Join us for Veterans’ Support Walk! October 25th 2015

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INVITATION. Veterans and friends, here is an opportunity to directly support an initiative which assists younger veterans while enjoying a stroll around the beautiful River Torrens.

WHY? Funds are needed to continue Trojan’s Trek a program to help with the rehabilitation of young veterans returning from combat duties.

WHAT? Four different event options with prize money on offer:
1. 5km walk (families, prams, and pets on leash are welcome). Two $50 random spot prizes.
2. 5km FEMALE run. Prize of $100 for first place.
3. 5km MALE run. Prize of $100 for first place.
4. 5km TEAM OF 3 EVENT. Prize of $200 for first complete finishing team.

WHERE? River Torrens, directly north of the Torrens Parade Ground. NOTE : Parking WILL be available on the Torrens Parade Ground.

WHEN? Sunday 25 October, 2015, starting at 0930

AFTER? BBQ, coffee and big raffle prize draws.

Registration: there are TWO ways to register:

1) Snail mail. Download this PDF form, print it and fill it out then mail it.

2) Register online. Use our online form to register and pay online using either credit card or PayPal.

REPORT TO THE AGM 20 June 2015

Introduction

2015 is the seventh year of operations in SA and heralds the first year of operating in QLD. Since the first trek in 2009, the program has assisted 75 male and 16 female veterans adapt to life following deployments. These were all individuals with mental health issues resulting from service. The program outcomes have been independently gauged by two studies at UniSA and one at ACPMH, providing confirmation of our strong beliefs.

Activities
In 2014 the Foundation decided to conduct a female trek which was run in parallel to the male version. The separation was necessary because of significant differences in the issues facing women, allied with the fact that better outcomes were achievable with single sex groups. The female version was rated a success and 2015 will again see a male and female trek run in SA based at Moolooloo station in the North Flinders Ranges.

As previously mentioned a QLD trek will commence this year in August, run as a pilot trek to ascertain its viability and demand in that state. It will be based near the town of Milmerran on the Darling Downs 200 km west of Brisbane. The facilities of the QLD Sporting Shooters Association (SSAA) at Captain’s Mountain will be used as the base camp.

With the expanded program it is vital that the organisational structure is capable and a succession plan is developed, in particular to understudy key positions within the organisation. In short the 2015 commentary and highlights were:

• South Australia: The SA organisation currently consists of a Project Director, an administrative assistant and a treasurer. My overall responsibilities are to oversee the running and development of the SA and QLD treks. I am also involved in :
a. Speaking engagements to various service clubs and interested parties,
b. The provision of advice to government agencies as it relates to veteran matters,
c. Addressing the entire staff of Ward 17 at the Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne as a result of glowing reports from previous trekkers.
d. Attending fund raisers for the cause. One was a music gig at the Jade Monkey organised by one of past trekkers ($728) and another was the provision of six past trekkers who attended and assisted in the running of the Centenary of the Motor Car at Carrick Hill for Adelaide Rotary.
• Marryatville Primary School. Trojan’s Trek for two years has been the recipient of the sale of poppies made by the students of Marryatville Primary. This touching gesture has been organised by a veteran friend of the foundation, Ken Duthie. This year the project benefitted to the tune of $230.
• Uber Transport. I am pleased to report that I was contacted by Uber (the taxi organisation) who promised $1 for every taxi job on Anzac Day. Yet to materialise.
• Royalties. I also extend my thanks to John Schumann for the generous donation of the royalties from his recent CD, On Every Anzac Day.
• AEP Support. Reuben Vanderzalm through his company AEP, has offered to run the Veterans’ Support Walk on 25 October. This is our major fund raiser for the year.
• Assistant Staff. For the SA treks I have enlisted the support of two other staff who are responsible to identify, screen and fill each of the SA treks. One is based in the NT and the other in VIC.
• QLD. A QLD trek director has been appointed. He is Peter Keith who has been a facilitator with the Foundation since 2010. He is supported by an administrative assistant who was a trekker in 2011. The QLD Chapter, although independent in a fund raising sense, operates under my and board direction. Four trek staff will travel to QLD to assist and guide the first trek.
The QLD achievements to date are:
a. The formation of a team of seven individuals to load spread responsibilities,
b. A funding agreement for four years with RSL Care QLD with conditions,*
c. Media and financial support and advice from RSL QLD,
d. A close partnership with Mates4Mates QLD,
e. Excellent fund raising support from the 8/9th battalion of the RAR and the 1st Division Commander, based at Enoggera,
f. Running an annual fund raising event which was conducted this year for the second time raising $7500 approximately, and
g. Establishing a good working relationship with SSAA, National Parks and State Forestry staff.

At the field level the assessing and training of suitable individuals to assume roles during the trek is progressing well and will occur during the QLD trek. In SA and in QLD a number of past trekkers are fulfilling mentor roles and in time some will be suitable to occupy the facilitator positions.

Equipment and Assets
As a general principal, the foundation hires equipment and other necessaries rather than purchase. The foundation currently owns the following:
• 30 swags,
• 6 CB radios,
• an enclosed trailer,
• a St John’s off road first aid kit, and
• a number of bush suitable pots and pans and tables.
The swags are stored at the RAR Club at Linden Park and the trailer is stored at the home of the Camp Commandant, Colin Cogswell.

Finances
The Foundation is in a relatively sound financial position with the following balances:

• SA Chapter ANZ Trading Account $14,633.00. Westpac Term Deposit $123,853.00

*Continuing RSL Care support is conditional upon 80% of the participants showing improvement in 80% of the responses to the
4 Measuring Instruments

• QLD Chapter ANZ $12,849.00 with anticipated contribution of $60.000 from RSL Care (QLD) on 1 July. Additional financial support from RSL(QLD) is anticipated.

Affiliations

SA. Trojan’s Trek is open to partnerships and affiliations. Currently TT has an MOU with the RSL in SA. This is seen as beneficial to both organisations. Trojan’s Trek also retains good working relationships with a number of other companies and organisations in SA. They are:
• Adelaide Exercise Physiology,
• RSL Care SA,
• Adelaide Rotary Club, and
• Pioneer tanks.

Competition
Although no other organisations are operating in the same field with the same objectives as the Foundation, it is probable that some attempt to mirror the program could occur.

That observation is made based on the proliferation of well-meaning support groups which flourish in this space. This may tend to spread the resources more thinly and place greater pressure on funding. I look to our partners, in particular the RSL, to assume a greater more pro-active role in the product and in market education and outcomes.
Staff
This year 18 staff members will be used to run the programs. Of these the four main facilitators and the mentors are vital elements in maintaining consistent and effective delivery. Efforts continue with selection and identification of suitable staff to fulfil the succession plan. Four understudy facilitators will be assessed on the 2015 treks. I publicly extend my thanks to the staff, without whose support and skill, the program would be less effective. In short, these men and women achieve outcomes in six days which many clinicians could only dream of.

Outcome Measurement
Since the commencement of the program in 09, the requirement to produce independent evidence based outcomes was recognised. 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 sequence 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. Analysis of this data by UniSA students and undergraduates on two occasions indicates the effectiveness of the program even after a period of 8 months has passed. Trojans Trek is the only program of this type which I am aware of, which measures outcomes independently.

The Future
It seems that there is a continuing demand for trek services. I anticipate that a female trek will occur in QLD in 2016 as now happens in SA. It will be necessary to review our structure and processes in the near future to cater for increased workload and staffing requirements.

Conclusion
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 charter does not provide for follow-up support, most of the facilitators provide a welcome shoulder to the trekkers long after the trek has concluded. In addition, social media fills a necessary link to the past enlightenment for many.

Moose Dunlop OAM
Program Director
15 June 2015

Royalties of John Schumann’s great new song, On Every Anzac Day, go to helping troubled veterans.

John Schumann donated the artists’ royalties of I Was Only 19 to the VVAA’s Agent Orange Royal Commission fund. It was a most generous act. Now he’s doing it again for the younger diggers.

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This time he’s donating the royalties from On Every Anzac Day to Trojan’s Trek, a wilderness-based program for veterans suffering from PTSD. (John Schumann is a member of the Board). The song is featured on the CD album, Behind the Lines, John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew (expanded edition).

You can buy the CD at a music store, or you can download the full CD or just the song from iTunes.

On Every Anzac Day
On Every Anzac Day (Radio Edit)
Behind the Lines – Album

Snail mail: you can buy the single of the song (CDEP) for round $8 plus postage from the music store, Songland Records in Canberra: songlandrecords@gmail.com Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 1.45.57 pm

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 return to a normal life. Participants figuratively undertake a journey, which facilitates new ways of viewing themselves, their colleagues and partners in a remote location while investigating ways to facilitate change. Some of the past trekkers have denoted this as a ‘stocktake of life, feelings and behaviour.’ The program is live-in, is highly individually focused and delivered by staff that have the necessary accreditation. More importantly they are also ‘warriors’ who have experienced and overcome the same frustrations as those attending. Trojan’s Trek provides the setting and conditions under which participants will experience a lasting positive shift in values and interpersonal relationships. ▄

Feedback from Trojan’s Trek, 2014.

The following qualitative comments are taken at random from participants journals and correspondence. Thanks to everyone for allowing us to post these.

Trojan’s Trek was up there with one of the most, if not the most enlightening experience I have had as a Vietnam veteran trying to come home since I returned from Vietnam over 40 years ago. ….” Moose, I say you can teach some old dogs new tricks”  Honk honk!! 2014 trekker

“It was our absolute pleasure to lend you and the Trek our xxxxxxxxx (the best Daddy & Husband in the whole wide world) although we did miss him very much we knew he would be nothing short of amazing!! He was chuffed to be asked to go on the Trek as staff this year and had no hesitation at all accepting the offer as he and I both know if it wasn’t for TT we wouldn’t be the happiest little family that we are today. So THANK YOU to you and Moose for giving xxxxxxxxx the opportunity to ever go on the Trek in the first place, to gain the tools and change his mindset to become one of the most amazing and positive people I know – partner of 2014 participant.

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 day’s talks were inspirational. Poxy 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?

Then a mate from the army said “hay have you seen Trojans Trek, you’re a vet you should go”, my reply was “nah mate I have no issues”. I asked him when it was that was October 2011, and something must have been saying do it as I filled out a leave application for September 2012. I found myself as the time was getting closer becoming more and more excited. I am happy to say that I don’t think I am the same person anymore.

Recently my wife was diagnosed with Bowel cancer, and during the initial days when clouds formed, I found myself calm. For the last 7 weeks now we have faced this new challenge with drive and positivity that I don’t think I would have had if I had not gone through the Trojans program.

Talked at length with Andrew about my time in Somalia and found myself talking about stuff that I usually find uncomfortable. I am finding answers to why I think I am what I am. Dogs makes a lot of sense and I am mainly here because I see myself failing as a father at home.

Webster’s defines self-realisation as:“The fulfilment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.”

“The above I believe encapsulates the overall intent of Trojans Trek (TT). As a participant I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to be at one with myself in order to commence addressing my problems. As a result of my service I had indeed slowly adopted a victim mentality, and was so wrapped up within my own self doubt, pity, fear and anger that I had effectively shut myself off from most around me. I was well aware that I had issues and problems that needed addressing, but now with hindsight I was waiting for help.

TT made me realise that the person who could provide me with the most help was myself. Assistance and support was (and still is) available, but no progress would be made until I came to the realisation that I firstly needed to understand why I feel like I do, and that the selfish methods I was utilising to deal with those feelings were not in my or my families best interests both from a physical and psychological perspective. I felt alone amongst those who love and support me. This situation was ludicrous.

I am of the opinion that the remote location and the fact that all involved were returned servicemen contributed significantly to the effectiveness of TT. I felt that I could talk to anyone around me without being judged, pitied or provided no more than ‘lip service’. I understand now how ridiculous it was that I felt I could not do this with those at home who love and support me, but the week away with veterans in the same situation has provided me with that insight. It also allowed me to ‘dry out’ which in turn provided me with the clear head required to rationally address my thoughts and feelings. The calm surroundings far away and totally removed from the pressures that accompany everyday life assisted in this process immensely.

The TT program is in my opinion a very effective tool in shifting perspective and allowing returned servicemen to ‘re-boot’ their head and commence the path to becoming well again. I am now of the opinion that closed room counselling sessions are nowhere near as effective as the approach adopted by those involved in TT. For that they are to be congratulated. As a result of my experience I fully intend to become involved in any future TT as I feel that I would gain great satisfaction from assisting those who are travelling the same path that I am, as well as providing me with a reminder that my past lifestyle and attitude is no more than self destructing.

…..I also wanted to say thank you again for the week and all the mentoring and advice you gave me. Matt and I sat down over the weekend and talked at length about the trek and we both came to the conclusion that we had both learnt so much and I know now that am in a better place and it will keep on improving. My parents spent the weekend with us and I took on board everything you said about my relationship with my dad. I showed him the nail trick and listen to all his stories about his D Coy 4RAR reunion. I was just happy to have him and mum down here. When they left on Monday I put my arms around him, gave him a big hug and told him I loved him. Something I have never ever done, He was a bit taken back but I know we both aren’t use to it. Anyway thanks again, you were a real inspiration and I know a lot of other younger blokes would get so much out of the experience of the last week.

If the world had more men like those I listened to this week, it would be vastly different. Each man I have listened to has got great strength not only in their minds, but in what they say. This trek for me wasn’t about finding out what my problem is! It’s about finding out some ways to deal with it. The men on the course have been legends. With some it’s been evident from the first time I met them, others it’s taken me ‘til now to see. Time with everyone has helped me to understand a legend isn’t something in a book or a movie, it’s us. This is one experience I will never forget and will pass on to those I know. Life is too short to be a grumpy, uninteresting old man. Thank you everyone for this week long journey.

He really did get a lot out of going and I’ve already noticed a change – Partner of 2014 participant.

Overall I thought the course was absolutely brilliant. There were no expectations before the course, however it has been one of the best things I have done in a long time.

In response to Trojans trek it was invaluable to be with the other veteran’s despite the different campains/ conflicts we were all involved with. As we share a common bond of varying level of ptsd, and the inability to discuss many of our experiences with any other than each other due to content, and fear of judgment (shit that is so far out that could not possibly happen).

Many times with different participant’s the comment was simply shit I haven’t laughed this much in a long time, how bloody true is this very fact.

I simply make this plea; there was very little support for the Vietnam vet’s upon their return please do not make the same mistake with us and those whom are to return in the future.

The simple fact is the true benefit is being away from everything (Tele news, the papers, the radio, and to some degree society) and given the opportunity to think reassess and absorb words of wisdom from others who experienced the issues some time before us. So please keep the program going and thank you to those who took time out to help us.

Went for a walk with the boys and had to stop because I needed time out. The boys were concerned but realised I needed time out. Was memories good and bad from my childhood to the present came rushing out at me in no particular order while. I was looking at a small running stream. Did a calming routine that I have been taught here and was able to focus. Today I am in myself and at peace.

Something has come together for me today. Feeling great this morning, did not wake or stir last night. At home I regularly use sleeping tablets to help me sleep. I am really looking forward to getting home tomorrow, not because I am not enjoying myself but because I think the penny has finally dropped. I feel like a kid who has fallen off his bike and is sitting in the dirt feeling sorry for myself waiting for someone to come and help me. But now I feel I have been helped off the ground and dusted off. I am not back on the bike- that’s up for me to do myself but I have the tools ….

I came to the trek with blinkers (sic) on, both about my life and the trek. I believe I will leave minus the blinkers, in a better state than I arrived and with a better understanding of who I am, what I have done and what I can do from here on in.

The activity has been beneficial for myself and I believe that I will be able to use much of the advice given.

There is now a good relationship with my husband but how many years of counselling, and at what cost to us and financially for the govt. How many couples haven’t made it, how many young people, sons and daughters of veterans found other ways to cope because the help the veterans were receiving was way too slow to save the family? What I saw in Trojan’s Trek was the opportunity for the older veterans to get alongside the younger veterans and speak truth and life to them – Partner of 2014, participant.

I have found since returning from Trojan’s Trek that I have totally different outlook on life and now I deal with things that in the past would have had me” losing it”. I deal with negative things a lot better. My wife has commented on the change in me since I came back. I have done a number of courses for PTSD, but I have found that TROJAN’S TREK has been the best and most beneficial by far!! Thanks Moose and all the staff.

Trojans Trek was an extremely mentally fatiguing time for me; it took me a few days of rest when I got home to process what I had been through, even though I got and still have some of my best sleep out in the bush in swags. To this day even though some of my worst memories from being wounded in Afghanistan one of the best is sleeping in swags, so what better place and environment I think to take veterans than out in the bush.  2014 trekker

VETERANS’ SUPPORT WALK thanks for your support!

The day dawned with lots of black clouds and the threat of rain imminent. But our concerns were unfounded. Overcast, 24 degrees, an ideal day for a stroll or run round the 5 km track Trevor Atkins had marked out round the Torrens Lake. The sponsors were committed, the coffee was brewing, and the barbeque was warming as they set off.

The serious runners blasted out of the blocks keen to compete for the $100 male and female prizes. The rest, all 120, with dogs and children at foot moved off as a wave of support for the concept of veterans helping veterans. It was not long before the first male and female runners completed the course to the accolades of the injured, the workers and the lazy. Well done to the winners, a special thanks to the first lady home, Catherine May who donated her prize money back to the cause.
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After a period of indulgence at the Metro Fire Service & 9 RAR sausage sizzle, Kevin Scarce ex SA Governor, drew the big raffle.

The prize winners were:
FIRST PRIZE: Rod Graham, a Battle Field Tour to Vietnam for two to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in that war;
SECOND PRIZE: Robert Day OAM, a Big TV,
THIRD PRIZE: $250 Mr Stait from Wagga Wagga and
FOURTH PRIZE: Greg Hallam, a selection of fine SA parliamentary wine.

All in all a successful day which will underpin future operations. Moose and the board extend their sincere thanks for your involvement on the day with a special mention extended to the great sponsors of the event.

Trojan’s Trek on Lateline.

2014 was the first time Trojan’s Trek expanded into female veterans. We had a overwhelming response. The ABC’s Lateline programme was there to film it. Reporter, Ginny Stein; cameraman, Brant Cummings; presenter, Steve Cannane.

TROJAN’S TREK; THE FEMALE EXPERIENCE

On Sunday 21 September 2014, a gathering of 16 women and two facilitators met up in Adelaide to take part in a complete unknown. They were a collective of women who had been finding it tough to live a normal life due to ill health, physical injury or issues related to military service. Most of the women hadn’t met before and they were about to participate in a pilot program for Trojan’s Trek sisters.  This was to be a national, if not world first program, in recognition of various traumas suffered by women who have volunteered to serve their country in the Australian Defence Force.

The Trek is a 6 day outdoor experience in the North Flinders Ranges on Moolooloo Station. The women were based at the Blinman Hut, a small remote stone hut, yet adequately serviced with running hot and cold water and toilet facilities. To say that the women were anxious, would be a massive understatement as fear of the unknown and loss of control in a challenging situation are the enemies of most women, let alone women suffering.

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A set of sisterly virtues was adopted which in turn set the scene for the duration of the trek. That basic connection was made with each individual and holistically as a group. Every woman was individually supported and allowed to be themselves in a safe and secure environment with the knowledge that they could choose to discuss their personal story if they so desired. All had equal opportunity to “spill their guts of burden” and be no longer judged for a past that wasn’t their fault.  All took that opportunity in some way shape or form with support, validation and recognition that their story was worth telling. As a result, all felt no longer the need to carry the load that they had personally been holding within for a very long time.

To place a dollar value on the return of self-worth and empowerment is just not possible. To allow a woman to choose a release from a past in which she has been trapped is priceless! To show them that care and compassion can exist in such a raw and rugged environment is an experience that will resonate with them for life!  I know for a fact that there are now 16 women carrying a lighter load due to our week in the bush.  Sixteen sisters with spirit and new hope for change facing the future. It is a cause and awareness of the needs of service women which is long overdue. It has shown the way and given the participants the choice of “living versus existing”.

This program needs to continue and be funded accordingly for all of the reasons that I have stated above, no ifs or buts.  There is no price on saving a human life and empowering a person again with unity, purpose and cause! This is a very real issue and after all we are someone’s sister, mother, aunt and friend!

Anna Ventry-Sutcliffe

TROJAN’S TREK 2014, A FIRST FOR WOMEN VETERANS

This year’s trek was unusual in that it was the first time a women’s team had been included and the first such project run in Australia, perhaps the world. The decision was one carefully considered by the board and in the end it became obvious having gained the responses from a number of women that it was overdue and necessary.

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Overdue, because it was inequitable that they had been excluded to date; and necessary because it appeared that women’s needs are not considered different but lumped in with the male solutions when a separate approach was required.

One of the very useful outcomes from the male treks has been the strength of the relationships formed between trekkers. In some ways this is a side benefit from the trek, and although it was forecast to occur to some degree, the very useful and practical value of these friendships should not be underestimated. Predictably that would, and did happen among the women. However it was surprising to find that prior to the trek, many of the women lived a lonely life with few friends to share personal concerns. This was a contradiction to some conventional views regarding female habits, but on reflection it is reinforcement that women tend to “suck it up” and get on with things in spite of.

What additional aspects were necessary to cater for a female team? Should presentations be different, would the approach which had been used for the men work, could they swag it in the bush as the males had done, would the program content require review, what gender should the primary facilitators be, could it be funded and so on? These were some of the topics considered during the planning phase.

Did we get it right? Time will tell but initial assessments indicate it would seem so.

TROJAN’S TREK 2014 – REPORT FROM THE GROUND

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Introduction
1. Trojan’s Trek 2014 was conducted from 21 to 26 September on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges. This facility has been used for the past five years, is a suitable location at which to base the trek and is a mobile ‘phone free environment. It offers a slice of early South Australian mining history and a remoteness which has an impact on the messages delivered. As one of the trekkers wrote, “being out here opened up and showed me the bigger picture in life.”

2. The trek which targets veterans from conflicts post 1980, was the sixth run to date. Until 2013 male only treks have been conducted, but this year the Foundation decided to conduct a pilot female version of the trek which would be run separate to, but in parallel with the male version. This has not been previously attempted because of financial limitations. With assistance from Health SA, Adelaide Rotary Club, RSL Care and the RSL (SA) the venture was made possible.

Aim
3. The aim of Trojan’s Trek 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 the following:

  1. an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
  2. exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
  3. individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
  4. improving interpersonal relationships, and
  5. enhance self-esteem.

Validation
5. In order to justify the program’s claims to successful outcomes, four standard psychosocial instruments have been administered since trek one in 2009.

They are:

  1. Life Satisfaction Scale (Hilda) for comparison with Australian normative data,
  2. Positive and Negative Interactions,
  3. General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, and
  4. DASS 21.

6. These are completed on three occasions:

  1. prior to the commencement of the trek,
  2. Immediately following the completion of the trek, and
  3. two to three months later.

7. In some respects these instruments are repetitive, verging on annoying for those compiling, but efforts to identify more appropriate tools through the Psychology Faculty of UniSA and VVCS have not met with success. There are obvious benefits in maintaining use of the current measurements which can be directly compared with earlier data, therefore at this time no changes are predicted in the short term.

Longitudinal Study
8. An honours student from Uni SA has recently commenced a longitudinal study into the longer term impact on the trekkers after a 12 month period. Although the results from such a study will be of interest to the Foundation and staff, many factors outside the influence or impact of the trek may affect long term outcomes. There are in place strict guidelines governing personal identification and the use of the data to protect confidentiality.

Participants
9. Male. As in previous years final numbers were not confirmed until two weeks before the trek. This late but unavoidable as one of the base tenets of involvement is that the participants must volunteer to attend. Many of the male participants were lacking in self-confidence and had low self-esteem. It is true that the stigma surrounding mental health exist in the community, particularly for male members. It is therefore difficult to gain an early commitment to take part in an activity which may be 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 can be failure to attend. No pressure is placed on any of those who wish to be involved. The profiles of those who attended were as follows:

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Following a request from VicAmb, two of their members were short listed to attend if vacancies became available.

10. Female. The response from the women was above expectation, both in rapidity and numbers. Nominations were closed at 16 which was more than the ideal number of 12. The willingness of the women to become involved in an Australian first was reassuring.

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Staff

11. Because the male and female teams would be separated, it was necessary to identify and train two suitable female facilitators to accompany and control the women. This arrangement would comply with the successful formula which had been used with the male team. The selection proved to be far from a simple task as the selected women would have to meet certain criteria which fitted with the concept and philosophy of the trek. The search took more than nine months to identify two suitable persons to accept the envisaged role. Given the non-scientific nature of the process, the outcome was most pleasing with two very committed and aware women taking on the role.

Team Composition

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.56.44 am12. It was decided that there was a requirement to station two suitable male members with the female team to provide information on local terrain and geography as well as providing muscle and advice where applicable. This was potentially a sensitive matter which was discussed with the female facilitators prior to a decision. As transpired the concept worked better than anticipated. Both male members were previous participants and met with universal approval in their role. However, it is important to realize that the role is sensitive due to many of the women harbouring negative thoughts on a male presence as a result of their background experience. Both members who fulfilled the role are to be commended for their sensitive involvement in the day to day achievements of the women but more importantly, for helping to re-establish a degree of male trust among the women. As summed up by one of the women, “thank you for making me feel safe and supported in my rawest moments, I will be forever grateful for your open heart, mind and warmth.”

Participant Identification

13. Because of the increase in the administrative workload involved in assembling and vetting two teams, the responsibility for coordinating the male and female teams was allocated to two previous trekkers. This task is time consuming and involves a significant degree of follow-up phone and email contact. The teams were very well coordinated by:

a. Male: Greg Hallam, and
b. Female: Mark Keynes.

Accommodation

14. Because 11 women and eight men were from locations other than Adelaide it was necessary to identify budget accommodation to cater for them in Adelaide. The males were accommodated in the Granada Motel on Portrush Rd and the women in the RAH residential wing. Both locations proved to be satisfactory although the women’s accommodation was reported as “noisy but safe.” Both locations offered suitable pick-up areas free of City Bay hindrances on the Sunday morning.

Hire Vehicles

15. Because of the state of the roads in the area of the trek, the use of 4WD vehicles is necessary. This mode of travel offers an additional benefit, in that during transit from one location to the next, it is the practice for one staff member to travel with three participants in each vehicle. This provides the opportunity for further discussion related to the presentation just concluded or in fact to any other issue which surfaces. And that happens so frequently the staff refer to the practice as moving in “mobile consulting rooms.” It also affords the chance to mix different individuals and staff with an aim to maximize exposure to others’ views. This has proved to be beneficial. This year a cheaper vehicle hire deal was arranged with Complete 4WD Hire and two vehicles were again kindly loaned by Pioneer Tanks of Norwood.

Program Delivery

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16. The program which was adopted for the female team included a number of presentations which are used for the male team. Subjects such as Communication, How the Brain Works and others were part of the list. Because of the generic nature of the subject matter and the honed skills of the male presenters, it was decided to use male staff for these presentations. However, because of the more static nature of the female team (located at the Blinman Hut) the sessions often involved the male presenter travelling up to 8 km to deliver. Although this may not sound significant it took the male facilitators away from the male team for periods up to 2 hours or more. The absences were manageable and did not appear to detract from the overall outcomes. However, it is a subject to be considered for future planning.

Selection

17. 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

18. The organization for Trojan’s Trek 2014 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 particularly from the women.

Visitors

19. Ginny Stein and cameraman Brant Cummings from ABC TV Lateline visited and remained with the group for approximately three days during which time material for an ABC TV program Lateline was captured. The program was aired on 10 October. Initial concerns regarding the visitors’ presence and a TV camera were quickly forgotten. Filming and questioning was handled sensitively by the ABC members who were well versed in the individuals’ issues and privacy matters. You can watch the report here.

Transport
20. Transport requirements for the trek were as follows:

  1. Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS.
  2. Eleven 4 WD vehicles; two towing a covered and an enclosed trailer, and one towing an uncovered trailer. These were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS. The vehicle with the enclosed trailer was dispatched 24 hours before the main body to allow for early preparations.
  3. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.
  4. Discussion regarding the early deployment of some of the instructional staff was discussed following the trek. There are obvious advantages in having key presenters on the ground 24 hours prior to the trek commencement. This is a matter for further discussion.

21. The insurance excess which applies to hire vehicles in the case of accident remains a matter of concern. In spite of a payment of $33 per day per vehicle to reduce the insurance excess to the minimum in the case of accident, the excess remains at $2,500 (single vehicle accident) and $550 (multiple vehicles). No claims were necessary. There appears to be no way to avoid this exposure.

Purchases
22. For this trek it was necessary to purchase additional swags to cater for the female team. Fifteen swags were purchased at a total cost of $2380. This is expensive but unavoidable as swags cannot be hired. It also presents an additional storage issue.

23. A combined briefing for the participants and partners was held on 19 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 they reported it was a valuable session.

Location
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24. The trek established a base at Moolooloo HS Shearers’ Quarters which is 32 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 from the participants on the location is positive.

Publicity

25. A press release prior to the trek was issued through the RSL in combination with Lesley Johns Media. No calls were received in response.

Journals

26. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal responses to the various lessons of the day and to make general comment on the trek. This has proved to be satisfactory from the point of view of progressive comment and also provides an 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 5. This is considered to be a limitation of the tools used to measure change.

27. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and behavior management. Simple subjects; but the style and method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the messages much more powerful. There is no doubt that the live-in nature of the trek when shared with other veterans is a significant factor in the success of the program.

Weather

28. On Tuesday evening 25 mm of rain fell on Moolooloo. This caused some creeks to run up to 400mm deep and delayed some aspects of the program, namely the combined male/female breakfast and session on Communications. In some individual cases it was a harsh reminder of the folly of sleeping too close to a water course. The time loss was absorbed by some program amendments which did not affect final outcomes. The frequency of rain in such quantity that time of year is most unusual but of interest and welcome.

Staff Debrief

29. On the last evening, a staff debrief was held in order to capture the immediate thoughts of the staff. A number of matters were raised which will be considered during planning for the next trek.

Internal Evaluation

30. 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, the efficiency of the administration as well as an opportunity to comment on the content.

Communications

31. Telephone. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker which is approximately 88 km south of Moolooloo HS. Telephone communications were available via the homestead telephone to the outside world. This was in contrast to a previous arrangement which saw a telephone connected to the shearers’ quarters, (the base location) through close liaison with a CFS contact. This is preferred. This option will probably add to the costs in the future. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose. It was not used.

32. Radio. While in the bush, 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 by UHF

Medical

33. A doctor was not available for this trip. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.2 hours away. First line medical support was provided by an ex-defence force member who is now with the Victorian Ambulance service as a Para-medic. He arrived fully equipped with his own vehicle and equipment. He undertook training in CPR for the teams. A number of other staff are also 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.

Staff

34. The delivery of the male program and some aspects of the female program was the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Robert Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. Additionally a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Connie Jongeneel and Anna Sutcliffe. Their collective 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 again utilized to provide training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. Two mentors were placed with the female team and one with the male team. All performed well.

35. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when delivered by a veteran as opposed to clinician 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.

36. 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.

37. 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

38. 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. This year the Director of VVCS advised he would be present at the conclusion in Adelaide. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend at the last minute.

Future Issues

39. The topics which will need to be addressed in the short to mid-term period are:

  1. the interstate expansion of the program to QLD,
  2. the permanent inclusion of a female trek,
  3. whether the QLD operation will reduce the viability of the local product,
  4. succession planning to ensure that the management and style of the project is maintained, and
  5. the development of an achievable business plan to support the Foundation’s objectives.

Conclusion

40. 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; this comment applies to both male and female versions. 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 the participants faced and discussed their problems frankly among the other attendees and staff, many have formed relationships which are based on personal and common problems.

41. For some this is the commencement of a long journey; understanding and further help will assist in their arriving at a better place. The real test will be to carry the determination into each individuals’ 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.

42. 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.

43. 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 other treatment.

44. Further information about the Foundation and trek is available on the web site at www.trojanstrek.com.

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Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop (Retd) OAM
Program Director

15 October 2014

Distribution: TT Board Members (8)
TT staff
Minister for Health SA
Minister for Veterans SA
CEO, RSL SA
CEO RSL Care SA
President Adelaide Rotary Club
Director VVCS Adelaide
Secretary of RARC, Ted Chitham MC

The Trojan’s Trek Big Raffle

Here is your chance to gain a great prize and support a program which supports our veterans

1st prize. Travel for two on the “Sons of ANZAC” Battlefield Tour to Vietnam.

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8 nights, 1-9 October.
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RAFFLE WILL BE DRAWN OCTOBER 26TH, 2014.

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