,

REPORT FROM TROJAN’S TREK SA SEPTEMBER 2018

Distribution:  See below

Introduction

  • Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted at Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 23 to 28 September 2018. This was the tenth male trek conducted and the first since 2014 which did not include the concurrent running of a female trek. This was due to only 4 women nominating to attend a trek in SA.  The women who nominated were catered for by the QLD trek which was conducted one month earlier.  The remote location supports one of the key elements of success of the program; a peaceful setting within a natural setting, free from electronic, mental and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered. Fifteen males, of whom eight came from SA, attended the trek. Participant comments and journals from the trek provide an early indication of the significant shifts in thinking which occurred as a result of the program.

Aims
2. 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
3. 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 enhance self-esteem.

Validation
4. Four standard psychometric instruments are administered to evaluate the trek outcomes. These 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.

5. Qualitative evaluations are also measured through the daily journals which are completed by the participants.

6. This year the trek was sponsored by the Adelaide and SA Country Primary Health Network (PHN). PHN is a first time supporter and is a Federal Government funded organisation with the objective to achieve better health services delivery. As part of the contract with PHN, the standard evaluation frequency was extended to included two additional evaluation periods to accommodate the new requirements.

7. Each trek since commencement in 2009 has been independently evaluated. Since 2012 this has been undertaken by Flinders University. This year the evaluation period will be extended to include a 6 month and 12 month period to meet the PHN requirements.  Other persons close to the trekkers will also be asked for comment with respect to changed behavior or interpersonal gains.

Participants and staff
8. Of the fifteen participants, one was an ex NSW police officer, one was ex-RAAF and two were ex-RAN. Eleven had been operationally deployed across one or more theatres.

9. The success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators. During this trek six experienced facilitators were employed to deliver the fourteen formal sessions. When not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the camp fire and during 4WD vehicle movement. This interaction of staff with small groups of participants assists in building trust and reinforcing messages. The trek utilised local and interstate staff to achieve a blend of skills and experience. All staff departed Adelaide a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.

10. Based on total numbers attending (26), the support staff numbers were reduced. This applied particularly in the role of base staff where only three were required. This proved to be satisfactory and avoided the overheads associated with additional staff.

 

 

11. Staff                                                                                                                                                                                                                Participants: Blue (SA based)

Location
12. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 27 km north east of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km from Adelaide. Travelling these distances is time consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offsets 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 travel and location is positive.

Medical
13. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a paramedic based with the team. First aid kits were also available and a number of the staff were qualified St John, Apply First Aid. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical issues arose

Transport
14. Seven hire 4WD, two Pioneer Tank loaned vehicles and one personal 4WD were utilised to transport the staff to Moolooloo on Saturday. A self-drive hire-bus driven by two volunteers transported the male team to Moolooloo Station on Sunday.  At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.

15. During the trek, the 4WD vehicles were used to travel between locations. This is in alignment with the program logic which utilises the small group environment of the vehicles to prompt further discussions and reflections on issues as they surface following the sessions. This has been found to be so successful that staff refer to this practice as 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; many of the trekkers have remarked on the advantages of spending time in the company of a few individuals as opposed to a larger group.

Weather
16. The weather was optimal for trek delivery with no temperature extremes. The Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks were relatively stable. This increased the ease of 4WD travel between locations

Communications
17. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed line communications were available through a link established at the Shearer’s Quarters. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose.  It was not required.

18. Radio: While in the bush UHF CB hand-held and vehicle mounted radios were used for communications on simplex. Duplex on Channel 3 is available in the area for contact at greater distances by UHF.

Program
19. The program is reviewed regularly to ensure relevant content. The messages conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and understanding cognitive strategies for behavior management. A selection of topics including How the Brain Works, Leaving a Legacy, Victim to Warrior etc. was delivered. The style and method of delivery, combined with the surroundings, make the messages much more powerful. This is further enhanced by the group sharing their personal experiences. The daily journals also provide useful insight into the power of the program and how the content is being understood by participants. The simple benefit gained from reconnecting with other veterans cannot be overstated. This is in accordance with the philosophy of the trek; “veterans helping veterans” supported by credible messages which are based on first-hand experience.

20. New staff are given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by skilled and experienced facilitators. This is essential for staff succession planning and was enhanced this year by staff training held in Adelaide In February.

21. Most of the facilitators are selected from past participants. These normally are individuals who found the trek so powerful they decided to take the opportunity to assist in program delivery.  Those who have accepted this responsibility describe their continuing gains from attendance by assisting in the transformation of the lives of others.

22. 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 program.

23. The inclusion of staff other than ex-military provides a balance and different skill-sets. Sessions linked to this expertise provide advice and encouragement in a form which is perceived differently to that presented by the veterans

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 reflections on the various lessons of the day and the daily experience of the trek. This practice provides an opportunity to review and anchor the day’s lessons. Past trekkers have commented on the usefulness of this record of reflections as a reminder of the strategies and tools to use after the trek. With consent, the journals are used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

Partners
25. A Partner’s Handbook is posted to each partner during the trek. It is designed to deliver three key outcomes;
• provide information regarding the trek and its intent,
• provide the partners with some of the ideas and tools that the trekkers will be exposed to, and
• encourage support for what may be new ideas and behaviours.

Staff Debrief
26. A staff debrief was conducted at the conclusion of the trek to capture immediate feedback.

Program Viability
27. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact in each state indicating a will to attend. This has worked well to date, particularly in SA where male numbers remain very high.  The best disciples of the program have been past trekkers who are the source of at least 60% of attendees. However, to ensure that the program remains viable and continues to provide support to veterans it is necessary to:

  • continue to advertise the program, targeting those who need our support,
  • focus on those establishments which are central to the clinical treatment,
  • convince the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of the benefits offered, and
  • ensure funding is available to offer the program at no cost to participants.

Visitors and media
28. Before each trek, a media release is distributed. This year the release was distributed through a contact nominated by PHN.

29. HE the Governor of SA who is the Patron and the CEO of Veterans SA; Rob Manton were invited to attend but declined owing to previous commitments. The travel time by road required for visitors to attend the trek is a challenge.  Past visitors have reported they gained an enhanced understanding of the power of the program and the significant benefits gained by participants.

Viability
30. Sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires ongoing attention, as unlike the QLD trek which has ongoing funding from RSL QLD and Bolton Clarke, SA is dependent on a number of irregular sources.  Each October the foundation conducts a major fundraising activity with the conduct of the Veterans’ Support Walk. These funds are complemented by a number of other organisations, corporations, and individual donors. This year a $10,000 grant was received from RSL Care SA, and a $10,000 donation was received from a donor. Additional support has been received by SA Health and Veterans SA along with many others. This support is much appreciated and vital for our ability to conduct the treks.

Annual Trek Delivery
31. Participant numbers will dictate the number and location of future treks offered. This will be assessed and adjusted as needed. The existence and efficacy of the trek anecdotally appears to be well known and understood among ex-service organizations (ESOs). However, minimum participant numbers are required for group dynamics and to establish the benefits of peer-to-peer support. To ensure participant numbers are met, the foundation will continue to promote the trek through ESO networks, health providers and our best referral mechanism – word of mouth from past participants.

Conclusion

32. The isolation and serenity provided by the bush, and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying content with impact. The disarming honesty of trek staff creates an environment which facilitates honesty and openness from participants. This in turn aids recovery.

33. The role-modeling exhibited by the trek staff, coupled with the credibility of being surrounded by others with similar lived experience, allows participants to talk openly about content they have often never shared. Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants are able to recognize and acknowledge past thoughts and behaviors and how they have contributed to their present situation. They then develop a clear sense of hope and self-efficacy, as the realization that other ways of coping are possible and are achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

34. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence and the qualitative feedback from the journals, the trek achieved the objectives. This was gained through the pursuit the strong trek philosophy supported by the staff. The trek is intended as a circuit-breaker. Following the trek participants describe having a new understanding of their choices in thinking and behavior; a shift in their world view.

35. As trekkers return to their daily routines, the challenge for them is to practice and consolidate the strategies learned within their existing support structures and with the additional layer of support from past trekkers. They are provided with a Trek Bible which contains a brief on all of the sessions which were covered during their time on the trek. Feedback is positive.

36. The follow up support among trekkers is immediately evident on the closed pages of the treks social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. It would also be beneficial if an organization with greater resources could become actively involved in follow-up.

37. 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 is unique, and may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

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

 

,

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT TO THE 2017 AGM

Treks and Outcomes

  1. This year marks the ninth year of operation in SA and the third year in QLD. The foundation planned and conducted six treks during 2017.  They were as follows:
  • four treks in QLD, two during March and two in August, and
  • two treks in SA in September.

2. This was an increase of one male and two female to cater for a backlog of those wishing to attend in QLD. A total of 36 male and 26 females attended nationally.  Outcome data has not yet been completely analysed for all treks but for the three series completed, the quantitative outcomes indicate that of the twelve areas measured, in excess of 90% of the participants improved markedly in 80% of the areas measured.  This is a very good outcome and remains consistent with the Bird thesis completed in 2014. In addition to the quantitative, qualitative changes are also measured by way of an analysis of the journals completed during the week in the bush.  These in some way make much more powerful reading as they capture the trekker’s responses and thoughts to the formal and informal discussions.    The impact of credible advice from veterans who have walked the walk, delivered in tranquil, remote localities among ex-military members is truly life-changing.  I congratulate the staff in both states for the achievement of results which continue to amaze me.  Independent analysis will continue to be completed for all treks as this is the basis for the strong claims of success.

Frequency and Size

3. Six treks were conducted in 2017 which catered for 62 (36M & 26F) participants of both genders at an average of 12.4 persons per trek. This is at the lower end of the targeted average number of participants per trek than is the ideal.  Based on past experience, up to 16 trekkers can be catered for with good outcomes while achieving economy of scale.  The board will continue to monitor demand and trek numbers to ensure resources meet demand as economically as possible.  The principle of self-nomination remains as the standard ensuring that individuals are keen to try this approach in the interests of family and lifestyle as opposed to pharmacology supported by one on one counselling which is the standard.

Staff

4. The formal sessions are delivered on the trek by facilitators who are individuals who have walked the walk and are considered suitable to deliver program content. Staff training is conducted on a regular basis to maintain the number and skills required of this appointment.   The credibility and competency of the facilitators is a critical factor in the success of the program.  Ex-trekkers are also considered for the role of mentor.  This appointment not only provides an individual second top-up of the messages but injects another empathetic listener into the groups. The practice provides another conduit between trekkers and staff.

5. A train the trainer weekend will be held in Brisbane in late February 2018, dates yet to be confirmed. I anticipate this will identify and polish the skills of a number of potential facilitators for employment during 2018 and beyond.

6. This year the board contracted a part-time XO to provide a more continuous and professional presence while handling the day to day issues which arise. It was anticipated that the role would require about 50 days per year. Dr. Helen Donovan was the successful applicant and has been doing the job since March this year.

Funding

7. The amortised costs for one trek (male and female combined) are in in the vicinity of $45 to $50K depending on travel costs. This takes into account wages, insurance, hire costs, food, fuel and participant travel expenses.  As a result, there is an obvious need to continue to raise funds to support the program.  The QLD chapter has successfully arranged for on-going funding through RSL QLD and Bolton Clarke, formally RSL Care QLD.  However in SA, no on-going funding sources have been identified although RSL Care SA and Veterans SA have been generous on an annual basis, no continuity currently exists.   This year $30,819.00 was raised at the charity walk. This is the best result yet achieved and my thanks go to Reuben and staff at Adelaide Exercise Physiology for a great day.   On-going funding is an issue the board will address in 2018.

Partnerships

8. Partnerships are seen as advantageous to the foundation. They currently exist between RSL SA, RSL QLD, and Bolton-Clarke.  Unfortunately, the RSL SA arrangement has turned out to be non-productive as you are all aware while the others are most appreciated and productive. The foundation is also working on an MOU with Flinders University which independently analyses our trek data.   Generally speaking, the foundation has a good relationship with VVCS in SA and also Ward 17, both of which understand the value of the product and are a source of participants.  In QLD the Soldier Recovery Centre at Enoggera is aware of the program through presentations and occasionally is the source of trekkers.  The foundation relationship with DVA remains puzzling in spite of well-publicised program outcomes.  Apart from initial seed funding in 2009, the foundation has met with zero success in our applications for grants.  Because of a number of misconceptions held by some of the staff at all levels, the board has decided to address this in 2018.

Patron

9. I am pleased to announce that His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Li, AC Governor of SA, has accepted the position of Foundation Patron. This is good news and provides an imprimatur which many small not for profits seek.  I hope he will visit a trek during 2018.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans.  The principles of POST may also be applied to other vocations.  The trek is unique, and may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment which is confirmed by independent evidence.   The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature but in this country, not embraced.   Nonetheless, the Foundation will continue to support our veteran base bringing common sense and better lifestyle to partners and children.

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop

Chairman
26 November 2017

,

REPORT FROM TROJAN’S TREK SA SEPTEMBER 2018

Distribution:  See below

Introduction

  • Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted at Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 23 to 28 September 2018. This was the tenth male trek conducted and the first since 2014 which did not include the concurrent running of a female trek. This was due to only 4 women nominating to attend a trek in SA.  The women who nominated were catered for by the QLD trek which was conducted one month earlier.  The remote location supports one of the key elements of success of the program; a peaceful setting within a natural setting, free from electronic, mental and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered. Fifteen males, of whom eight came from SA, attended the trek. Participant comments and journals from the trek provide an early indication of the significant shifts in thinking which occurred as a result of the program.

Aims
2. 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
3. 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 enhance self-esteem.

Validation
4. Four standard psychometric instruments are administered to evaluate the trek outcomes. These 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.

5. Qualitative evaluations are also measured through the daily journals which are completed by the participants.

6. This year the trek was sponsored by the Adelaide and SA Country Primary Health Network (PHN). PHN is a first time supporter and is a Federal Government funded organisation with the objective to achieve better health services delivery. As part of the contract with PHN, the standard evaluation frequency was extended to included two additional evaluation periods to accommodate the new requirements.

7. Each trek since commencement in 2009 has been independently evaluated. Since 2012 this has been undertaken by Flinders University. This year the evaluation period will be extended to include a 6 month and 12 month period to meet the PHN requirements.  Other persons close to the trekkers will also be asked for comment with respect to changed behavior or interpersonal gains.

Participants and staff
8. Of the fifteen participants, one was an ex NSW police officer, one was ex-RAAF and two were ex-RAN. Eleven had been operationally deployed across one or more theatres.

9. The success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators. During this trek six experienced facilitators were employed to deliver the fourteen formal sessions. When not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the camp fire and during 4WD vehicle movement. This interaction of staff with small groups of participants assists in building trust and reinforcing messages. The trek utilised local and interstate staff to achieve a blend of skills and experience. All staff departed Adelaide a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.

10. Based on total numbers attending (26), the support staff numbers were reduced. This applied particularly in the role of base staff where only three were required. This proved to be satisfactory and avoided the overheads associated with additional staff.

 

 

11. Staff                                                                                                                                                                                                                Participants: Blue (SA based)

Location
12. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 27 km north east of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km from Adelaide. Travelling these distances is time consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offsets 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 travel and location is positive.

Medical
13. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a paramedic based with the team. First aid kits were also available and a number of the staff were qualified St John, Apply First Aid. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical issues arose

Transport
14. Seven hire 4WD, two Pioneer Tank loaned vehicles and one personal 4WD were utilised to transport the staff to Moolooloo on Saturday. A self-drive hire-bus driven by two volunteers transported the male team to Moolooloo Station on Sunday.  At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.

15. During the trek, the 4WD vehicles were used to travel between locations. This is in alignment with the program logic which utilises the small group environment of the vehicles to prompt further discussions and reflections on issues as they surface following the sessions. This has been found to be so successful that staff refer to this practice as 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; many of the trekkers have remarked on the advantages of spending time in the company of a few individuals as opposed to a larger group.

Weather
16. The weather was optimal for trek delivery with no temperature extremes. The Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks were relatively stable. This increased the ease of 4WD travel between locations

Communications
17. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed line communications were available through a link established at the Shearer’s Quarters. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose.  It was not required.

18. Radio: While in the bush UHF CB hand-held and vehicle mounted radios were used for communications on simplex. Duplex on Channel 3 is available in the area for contact at greater distances by UHF.

Program
19. The program is reviewed regularly to ensure relevant content. The messages conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and understanding cognitive strategies for behavior management. A selection of topics including How the Brain Works, Leaving a Legacy, Victim to Warrior etc. was delivered. The style and method of delivery, combined with the surroundings, make the messages much more powerful. This is further enhanced by the group sharing their personal experiences. The daily journals also provide useful insight into the power of the program and how the content is being understood by participants. The simple benefit gained from reconnecting with other veterans cannot be overstated. This is in accordance with the philosophy of the trek; “veterans helping veterans” supported by credible messages which are based on first-hand experience.

20. New staff are given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by skilled and experienced facilitators. This is essential for staff succession planning and was enhanced this year by staff training held in Adelaide In February.

21. Most of the facilitators are selected from past participants. These normally are individuals who found the trek so powerful they decided to take the opportunity to assist in program delivery.  Those who have accepted this responsibility describe their continuing gains from attendance by assisting in the transformation of the lives of others.

22. 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 program.

23. The inclusion of staff other than ex-military provides a balance and different skill-sets. Sessions linked to this expertise provide advice and encouragement in a form which is perceived differently to that presented by the veterans

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 reflections on the various lessons of the day and the daily experience of the trek. This practice provides an opportunity to review and anchor the day’s lessons. Past trekkers have commented on the usefulness of this record of reflections as a reminder of the strategies and tools to use after the trek. With consent, the journals are used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

Partners
25. A Partner’s Handbook is posted to each partner during the trek. It is designed to deliver three key outcomes;
• provide information regarding the trek and its intent,
• provide the partners with some of the ideas and tools that the trekkers will be exposed to, and
• encourage support for what may be new ideas and behaviours.

Staff Debrief
26. A staff debrief was conducted at the conclusion of the trek to capture immediate feedback.

Program Viability
27. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact in each state indicating a will to attend. This has worked well to date, particularly in SA where male numbers remain very high.  The best disciples of the program have been past trekkers who are the source of at least 60% of attendees. However, to ensure that the program remains viable and continues to provide support to veterans it is necessary to:

  • continue to advertise the program, targeting those who need our support,
  • focus on those establishments which are central to the clinical treatment,
  • convince the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of the benefits offered, and
  • ensure funding is available to offer the program at no cost to participants.

Visitors and media
28. Before each trek, a media release is distributed. This year the release was distributed through a contact nominated by PHN.

29. HE the Governor of SA who is the Patron and the CEO of Veterans SA; Rob Manton were invited to attend but declined owing to previous commitments. The travel time by road required for visitors to attend the trek is a challenge.  Past visitors have reported they gained an enhanced understanding of the power of the program and the significant benefits gained by participants.

Viability
30. Sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires ongoing attention, as unlike the QLD trek which has ongoing funding from RSL QLD and Bolton Clarke, SA is dependent on a number of irregular sources.  Each October the foundation conducts a major fundraising activity with the conduct of the Veterans’ Support Walk. These funds are complemented by a number of other organisations, corporations, and individual donors. This year a $10,000 grant was received from RSL Care SA, and a $10,000 donation was received from a donor. Additional support has been received by SA Health and Veterans SA along with many others. This support is much appreciated and vital for our ability to conduct the treks.

Annual Trek Delivery
31. Participant numbers will dictate the number and location of future treks offered. This will be assessed and adjusted as needed. The existence and efficacy of the trek anecdotally appears to be well known and understood among ex-service organizations (ESOs). However, minimum participant numbers are required for group dynamics and to establish the benefits of peer-to-peer support. To ensure participant numbers are met, the foundation will continue to promote the trek through ESO networks, health providers and our best referral mechanism – word of mouth from past participants.

Conclusion

32. The isolation and serenity provided by the bush, and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying content with impact. The disarming honesty of trek staff creates an environment which facilitates honesty and openness from participants. This in turn aids recovery.

33. The role-modeling exhibited by the trek staff, coupled with the credibility of being surrounded by others with similar lived experience, allows participants to talk openly about content they have often never shared. Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants are able to recognize and acknowledge past thoughts and behaviors and how they have contributed to their present situation. They then develop a clear sense of hope and self-efficacy, as the realization that other ways of coping are possible and are achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

34. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence and the qualitative feedback from the journals, the trek achieved the objectives. This was gained through the pursuit the strong trek philosophy supported by the staff. The trek is intended as a circuit-breaker. Following the trek participants describe having a new understanding of their choices in thinking and behavior; a shift in their world view.

35. As trekkers return to their daily routines, the challenge for them is to practice and consolidate the strategies learned within their existing support structures and with the additional layer of support from past trekkers. They are provided with a Trek Bible which contains a brief on all of the sessions which were covered during their time on the trek. Feedback is positive.

36. The follow up support among trekkers is immediately evident on the closed pages of the treks social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. It would also be beneficial if an organization with greater resources could become actively involved in follow-up.

37. 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 is unique, and may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

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

 

,

RSL Queensland reports on the first ever QLD Women’s Trek

Matilda Dray reports in RSL News that the Women’s Trek, held in Millmerran “…..provided camaraderie, new perspectives and a second chance at life for the trek’s participating veterans and mentors.”

Read the full report here

 

,

REPORT QLD AND SA 2016

From: Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop OAM (Retd) 0408 088 886 moose@trojanstrek.com

“I have learnt so much about myself and how I react with people.” Trekker 2016

Introduction

1. This report covers the QLD and SA treks. Trojan’s Trek QLD was conducted from 8 to 13 May on, and around the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) Range Facility at Captain’s Mountain on the Darling Downs. This facility provides a very suitable location at which to base the trek. It is also a generally free mobile phone free environment. It offers a slice of early Queensland history and a remoteness which has an impact on the messages delivered. The QLD trek was the second run in that state resulting from a satisfactory pilot program run in 2015. The date for the QLD trek was brought forward to give a more even calendar spread for the treks.

2. In SA, the male and female treks ran from 17 to 23 September. This year because of the number of individuals under instruction in both states, the staff deployed one day earlier than the usual practice. This worked well and will be adopted for the future for both states. A number of staff from SA and QLD travelled to respective states to assist with each trek. The longer term intention is to train and employ staff from QLD and SA in those locations to make each chapter self-sufficient in staff.

3. For the third year, the SA treks included a female version which was conducted concurrently but separately to the male. This year reinforced earlier experience with the female team, confirming that females are not as flexible or resilient in terms of overnight stays or change. This aspect of female behaviour will be closely examined from a number of points of view to ensure that the trek provides the outcomes which are sought. There is no doubt that the qualitative outcomes which show huge personal gain by the men are not reflected in the female experience. It is the opinion of the author having seen three female trek results that the female members are so obsessed with their personal circumstances that some of the important messages, quickly understood and journalised by the men, are lost on most of the female trekkers. This topic is discussed later in this report.

The bush in SA was looking good having had substantial rains over the previous months and for the second year in a row. Both treks experienced rain which fell in both locations. This had no effect on the QLD trek but had a significant impact on travel during the SA trek.

Aim

4. 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. This aim has stood the test of time and remains current and appropriate.

Objectives

5. The trek is a designed as a circuit breaker. The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants, through group and individual challenge achieve 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,
• re-connect with others,
• improving interpersonal relationships, and
• enhance self-esteem.

6. These objectives have been reviewed and remain valid. The philosophy backing the trek is one which enables successful condition self-management resulting from changes in participant perception. This in turn changes behaviour and personal interaction in a positive way, and although these objectives appear simple in concept, the successful delivery depends heavily on the credibility of the advice given. Therefore the part played by the staff in the process cannot be over-emphasised. As mentioned previously, the female benefits from this trek were not as obvious as those reported in the personal journals of the males.

Validation

7. In order to justify the program’s claims to successful outcomes, four standard psychosocial instruments were again used to measure outcomes.

They are:
• Life Satisfaction Scale (Hilda) for comparison with Australian normative data,
• Positive and Negative Interactions,
• General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, and
• DASS 21.

8. 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.

Attendance

9. A total of thirty five participants attended the treks. The breakdown was as follows:
SA Male

10. Two serving members from 7 RAR and two serving VIC police officers attended the SA treks. This was the fourth male police officer and first female who has attended a trek.
QLD Male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA Female

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Apart from one RAN member, none of the female members had qualified for operational service. One woman was a Victorian police officer and one a registered nurse. This is disappointing as the foundation is set up to cater for veterans although assistance is provided to others if space permits. In spite of the lack of operational service, all had some form of mental health illness. Four were diagnosed with PTSD, one with depression and two with complex medical conditions. All carried clearances from their doctors to attend but for most, a period in the bush was beyond their capability. This may relate to a lack of understanding of the conditions to be expected or a lack of resilience of the individuals. Either way, the impact of the experience is significantly lessened by individual complaints about everything from the use of swags to long drop toilets. The female team staff were continuously involved in settling minor complaints or reassuring the trekkers that things will get better. This is in stark contrast to the men who are much more resilient in more basic conditions and are clearly prepared to make the most of the trek. This issue will be explored separately. For the third year, CPO Vickers from the RAN attended as a staff member. Her contribution was valuable and appreciated. It is hoped she can continue to contribute.

Staffing

12. The intent to train and employ competent staff in both states thus avoiding inter-state travel remains current. Two male and four female potential staff members were involved.

13. QLD. Providing sufficient competent staff to deliver material for the Qld trek proved to be challenging again this year. To resolve this Dogs Kearney and Moose Dunlop flew from SA to take part in the trek. A chef and a kitchen staff member carrying stores also travelled by road from SA to Milmerran. A number of local staff “in-training” were employed on the QLD trek to provide experience for them and also to permit the QLD Director to gauge their potential to replace the older hands. This exercise was successful in identifying a new chef and some male presenters.

14. SA. Normally the SA trek is more difficult to conduct because of the requirement to provide expert male staff presenters to both male and female teams which are sometimes up to 10 km apart. To ease that problem this year the female team was relocated to a new camp site which was more accessible to the presenters and the base. It differs from the site used previously in that there is no stone building which in the past was the base for the team. However the new site has a shower shed, long drop and running tank water. Sleeping accommodation is in swags, the same as previous, and a tent was supplied as a base to hold excess equipment. It offers advantages over the previous site mainly because it removes the need to travel significant distances to deliver the program, meals and the like. Communications are more reliable and the track to the old site is often badly eroded by weather. As previously indicated, the new location, although considered adequate for purpose, was not embraced by the women trekkers.

Weather

15. QLD. The QLD trek experienced some precipitation which did not inconvenience the program. The trek area was subjected to below zero temperatures on two mornings.

16. SA. An extreme weather event affected the SA treks. Very heavy rain fell on Tuesday which resulted in local flood warnings necessitating the withdrawal of the teams from their locations back to the vicinity of the shearers’ quarters.  The female team was housed in the shearing shed and the men in the shearers’ quarters where they remained for the duration of the trek. No vehicle movement was possible for 24 hours because all the creeks were impassable. The program continued in to be delivered in sequence but at a different venue. After about 36 hours, limited vehicle movement was possible, exercising care crossing creeks.

17. The funds for the 2016 treks were raised in both SA and QLD and devoted to activities in the respective states. Funding security remains one of the matters which demands continuous attention particularly the SA Chapter which is the poor cousin in the funding stakes.

a. QLD. The QLD trek was funded by RSL Care and RSL Qld who have maintained their financial support since the commencement of the QLD trek.

b. SA. The SA treks were funded from a number of sources. Each year in October, the foundation conducts a major fund raiser with the Veterans’ Support Walk. These funds are complimented by a number of other organisations and corporations as well as individuals. This year a $10K grant was secured from RSL Care SA and a significant grant from the Reid Thyme Foundation was received. The foundation is most appreciative of this support.

Movement

18. Transport requirements to and during the treks were as follows:

a. QLD. One 13 seat bus to carry the team and one staff supervisor to Captain’s Mountain, the start point. Six vehicles (3 x 4 WD vehicles and 3 x AWD Vehicles) were hired for the duration of the trek. These were supplemented by a Hilux 4WD owned by one of the mentors. The vehicle with the enclosed trailer was driven from South Australia. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Brisbane in the 4 WD vehicles.

b. SA. Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS. One bus with driver came from a bus company and the other was hire/self-drive. Twelve 4 WD vehicles; (10 hired and 2 borrowed,) 2 towing a covered and an enclosed trailer. These vehicles were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS on Saturday prior to the start. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in these 4WD vehicles.

19. 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.

Base Locations

20. QLD. The trek location is approximately 300 km west of Brisbane. The base was established at the SSAA Range complex which is 20 km west of Millmerran on the Gore Highway. The facility is well presented, has a full time curator, an industrial kitchen, dams and a capability to cater for about 200 people. The property occupies approximately 400 acres which varies in type and relief from north to south. The property adjoins a national park and state owned forest covering a further 30,000 hectares to which the trek had unfettered access. The hiring arrangements with SSAA are most agreeable.

21. SA. 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 from Adelaide. 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

22. A period is set aside daily to complete individual journals. This 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. These comments are used to complete qualitative assessment.

23. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and behavior management. These are simple subjects; but the style and method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the messages much more powerful. The journals reflect accurately the participant responses to the various lessons and the positive responses appear to be related to simple messages. This year the female responses were generally critical of the staff, weather, program, swags, accommodation etc. to the extent that in some respect the messages may have been overlooked. The female view aside, there is no doubt having read the journals, that the live-in nature of the trek when shared with other veterans is a significant factor in the success of the program. The simple benefit gained from reconnecting with other veterans cannot be over-stated.

Medical

24. A doctor was not available in either state on this occasion but this was not considered a problem. Adequate coverage was provided as follows:

a. QLD. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Millmerran, approximately half an hour away by road from the base. First line medical support was provided by an ex-defence force medical member. 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 Captain’s Mountain. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

b. SA. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a Victorian Ambulance para-medic and a female registered nurse. The para-medic reported with his own vehicle and equipment. 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.

Program Delivery

25. Program content in both states is the responsibility of the Project Director, Moose Dunlop. The delivery of the male program and most aspects of the female program is the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Dogs Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. This year additional content was included in both programs and delivered by Tim Smith and Andrew Badenoch. The value or otherwise of these additions will be evident when the journals are analyzed. Additionally, a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Anna Sutcliffe and CPO Amy Vickers. These treks again utilized the opportunity to provide further training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. In all a total of two male and four female facilitators were exposed to the requirements of facilitation. This training was an extension of the Train the Trainer weekend held in SA in March 2016

26. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when simple and delivered by a veteran as opposed to clinician in consulting rooms. This is in accord with the philosophy on which the trek is based; that is veterans helping veterans with messages which are credible and based on first-hand experience.

27. The inclusion of two civilian experts provides a balance to the ex-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. The gains from their inclusion are manifold.

Communications

28. Telephone. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker in SA and are patchy in the Captain’s Mountain area in QLD. However, telephone communications are available via a landline at the Shearer’s Quarters and at the SSAA Complex at Captain’s Mountain. A satellite telephone was available in the bush during both treks if an emergency arose. It was not used.

29. 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 at Moolooloo for contact at greater distances by UHF.

Conclusion

30. There is no doubt that the isolation and the live-in nature of the treks are powerful catalysts in conveying opinions and promoting disarming honest comment from all concerned. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence, the male treks were an outstanding success. The female version achieved limited gains compared to the male treks. This is the third female trek run in SA and confirms my opinion that the female trek in this form may limit the potential gains to be made in behavior management. The reason for the difference in perceived value for the two treks based on gender is puzzling. Even a change of the leadership of the female trek appears to have made little difference to outcomes.

31. In the first instance, it is very difficult to attract female attenders and in this case only one navy female had experienced operational service. That three were diagnosed with PTSD, one with depression and two with complex medical issues related to employment does not show the military up in a good light. Nonetheless, in the opinions of the female participants, they appear to have universally achieved a number of goals and leave better 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.

32. For most 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 individual’s 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.

33. 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 via social media and email. This internal bonding is proving most valuable in their respective journeys.

Moose Dunlop OAM

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel (Retd)
Program Director

12 October 2016

Distribution: TT Board Members (7) CEO RSL SA
Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC CEO RSL Care SA
President RAR Assoc SA CEO RSL QLD
TT staff (e copies) Minister for Veterans’ SA

,

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

,

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.

Read more

,

Report on the 2016 SA and QLD Treks

From: Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop OAM (Retd) 0408 088 886  moose@trojanstrek.com

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 11.04.21 amREPORT QLD AND SA 2016

Introduction
1. This report covers the QLD and SA treks. Trojan’s Trek QLD was conducted from 8 to 13 May on, and around the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) Range Facility at Captain’s Mountain on the Darling Downs. This facility provides a very suitable location at which to base the trek. It is also a generally free mobile phone free environment. It offers a slice of early Queensland history and a remoteness which has an impact on the messages delivered. The QLD trek was the second run in that state resulting from a satisfactory pilot program run in 2015. The date for the QLD trek was brought forward to give a more even calendar spread for the treks.

Read more

, ,

2016 QLD Trojan’s Trek – Men Outcome Data Report

There were eleven participates in the 2016 QLD Men’s Trojan’s Trek. For the purpose of this report, their questionnaire responses on four measures (Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale -DASS21, General Self- Efficacy Scale, Life Satisfaction Scale and the Positive and Negative Interactions Scale, See Table 1) were scored and analysed to measure quantitative change in mental health and wellbeing indicators from Day 1 and Day 6.

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All of the participants (100%) showed a positive change between Day 1 and Day 6 on their total DASS21 scores (reduction in scores for depression, anxiety and stress). All but one participant showed an increase in self-efficacy.

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Overall life satisfaction improved for all participants, and all showed an increase in satisfaction with mental health and sleep. Nine of the eleven participants (82%) showed an increase in satisfaction with feeling part of the community; the other three participants’ results remained stable. Ten of the eleven participants showed an increase in perception of positive interactions with friends and family, and increase in positive perception of spouse relationships was seen for all participants in a relationship. Satisfaction with relationships with children improved for seven of the eleven participants, while two remained stable. Results for each measure are outlined below in greater detail.

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Of note, five participants showed clinically significant reduction in all areas measured: stress, anxiety and depression severity. A sixth person showed significant reduction in stress severity, and another showed reduction in depression to clinical levels and another two participants showed significant reductions in both depression and stress, as highlighted in Table 2.

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On average, participant scores changed from severe anxiety, stress and depression on Day 1, to normal level anxiety, stress and depression scores by Day 6. At Day 1 scores were well above the average for the general population and by Day 6 became well below the average, see Table 3.

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Self-efficacy
As outlined in Figure 2, ten participants showed an increase in their self-efficacy scores and one participants’ scores remained stable. The average self-efficacy score was similar to that of the general population at Day 1, and above the general population at Day 6, see Table 4.

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Life Satisfaction
Overall satisfaction with life increased from Day 1 to Day 6 for all participants, and satisfaction increased in all areas measured; see Table 5. Participants’ life satisfaction in all areas was below that of the general population at Day 1, and above that of the general population at Day 6. Selected results for life satisfaction are shown in Figure 3; ten participants experienced an increase in overall life satisfaction between Day 1 and Day 6, nine participants showed an increase in satisfaction with mental health, and ten showed an increase in feeling part of the community and increased satisfaction with sleep.

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Relationships
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On average, perception of positive interactions with friends, family and spouses increased between Day 1 and Day 6. This scale (the Positive and Negative Interactions Scale) measures participants’ perception of how well they feel their relationships are going. Taking results from the Life Satisfaction Questionnaires, all participants who had a spouse indicated improvement with their satisfaction with their relationship except for one participant whose scores remained high and stable. Seven participants showed improvement in satisfaction with their relationship with their children, with two participant’s scores remaining stable and two others showing a slight score reduction, see Figure 4.

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References
DASS21: Lovibond, S. & Lovibond, P. (2004). Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (2nd Ed). University of New South Wales: Sydney.
Positive and Negative Interactions Scale: Schuster T. L., Kessler, R.C., & Aseltine, R. H. Jr (1990). Supportive interactions, negative interactions and depressed mood. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 423-438.
Self-Efficacy Scale: Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1995). Generalized Self-Efficacy scale. In J. Weinman, S. Wright, & M. Johnston. Measures in health psychology: A user’s portfolio. Causal and control beliefs. 35- 37. Windsor, England: NFER-NELSON.
Life Satisfaction Scale information: Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health (2010, February). Evaluation of Trojan’s Trek: Final report. Retrieved from http://www.trojanstrek.com/wp- content/uploads/2011/04/Trojans-Trek-Final-Report-2010.pdf
Note: See Participant Snapshot for an overview of where areas of change were for each participant.

Data analysis and report completed by Kendall Bird for Trojan’s Trek

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Moose and James speak at Brownhill Creek Rotary

Report from the Brownhill Creek Weekly, the newsletter of the Brownhill Creek branch of Rotary International,

This week our speakers, Moose Dunlop and James Paterson, shared with us the work being done by Trojan’s Treks in meeting the challenges faced by those suffering from a service-induced stress illness. This illness can ruin the life of the sufferer and the lives of his or her family. It is often managed by a regime of counselling and medication which is an expensive approach.

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The Trojans Trek Foundation is a 100% not-for- profit organisation run by veterans and wholly devoted to the support of Australian’s veterans and their families.

Treks are run in SA and Qld with different programs for men and women. The treks are six day 4WD wilderness based experiences that use a combination peer support and structured discussions to help participants understand how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour and develop strategies to bring about changes in their lives and listening to James the results are very positive for the participants.

From the website http://www.trojanstrek.com/
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.

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.