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TROJAN’S TREK QLD MARCH 2017

 

“I view this program as a lighthouse, it guides me away from the rocks.” K

Introduction

1. Trojan’s Trek Qld 2017 was conducted from 5 to 10 March on and around the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) Range Facility at Captain’s Mountain on the Darling Downs. This is the third time the male trek has been conducted at this location and this year saw the commencement of a female trek program in Qld. This facility provides a suitable location at which to base the trek; is a mobile phone free environment and it offers a slice of early Queensland farming history along with a
remoteness which has an impact on the messages delivered. As one of the trekkers wrote, “I’ve had the most peaceful night’s sleep I have had in a long time.”

2. The trek which targets veterans from conflicts post 1980, was the third run in Queensland with locally sourced staff supported by independent funding.

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:
a. an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
b. exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
c. individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
d. improving interpersonal relationships, and
e. 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: a. Life Satisfaction Scale (Hilda) for comparison with Australian normative data, b. Positive and Negative Interactions, c. General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, and d. DASS 21.

6. These are completed on three occasions: a. prior to the commencement of the trek, b. Immediately following the completion of the trek, and c. 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. These results will be analysed by Flinders Uni personnel and should be available for publication after about 6 weeks.

Participants
8. As in previous years, final numbers were not confirmed until two weeks before the trek. This is late but unavoidable as one of the base tenets of involvement is that the participants must volunteer to attend. Many of the participants were lacking in self-confidence and had low self-esteem. It is true that the stigma surrounding mental health exists in the community, for both male and female 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 from the male’s trek are as follows:

The profiles of those who attended from the female’s trek are as follows:

Staff
11. To comply with Foundation policy of ensuring succession for key staff, a number of understudies (six females and ten males) who have attended a trek were used as facilitators and mentors. All but one had attended the Train-The-Trainer session in 2016 and this experience was to confirm their capability as facilitators and mentors. Moose Dunlop and Dogs Kearney attended as experienced mentors in support. The staff departed Brisbane a day ahead of the participants’ which afforded the opportunity for a briefing ahead of the participants arriving. The cooks had been at the facility for twenty-four hours, and had set up the kitchen and received the food delivery.

Team Composition

12. Male Trek – The local staff was comprised of eleven local staff as well as our two South Australian mentors. We had two cooks, six facilitated Trek content and the remaining five were mentors. One trekker doubled as our medic, one as our POC and one as our Qld Admin Officer.

13. Female Trek – The local team comprised of two mentors under training, with the remaining four experienced mentors travelling from SA, VIC and NSW. Two of the six mentors facilitated trek content and one was the POC and first aid trained member. The training for the mentors was suitable and they are well prepared to mentor in upcoming treks.
14. Male Trek – Only eight trekkers required accommodation prior to the Trek and one post trek as others were accommodated by staff.

15. Female Trek – Five trekkers that travelled from interstate required accommodation prior to and on completion of the trek.

Hire Vehicles
16. 4WD vehicles were hired from Fleetcrew and were found to be suitable for the role. The vehicles are used to travel from place to place in the state forest to comply with the program locations. This mode of travel offers an opportunity for one staff member to travel with three participants in each vehicle, prompting further discussion related to the presentation just concluded or in fact to any other issue which surfaces. This 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.

Program Delivery
17. The program is reviewed regularly to ensure relevant content. A selection of subjects such as Communication, How the Brain Works, Leaving a Legacy, Victim to Warrior and others are delivered by a male and female facilitators with key sessions provided by our two senior facilitators. Experience and personal contributions were provided by the mentors.

Recruitment
17. As previously indicated, participants are self-nominating. However, it is important to gain approval from their treating doctor to ensure that the individuals attending will benefit. 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 Qld 2017 was:
Moose Dunlop – Program Director (Qld)/Facilitator
Peter Keith – Program Director (Qld)/Facilitator
Brett Van der Heide – Team Leader/Admin Officer/Mentor
Tim Stevens – POC/Mentor
Robert ‘Dogs’ Kearney – Senior Facilitator
Amy Vickers – Team Leader/Facilitator/ Mentor
Michael Harding – Senior Facilitator/mentor
Lee Bailey – Mentor/ facilitator
Vannessa Patterson – Mentor
Amanda Kaplan – Mentor
Tiffany Ahuja – Mentor/Facilitator
David Walker – Medic/facilitator
Trevor Hewitt – Chef
Suz Baker – POC/Mentor
Brad Coleman – Chef
Ramon Fenton – Mentor/Chaperone
Sally Dunlop – Secretary
Greg Seymour – Chaperone/mentor
Paul Randall – Facilitator
Zen Spokes – Mentor

Visitors
19. The Trekkers were joined for lunch on the last day of the trek by Brad Skinner who fills the position of ………………from RSL Qld. It provided an opportunity for one of our sponsors to gain a sense of what the participants gain from the experience and be informed on additional services provided by RSL Qld.

Transport
20. Transport requirements for the trek were as follows:
a. One coach to carry the participants and one staff member to Captain’s Mountain.
b. Seven 4WD vehicles were hired with one being a dual-cab. These were supplemented by two 4WDs owned by the staff. The Qld Chapter has purchased an enclosed trailer which is used to carry the equipment and swags for the participants.
c. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Brisbane in the hired 4WD vehicles.

Purchases
21. For this trek it was necessary to purchase equipment. Swags, camp chairs, water containers, crockery and cutlery, wire, gloves etc. were bought for the female trek. Tools such as shovels, chainsaw and UHF radios were also bought. All equipment is now stored and managed by Brett van der Heide.

Partners
22. A document aimed at informing partners about the trek was produced and provided to some partners at the start of the trek. This was the second time this has been done and the anecdotal feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The document provides context as well as FAQ’s about how best to support themselves and their partner on return.

Location
23. The trek established a base at the SSAA Range Base which is 20 km West of Millmerran on the Gore Highway. The property occupies approximately 400 acres of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 300 km from Brisbane. 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.

Journals
24. 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 psycho-social instruments. Although some may see this as conflicting evidence, it is more likely to be a limitation of the tools used to measure change. In any case, the journals are a valuable source of current participant responses at the time.

Program Content
25. 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.

Staff Debrief
26. Staff feedback has been sought and has provided some excellent suggestions for next year’s Trek.

Internal Evaluation
27. 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
28. Telephone. Mobile telephones operate intermittently during the trek. Telephone communications were available via the base telephone. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose. It was not used.
29. Radio. While in the bush, UHF CB hand held and vehicle mounted UHF radios were used for communications.

Medical
30. A doctor was not required for this trek because the nearest fully equipped hospital is at Millmerran, approximately half an hour away. First line medical support was provided by a number of other staff who are qualified in First Aid. senior first aiders. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Captain’s Mountain. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

Staff
31. The delivery of the male program was the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Robert Kearney and civilian consultant Peter Keith. 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. The delivery of the female program was the responsibility of the Team Leader Amy Vickers. This trek was again utilized to provide training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. All mentors performed well. This year six under-study members facilitated key pieces of program content as part of the succession strategy.

32. 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.

33. 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.

34. The inclusion of civilian expertise 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. All of 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
35. 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.

Conclusion
37. 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.

38. 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.

39. 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.

40. 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. 41. The female program was a success and will continue to run alongside future programmed male treks providing sufficient participants can be identified. 42. Further information about the Foundation and trek is available on the web site at www.trojanstrek.com.

 

 

 

Peter Keith QLD Program Director, March 2017.

Distribution:
TT Board Members (8)
TT staff
Chairman RSL Care Qld
CEO RSL Qld
Marketing Manager, RSL Qld
CEO RSL Care Qld
CEO Mates4Mates
Secretary of RARC, Ted Chitham MC

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