I feel like I have known some of the blokes here for a while

Being here is really reinforcing where I am at, where I want to be and who I want to be. I sincerely hope to one day spend my time being a part of this and sharing my knowledge …It makes me fell alive again

I have gotten a lot out of this journey, met some amazing blokes who I will be mates with for life.
Before the trek I could not even sleep, just toss and turn with thoughts what have I gotten into, how did my life get so f…d up. Should I just bail and go the lone wolf and stop inflicting my family with this CURSE.I was told the drive was 3 hours by Dave which probably helped me get there. So it was six but what the f..k you’re here anyway go for the ride, that’s three hours less counselling.

I was made feel at home, I was not judged(?).The first days talks were inspirational. Poxey got my head going, poke here poke there, amazing shit activated previous knowledge, synapses are firing

I can help others by my example just by turning up, that is the start of a new improved life. I will now be more interested in my family instead of interesting. Got to open up to Dogs a little more about relationships with family and girlfriend

It was really good having Craig and Mick on the trek because they really understand as they have been there as well. A penny for our thoughts and I got quite choked up because I was upset that the time was coming when I was going to have to say goodbye to these amazing blokes. They have been so supportive and actually understand what I am going through. I can actually talk to blokes who I can open up to and trust, this stuff is just priceless.

I think it has already made such a big impact on my life and I’m so grateful to be able to call every one of these blokes my mate, both trekkers and staff. I feel like I belong, like somehow I am meant to be here, this is my moment, my time. My choice to fix me. Being on this program and surrounded by others who are in similar boot, I hope to gain the tools or at least begin to.

If I wasn’t here, I know I would not live to see Xmas. These blokes call themselves farmers, over the past 3 days they have only planted the seeds but the fu…rs have started to germinate.

..it’s all those jars filled with pent-up emotions/feelings/experiences have all been smashed …it is a relief. I told the boys my story. The support feedback I’ve received has been incredible. I was finally free of my demons?

Trojan’s Trek on Lateline

Recently the ABC’s Lateline programme was extremely generous to give us 20 mins of national airtime. You can read the transcript here or watch the video below.

Many thanks to Anne Blake for the video

Next Trek: 21 to 26 September 2014, we need your help.

Welcome! Here at Trojan’s Trek we’ve been conducting Treks for men-only for several years. But what about women who return from combat zones?

Next year we will be doing separate men and women treks and we need your help.

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It is the opinion of trek staff that returned women have, by and large, been ignored by many organisations which provide advice and assistance following deployments. So we’re putting the call out for a women-only trek in 2014.

We need your help

If you can spare some cash, please DONATE directly to the Foundation bank account. The details are:

Trojans Trek Foundation Limited

BSB 015 367  Account number 382 585 648. 

Or send a cheque to The Treasurer, Trojan’s Trek Foundation, C/- 135 Upper Sturt Rd, Upper Sturt SA, 5156

Or via PayPal or credit card. See the DONATE button in our side bar.

All donations are tax deductible via the Trojan’s Trek Foundation.

If you can help us further develop our programme then please read on.

We recognise that women have different needs and combined with the all-inclusive roles which they now fulfil it is obvious that they will suffer similar illnesses to the men. There are however differences both psychological and physiological which will predicate against a one size fits all program for both.

So we need help. Can you assist with the content and development of a female version of Trojan’s Trek ?

It is to this end that we seek input from women with military experience who can contribute to the development of a program for females.

When:
Trek dates are 21 to 26 September, 2014.
Attendance is free ex-Adelaide although assistance is available in some cases.
The trek aim and objectives are contained in the 2013 Report.

If you have suggestions, know someone who should attend  or know someone who would contribute, please contact

Mark Keynes   0487 453 488 or mark@rslsa.org.au

Please note: The trek is more a journey in the head than on the ground.

Please see our FAQ for more information or do not hesitate to call Moose

UniSA study: Trojan’s Trek is a world leader in supporting returned veterans deal with mental health issues

From The Advertiser, October 13th, 2013. By John Stokes. Original article here

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“A SUPPORT program that takes former soldiers trekking in the Flinders Ranges has been rated among the best in the world at helping young veterans deal with the horrors of war, a new study has found.

For the past five years the annual Trojan’s Trek has seen 10-12 ex-servicemen take part in the many diverse activities on the trek in the Flinders Ranges.  It is here where older veterans help younger comrades develop strategies to cope with their military-induced stress disorders.

The organisation Director is retired Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop OAM.

UniSA Masters student Kendall Bird’s two-year study on the program, which was released at the Australasian Military Medicine Conference in Adelaide in Nov  has found that new bench marks in outdoor peer support programs have been set.  These rate the program as world’s best practice.

Lt-Col Dunlop described the Flinders Ranges as “the world’s biggest office in the largest consulting room in the world” said the setting allowed former soldiers to bond and take stock of their lives and relationships.

“Certain things happen in life which can cause anxiousness and depression which feed on each other.  Life becomes a big, big circle that goes from bad to worse,” Moose Dunlop said.  “That’s the way the returned men describe it.”

“The trek is a circuit breaker which results in individuals returning from the trek back into society as individuals who are highly motivated to change their circumstances .”

The program includes workshops and seminars as well as activities such as four-wheel-driving.

Moose said the study revealed most trekkers, in spite of being badly affected at the start, no longer showed signs of stress or depression, different to the community norms even two months after finishing the Trek.

He said the relocation of hundreds of soldiers from Darwin to Adelaide’s  Edinburgh Base in 2011, combined with the staged withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Middle East, meant more soldiers would soon be needing support.

“A lot of the soldiers will be back (at Edinburgh) and I reckon a lot of them will put their hand up and say ‘look, I’ve got a problem’.”   Moose aims to create a similar program for ex-servicewomen next year and is in the process of finding suitable female veterans to advise on content as well as take a lead.

Stephen Cates served with the army for eight months in Afghanistan in 2008  and found it difficult to adjust to civilian life on his return.

“I had a number of issues reintegrating, not so much into work, but into family life,” Mr Cates, 40, said.

“I self medicated with antidepressants and alcohol – which we all know doesn’t work.”

He said the trek gave him the chance to open up about his experience of war.

“We don’t want to tell people some of the things we’ve seen, done, heard – that’s not what we’re about,” he said.
“That’s where Trojan’s Trek comes in. It’s about peer support, being able to talk to someone.”

James Paterson, 31, served in Iraq for seven months in 2005 and went on Trojan’s Trek last month after “wasting a lot of years”. “If I hadn’t gone it was just a trail of self destruction,” he said.

“It’s all about the peer support. They’ve been there before and they’ve done it, and hopefully we can do it for the young guys that come through.”

The trek is now established as a not for profit Foundation with DGR status, ie all donations are tax deductible.

ADELAIDE ROTARY CONTINUE SUPPORT WORK

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Adelaide Rotary Club may well boast of the fine record which the club has earned supporting community projects. And the work continues, in this case providing financial support to Trojan’s Trek Incorporated.
Above is a photo of Adelaide club member Rob Falconer handing over a $10,000 cheque to the director of Trojans Trek, Moose Dunlop OAM.  Moose reported that the funds would be used to conduct a female version of the trek in 2014. He said he and the staff had been most encouraged by the response to the idea from servicewomen past and present, and that this would certainly be an Australian first if not a world first in peer support delivery.

Is outdoor peer support valuable? Measuring the success of Trojan’s Trek

Ms Kendall Bird recently presented the findings of her Masters project looking at the efficacy of Trojan’s Trek as an intervention method. Her thesis, entitled ‘Contemporary Veterans’ Experience of a Peer Outdoor Support Therapy (POST) Program’ was presented at the Australiasian Military Medicine Association National Conference in Adelaide on Nov 2nd 2013.

Her abstract will be published in the Proceedings from the conference in the next edition of the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health (JMVH). The full research article and results are due to be published in a Special Edition on Australian Mental Health early in 2014, with a review of POST programs approved to be published in the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health. Kendall is a Provisional Psychologist currently completing her Masters of Psychology (Clinical) at the University of South Australia. Here she tells us about her findings

There’s something to be said for a program which attracts contemporary veterans and leaves a lasting impression on its participants. Even more so, when many other alternatives discover that attracting participants to any form of therapy is an uphill battle.

In embarking on my Masters’ thesis; an evaluation of Trojan’s Trek, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when looking beyond the positive verbal testimonies. I have been reminded that effecting change to one’s life when you’re suffering; is deeper, more meaningful and more complex than just receiving one type of quick therapy.

The fundamental question was: “Is outdoor, remote, peer support a valuable adjunct to therapy for veterans?
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If the majority of services offered in Australia are either one-to-one (professional to individual) or in a group setting (professional to many); what can a peer-to-peer approach add? It appears, quite a lot.

Studies in the USA have found that veterans mentoring veterans is more meaningful and carries more weight than mentoring among non-veterans. In addition, this form of mentoring maintains veteran engagement and increases their access to other mental health services (Travis et al, 2010; Greden et al, 2010). The USA, Canada and the UK all have peer-based services for veterans in some form, and in Canada this approach is integrated into the Veterans’ National Health Services.

Having completed my thesis using results from the men who participated in South Australia’s Trojan’s Trek, I found there was a substantial shift and sustained improvement in their self-reported mental health and wellbeing (depression, anxiety, stress, life satisfaction, self-efficacy) maintained even two months after completing the Trek. In general, the veterans commenced the trek with extremely low wellbeing and left with their satisfaction with life and anxiety the same as non-military people. In fact, they maintained a sense of self-ability above that of non-military, with reduced depression and stress. Now that’s impressive, this is very significant, I thought

I was also privileged to access the participant’s journals which were completed while they were on the trek. On reading these, it became clear to me that change happened for these men because they were ‘immersed’ for six days with their peers. In addition, informal outdoor activities added to formal peer mentoring sessions strengthened the outcomes. What is vital was the shared opportunities to apply skills and self-reflection and feel understood by others in not only what was experienced in the past, but in looking forward to how they viewed the future.

While there will be criticisms and pitfalls to peer support, when well-managed and structured there’s something very promising about this approach; something real, something meaningful. And if it means one more veteran taking that step to seek more help, one less suicide, one more veteran who bridges that transition into finding ways to have a meaningful life post-military with a little less mental pain and panic, then it’s an approach to watch evolve and spread as an adjunct to other therapies.
As one participant quoted: ‘Really, what some of us have done is put into practice a lot of concepts our medical practitioners have been talking to us about.’

By Ms. Kendall Bird

SUCCESSFUL VETERANS’ SUPPORT WALK

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It was a beautiful day for a walk as more than 200 supporters gathered on the banks of the Torrens Lake opposite the Torrens Parade Ground for the third Veterans’ Support Walk. With 20 sponsor logos emblazoned on their shirts they set off on the word of Graham Cornes.

Among the anxious dogs and striding mob was Liz Scarce, Ian Kelly and friends I had not seen for some considerable time. Peter Goers provided encouragement to the walkers and the sausage sizzle team from 9 RAR.

At the completion of the walk the raffle was drawn; the BIG TV going to John O’Shannesy with its smaller cousin won by Greg Hallam, the trek paramedic who had joined us from Stawell in Victoria. The Dulux voucher was won by another lucky punter who remains nameless.

After coffee and a yarn the group wandered over to the parade ground for the DVA Health Expo.

I extend my sincere thanks to you all for your support of the program.

Moose Dunlop OAM

REPORT TROJAN’S TREK 2013

“..I will be less judgemental with others and take steps to change certain behaviours..” 2013 participant

Background

1. Trojan’s Trek is a program which was first run in the North Flinders Ranges of SA in the late 1990s to assist troubled Vietnam veterans on their return post deployment. In 2008, the idea was resurrected to cater for younger veterans who were facing the same issues.

2. The 2013 trek, conducted from 22 to 27 September, was the fifth in this series which targets contemporary veterans from conflicts following the Vietnam War. To date male only treks have been conducted. This is not because of gender bias and efforts are being made to identify a female group. The problems resulting from military induced stress illness (MISI) is experienced by both genders.

Aim

3. The aim of Trojan’s Trek 2013 is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships.

Objectives

4. The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants, through group and individual challenge, achieve an awareness of the following: • an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour, • exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change, • individual responses which are effective in achieving goals, • improving interpersonal relationships, and • enhancing self-esteem.

Funding

5. The 2013 project was funded by a number of individuals and agencies. The majority of the funding was provided by Health SA with the State RSL and the QLD RAR Battalion Associations contributing. The efforts of Ted Chitham MC, QLD RAR contact and Christine Jenner, RSL SA are acknowledged. The SA Government funding will cease this year and the Board wishes to acknowledge this timely assistance. In the future funding will clearly present a challenge for a small organization such as Trojan’s Trek.

Validation

6. In order to justify the program’s claims to successful outcomes, four standard psychosocial instruments have been administered since trek one. They are: • Life Satisfaction Scale (Hilda) for comparison with Australian normative data, • Positive and Negative Interactions, for comparison with ACPMH Longitudinal Research, • General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, for comparison with VVCS programs for newly discharged members of the ADF, and • Audit & DASS 21, for comparison with VVCS clients. 2.

7. These are completed on three occasions: • prior to the commencement of the trek, • Immediately following the completion of the trek, and • two to three months later.

8. A master’s student in clinical psychology from Uni SA has recently completed a study to independently evaluate the data collected as part of her ongoing study. Her thesis has been completed and the findings which set a new benchmark in peer support outcomes, will be released at the Australasian Military Medicine Conference in Adelaide in November.

Participants

9. Many of the participants lack self-confidence and are low in self-esteem. It is therefore difficult to gain an early commitment to take part in an activity which is conducted a long way from home and from which withdrawal is difficult once commenced. In addition, because participants will probably be unknown to each other, the course of least resistance is failure to attend. As in previous years final numbers were the cause of some concern as one of the base tenets of involvement is that the participants must volunteer to attend. No pressure is placed on any of those who wish to be involved. Although it would be advantageous to secure referrals from medical specialists and others, participants are self-identified as no other means is readily available without contravening patient confidentiality.

10. The impact of the trek is powerful and positive. The result in almost 100% of those who attend is a positive change to their life and impacts on those around them. There are no costs for those attending, the effort is minimal and the benefits substantial in many aspects. Certainly there would appear to be nothing to lose, even from a biased point of view. Word of mouth from previous trekkers is now the main source of referrals and accounted for over 60% of those attending. Personal calls to a number of those expressing interest was necessary to confirm attendance. During the trek some of those contacted stated that had it not been for the personal contact from a mate or a staff member, they would not have been involved.

11. Details of the 2013 participants are listed below.

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12. Of the 9 participants: • one was currently serving as a member of the Defence Force, • seven were from interstate, • eight were army, • two had been injured on operations • one was a VIC AMB employee suffering PTSD. Note: Two mentors attended this trek, both having been participants on previous treks. 3.

Selection

13. As previously indicated, participants are self-nominating. However, it is important to gain approval from their treating doctor to avoid including individuals with the potential for self-harm or pose a danger to the staff. This was achieved as part of the nomination process by the submission of a form signed by the participant’s doctor.

Organization

14. The organization for Trojan’s Trek 2013 was:

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Note. For all except the arrival and departure nights, the participants and field staff including the Director spent four days and three nights in the bush. The staff numbers were satisfactory and the response to mentors was positive.

Visitors

15. a. H.E. Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANR and two staff members. The Governor remained with the trekkers for approximately 20 hours, staying in the bush overnight. His attendance was appreciated by the staff and trekkers. During his stay he spoke to each of the participants about their individual problems and the outcomes they were seeking. Their journals reflect an appreciation of his personal interest.Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 5.45.36 PM

 

b. Steve Cannane and Brant Cummings from ABC TV. Steve and the cameraman remained with the group for approximately two and a half days during which time material for an ABC TV program called Lateline was captured. It is anticipated the program will go to air in November. Concerns regarding not only the visitors’ presence but that of a TV camera were quickly forgotten. Filming and questioning was handled sensitively by the team who were well versed in the individuals’ issues. 4.

Transport

16. Transport for the trek was as follows: a. One 22 seat bus to carry the participants and one staff supervisor to Moolooloo HS. b. Five 4 WD vehicles and one 2 WD utility, one covered and one uncovered trailer for staff transport to Moolooloo HS. The vehicle with the covered trailer was dispatched 24 hours before the main body to allow for early preparations. On this occasion two vehicles were loaned to the trek by Pioneer Tanks thus saving in hiring costs. c. At the conclusion of the trek staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the five 4 WD vehicles and the utility

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17. The insurance excess which applies to hire vehicles in the case of accident remains a matter of concern. A payment of $33.00 per day per vehicle is required to reduce the excess to the minimum. This results in an excess reduction to $2,500.00 (single vehicle) and $550.00 (multiple vehicles). No claims were necessary.

Acquisitions

18. For this trek it was necessary to purchase a new covered dust-proof trailer and five extra swags. In previous years, we have used a covered trailer which was either hired or donated. These options both carried a sting in the tail; the hire trailer cost was $380 and the borrowed trailer was in very poor condition, not worthy of rebuild. The additional swags were required for members who would otherwise not have had access to them.

Pre-Trek Briefing

19. A briefing for the participants and their partners was held on 20 September at the RAR club in Linden Park. Partners were invited as past experience has shown that it is an advantage if the partners have some understanding of the veteran’s condition and the objectives of the trip. Interstate partners were not able to attend. Nonetheless, for those who did attend it was a valuable session. The Director of VVCS was invited but was unable to be present.

Location

20. The trek established a base at Moolooloo HS Shearers’ Quarters which is 42 km NE of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies approximately 540 square miles of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km. Travelling these distances is time consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offset the disadvantages of travel. A trip of this duration also permits the participants to get to know each other en-route. The feedback on the location from the participants is positive. 5.

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Publicity

21. A press release prior to the trek was issued although only one country radio station made enquiries.

Journals

22. The use of journals has proved to be an important element for participants. They are used to record personal responses to the various lessons and to make general comment on the trek. A specific time was set aside each day to permit the completion of the journals. This proved to be satisfactory from the point of view of better quality comment and also provided the opportunity to collectively review and anchor the day’s lessons. Although these comments are qualitative they do represent the perceptions of the participants at the time and are not always strictly in accord with the quantitative measurements gained via the psychosocial instruments listed at paragraph 6. This aspect of differing evidence values was one of the criticisms raised in the ACPMH Report of 2010 and although it would be ideal if the qualitative and quantitative results match perfectly, the perceptions and subsequent behavior of the participants are paramount in gauging the success of the program.

23. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are common to a number of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) sessions, but the method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the message much more powerful. There is no doubt that the live-in nature of the trek shared with other veterans is a significant factor in the success of the program.

Staff Debrief

24. On the last evening, a staff debrief was held in order to capture the immediate thoughts of the staff. No major issues were raised apart from the difficulty in attracting participants.

Internal Evaluation

25. On the last night of the trek a ’tick and flick’ survey was issued and completed by the participants. The questions were aimed at an immediate response to the trek and were primarily designed to gauge how the course was conducted as well as an opportunity to comment on the content. One of the conditions not included for comment was the rule that the trek is ‘dry’ or alcohol free. This was non-negotiable and therefore not up for comment. However the general consensus was that this is a good idea. This indicates a favourable result in content and presentation.

Communications

26. A telephone was connected to the shearers’ quarters from which normal telephone and internet services could be accessed. While in the field, UHF CB hand held and vehicle mounted radios were used for communications on simplex. Duplex on Channel 3 is also available for contact at greater distances. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker which is approximately 88 km south of Moolooloo HS. This year one of the previous trekkers, through the generosity of BTW Communications Penrith, donated 6 UHF radios with ancillary equipment. This avoided a hire and reprogramming fee.

Medical

27. First line medical support was provided by an ex-defence force member who is now with the Victorian Ambulance service as a Para-medic. In addition, a doctor was on hand as a staff member and a number of other staff are qualified as senior first aiders. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

Weather

28. The weather was fine but very windy on two nights with gusts to 45 knots. Temperature ranges were from 9 to 30˚C.

Staff

29. The delivery of the program was the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Robert Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. Their credibility and insight made for interesting and varied sessions which carry a common message presented in a unique way in a different environment. This trek was utilized to provide training for others who will be part of the succession plan.

30. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when delivered by a veteran as opposed to a counsellor in consulting rooms. This is completely in accord with the philosophy on which the trek is based; that is older veterans helping younger veterans. In other words, the tribal elders provide advice and encouragement to the young. This approach has been adopted over many thousands of years by other civilizations and in today’s society is adopted by alcoholics and gamblers.

31. The tenor of the week is relaxed yet highly focused on outcomes. This comes as a surprise to most of the participants whose expectations are for a course run along military lines. This is the antithesis of the practice.

32. The inclusion of two civilian experts provides a balance to the military presence. They deliver sessions linked to their expertise and are skilled in providing advice and encouragement in a form which is perceived differently to that provided by the veterans. The balance is fine but necessary to gain the confidence of the attendees. Both these members have been instrumental in providing follow-up advice which in a number of cases has resulted in job placement. The gains from their inclusion are manifold.

Follow-up

33. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. It also would be beneficial if an organization with greater resources could become actively involved in follow-up.

Future Issues

34. The major issues which face the project in the short to mid-term period are:

a. program funding surety beyond 2013,
b. succession planning to ensure that the management and style of the project is maintained,
c. expansion of the program to include a female version, and
d. development of an achievable business plan to support the Foundation’s objectives.

Conclusion

35. There is no doubt that the isolation and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying opinions and promoting disarming honest comment from all concerned. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence, the trek was an outstanding success. However, the realization that behavior affects relationships and behavior modification may offer an answer to an unsatisfactory personal life is just the start. In the opinions of the participants, they have universally achieved a number of goals and leave equipped to face the challenge. By their own admission, not only have they faced and discussed their problems frankly among the other participants and staff, many have formed relationships which are based on personal and common problems.

36. For some this is the commencement of a long journey and understanding and further help will assist in their arriving at a better place. The real test will be to carry the determination into each individual domain and anchor that in their lives. It is desirable that participants form a mental strong point to which they can retreat before consolidation and continuation. It is this aspect of the total picture which requires much greater external support and follow-up from existing supporting networks.

37. One of the discoveries which more than half of the group became aware of was that they and their families have lived through personal problems thinking they were alone in their pain and frustration. All of the participants exchanged email addresses and intend to maintain contact and provide advice and assistance to each other. This internal bonding is proving most valuable in their respective journeys. Instigated by a participant, a Facebook page has been established for the group and selected staff.

38. Both the participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans. The principles may also be applied to other vocations. The trek may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to one on one counselling and pharmacology.

39. Further information about the foundation is available on the web site at www.trojanstrek.com.

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Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop (Retd) OAM
Program Director 7 October 2013

Distribution:
Minister for Health SA
Minister for Veterans SA
Ted Chitham MC
Chris Jenner, RSL SA
TT Board Members (5)
TT staff (9)
CEO RSL Care QLD
CEO RSL Care SA
Chair Repat Foundation