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Programme Evaluation shows success of TT

Since the Trojan’s Trek program was commenced in SA in 2009 and in QLD in 2015, each participant attending is asked to complete four standard psycho-social instruments on three occasions.  This data is later independently analysed to measure outcomes by the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation in QLD for the QLD attenders, and by Flinders University staff in SA for those attenders. 

The reason for this is simply to ensure that the program remains relevant and beneficial to the participants.  Very few peer support programs are subject to the same scrutiny.  Naturally the board and the staff are also interested in the evaluations as it provides a scientific method to gauge success.  To date the results over 10 years have set new bench-marks for peer outdoor support.  Following is a selection from the data analysis completed in SA for the 2018 trek.

“There was marked improvement in 100% of participants between Day 1 and Day 6 on their total DASS21 scores (reduction in scores for depression, anxiety and stress). All 11 participants who responded at the 2-3 month follow up continued to show improvement over their pre-test/day 1 scores.”

Note: The DASS 21 scores are a significant measure of individual risk as depression (one of the elements measured) is almost always present in suicide or attempts.

Change in outcome areas – pre Day 1/post: Day 6
 
Key:      Y = Improvement          N = Decline       N minor = one difference N/Ch = No change    N/Ch P = No change; healthy/positive initial scores            N/A or blank  = Not applicable/No answer
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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

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?

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

Happy comments from Trekkers

Participant 2010.
The first of the following three SMS from came out of the blue from a 2010 trekker. The latter two were sent following my follow up encouragement and enquiries in an effort to identify the specific source of his benefit.

“Good day Moose, Just want to thank you once again for your efforts on Trojans Trek 2010, had me ups and downs since then but I have bit the bullet last year and went and saw a shrink through DVA. If it wasn’t for you and Dogs and the RAR Association who knows where I would be. All is good, on a good path and feeling at ease. H……

“Moose it’s taken the stigma of seeking help away. That is the major step for me anyway. I’ve picked up Dogs Bible every now and then. I’ve been back to Moolooloo twice since then on camping trips with the family shown them Third Water, Hannigan Gap and Nuccaleena. May sound silly but I feel a piece of me is left there, but in a good way. Probably the turning point in the right direction instead of the wrong direction. Cheers

“Yeh no problems mate. The Dogs Bible was easy very to understand. Using like the geese, squirrel, beaver. Touch on Mentoring, The Box of Life. The isolation of the Flinders with other veterans was a real journey in my mind. I opened up to a degree with some members, it was the very first step in kicking the stigma of PTSD. I still keep to myself with civvie friends but feel free to talk about it with other veterans now.

The biggest hurdle was anger within myself, so much anxiety. It became a relief that my shrink has given me ssri medication (Lexapro) to stem the anxiety that comes with intrusive thoughts and the continual feeling of being on edge, (always looking for cover etc). This combined with my time in the Flinders is a Godsend. I can remember loosing that anger feeling in me at the Flinders but becoming a blubbering mess of emotion. But the pressure of life in the fast lane and the civilian priorities just bring on anxiety that is very hard to control.

I keep Dogs’ Bible in the drawer next to my bed and I refresh my mind every now and then to remind me about positives. I tend now to sit back and study the people around me more and try to be more approachable. I guess when Debbie says I am changing for the better it’s working. I can now understand Dogs with how he has bad memories, but chooses not to let them take over! The Bible works for me, maybe a travel friendly version (condensed) so it can fit in your glove box. G