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REPORT TO AGM 2016

 

Preamble

FY 2015/16 saw treks run for men and women in SA and a male trek was run for the second time in QLD. The independent analysis of outcomes was consistently excellent with more than 80% of the trekkers improving in more than 80% of the areas measured using standard psycho-social instruments.

This year a concerted effort was made to train suitable past trekkers at a train the trainer week-end held in Adelaide in March. The object was to identify suitable individuals to take on the roles of the current staff while in the bush. This is seen as a necessary step in ensuring the program has a depth of competency which will assist in succession planning. Because the competency and credibility of those who deliver the program is vital to its ongoing success, it is critical that those selected can carry the message. The course was a follow on from the Trojan’s Trek board workshop recommendations held in June 2015.

Governance
This year Emeritus Professor Ross Kaluchi departed the board to live in Sydney. He was replaced by Tim Smith retaining the seventh male board member position. Tim brings a wealth of experience from his civilian and military background.

Board Membership
The board is comprised of seven male and one female member. Two of the members live out of the Adelaide area. This creates difficulty in their personal attendance and input at board meetings. The use of Skype, has to a degree assisted in solving this issue although personal attendance is preferred. One board member is located in QLD which is appropriate, and the other in Wirrabara. Although not ideal the situation is manageable and the board operates satisfactorily. The board held a foundation workshop in June 2015 facilitated by John Schumann at which a number of core matters were reviewed resulting in a number of working groups being formed to consider specific aspects of the operation. A new board will be elected today from the nominations received.

Train the Trainer
A Train the Trainer course based at Keswick Barracks was run over a weekend in Adelaide in March 2016. The course was attended by 10 potential male and female members drawn from past trekkers. The course was gauged a success with all of those attending moving on to the next stage of recognition and accreditation. This phase occurred during the SA trek in September 2016 identifying four suitable individuals.

Support
Support to the Foundation is derived from a number of avenues in both QLD and SA. Because of the sensitivities of state centric attitudes, funds which are raised in respective states are generally devoted to activities held within that state. However, the Board remains responsible for all activities which incur expenditure. In QLD the foundation receives excellent financial and other support from RSL Care and the QLD RSL. In SA the support base is much more diverse, with funds coming from a large number of sources. RSL Care, service clubs and individual donations are added to our own fund raising efforts to maintain the program. I would like to thank Reuben, one of the board members, for his input and direction in conducting the Veterans’ Support Walk. This year $14,000 was raised. I continue to apply for grants from government and private foundations some of which are successful. This year the Foundation was fortunate to receive funding for one trek from the Thyne Reid Foundation with the support of the RAR Association SA.

Investment
Where possible and within the budget, investments are made by way of term deposits with various financial institutions. Unfortunately the returns on these investments are of the order of 3% at best. This does not amount to significant dollar gains. The treasurer and I continue to shop around seeking the best most secure deals. The foundation is in a secure financial position with approximately $150K invested although with significant annual outgoings this requires continual financial injection.

Future Treks
The future will see a continuation of an annual male trek run in QLD and if the demand exists, a female trek will be run concurrently. SA will continue to host a male and female trek, again providing the demand exists.

There is no doubt that the trek clientele exist but the stigma remains, preventing many from self- nomination. Although the benefits to those attending have been established by independent analysis, there remains a reluctance by most of the clinical community to embrace this philosophy as an adjunct to other forms of treatment. Some realisation of the benefits to be gained has been accepted by Ward 17 in Victoria and SA with trekkers attending directly from clinical care. VVCS SA has also supported the program.

Inspite of the evidence, the Department of Veterans Affairs refuse to provide support on the basis that the Foundation is a ”clinical, medical research facility”. This is patently a wrong perception which the board has been unable to correct to date. It does appear that In an overall sense there is a growing awareness that the problem of stress illness needs to be approached from a number of directions, not just clinical. The establishment of the Veterans’ Support Hub as part of the new Ward 17 is an example of the advances made toward a holistic view. However, in spite of that there remains an attitude among some, that the clinical solution is the gold standard.

Audit Requirement
In the past, the yearly audit of the books has been completed pro-bono by CMS chartered accountants. This was achieved largely through a relationship with the Project Manager and one of the senior partners. With the retirement of that person through ill health the pro-bono status has been removed leaving the foundation with an expense. This year it will cost about $1200. The search is on for a replacement at pro-bono rates.

Annual Return to ACNC
The annual return to the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) for 2016 retains our status as a small charity. This may be upgraded to medium in 2017 due to the successful funding arrangements in QLD. This will place some additional audit requirements on the foundation as part of our annual return. For example, the ACNC now require a review of the financial status but on upgrading this will move to full audit status. This makes the identification of a suitable auditor high on the priority list.

Succession Planning
Succession planning for the staff is proceeding well as reported earlier. Identifying a person to affect succession for my own position has met with less success. This exercise continues.

Corporate Membership
The foundation has signed an MOU with RSL SA, RSL QLD and RSL Care QLD. To date the SA relationship has been largely inactive compared to a very viable and productive arrangement with the QLD partners who have agreed to underwrite the program financially. The foundation is working hard to make the SA partnership more positive to the benefit of both partners. This is a work in progress.

Finances
The foundation is in a sound financial position with approximately $150K invested with Def Bank and the ANZ Bank.

2016 Treks
The 2016 treks in SA and QLD proceeded without any problems. A total of 35 participants and 9 understudy mentors attended the treks. The outcomes for the participants in both states were again excellent. The independent evaluation has confirmed the value of the philosophy promoting condition self-management. The part which the staff play in these outcomes cannot be over-emphasised. Both male and female teams quantitative evaluations show improvement in over 85% of the trekkers in 80% of the topics while the anecdotal outcomes from the journals shows outstanding improvement in attitude and resilience. These results are above and beyond expectations and reflect most favourably on the diligence and credibility of the staff.

Conclusion
All in all, this year has been very successful based on the benefits derived by our clients. Although we are but one Australian charity among many thousands serving those needing help, what sets Trojan’s Trek apart is the personal commitment and brilliant outcomes achieved with such a short exposure. I am continually staggered by the unreserved acclamation which trekkers express following the experience. To the staff, just brilliant.

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OAM Project Director
28 October 2016

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