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ST MARY’S PROBUS LISTENS IN

As part of the program of information sharing with the public, past trekker Glen Grant and Moose Dunlop OAM attended the club gathering at the Lutheran Church Hall at Pasadena 13 August.

A large gathering of interested members listened as the philosophy of the Foundation was spelt out by Moose.

This was followed by a first-hand description of the problems facing discharged defence force members attempting to gain employment while dealing with the military compensation system and DVA.

A number of insightful questions followed, showing the empathy of the audience.  The hat was sent around and a very respectable $320 was added to the coffers for the September trek.

Our thanks go to the President and Glenda for their interest and to the members for the contributions.

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Students assist Trojan’s Trek investigate marketing and costs

A team from the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law Student Employability of the University of QLD opted to investigate some aspects of the Foundation operations as part of the semester qualification requirements.

Picture L to R –– Janelle Murray (project advisor and MBA student), Winnie Sim, Derek Ricketts, Madeleine Bibo, Alexandria Rogers, James D’Amato, Huang Peishang and Vannessa Patterson, Board Member, Trojan’s Trek

Team member and Bachelor of Commerce student Winnie Sim said she was drawn to working with Trojan’s Trek because of the emphasis on mental health and wellbeing for veterans.

The team developed an engagement strategy to build awareness of the Trojan’s Trek program among veterans in need across Australia. They also produced an analysis of actual and amortised costs to assist in managing expenditure.

The team spent the semester devising their engagement strategy, including their three primary recommendations for the future.

The project was the overall winner of this semester’s Community Engagement Program (CEP), an initiative of UQ’s community strategy.

Board member Vannessa Patterson, who was the contact between the students and the Foundation, said she was impressed by the teamwork and willing devotion to all aspects of the work completed by the team.

Our congratulations on a great outcome!

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RSL CARE SA CONTRIBUTES


Following a successful Trojan’s Trek Board workshop held in Adelaide on 31 Aug, the board of Trojan’s Trek met with the board of RSL Care SA to share information and as social interaction.

The meeting received an update from Ben Challinor, the manager of the Andrew Russell Veteran Living (ARVL) centre which provides accommodation for homeless veterans.

Through ARVL, RSL Care SA seeks to provide veterans with accommodation support to assist them get back on their feet. The meeting was also updated on Trojan’s Trek operations in SA and QLD.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Loretta Byers, the chair of the RSL Care Board presented a $10,000 cheque to the Chair of Trojan’s Trek, Moose Dunlop OAM, as a contribution to the continuation of the good work of the program.

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SA Government to Assist Trojan’s Trek

The SA government has just announced that it will contribute $25,000 to assist the Trojan’s Trek Foundation to continue their work in SA.  The decision was made by the Minister for Veterans,  The Hon Stephen Marshall MP, Premier of SA. 

The Chairman of the Board Moose Dunlop OAM, said he was extremely pleased with the news which will ensure the conduct of the SA trek during 2018 will go ahead, enabling another 25 to 30 veterans and first responders to experience the trek; gaining the tools to positively manage their condition and become better family and community members.     

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NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR QLD CHAPTER

Trojan’s Trek is pleased to announce a new partnership in QLD with Hand Heart Pocket (HHP). 

HHP is the charity arm of the Freemasons in QLD which for centuries have used the symbols of hand heart and pocket to pledge practical help, genuine empathy and financial generosity to those who need it most.  One of the areas of focus for the charity is on initiatives which promote and support positive physical and mental health for men; a target which coincides with the work of the Trojan’s Trek Foundation.

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Robe to Recovery


The Robe community has instigated an innovative concept to support Australian Defence Force veterans.

“Robe to Recovery” supports veterans who have returned from active duty and need to begin to heal physical and psychological wounds.

Jacqui Bateman and returned vet Justin Brown have teamed up to organise stays of a few days of respite for returned veterans who may be struggling to fit back into civilian life after returning from deployment and discharging from the defence force.

Adelaide-based Justin knows who is likely to need support through his contacts in the Australian Defence Force.

WATCH: ABC TV Back Roads on “Robe to Recovery”

Many traders in Robe and the Robe Tourism Association members are involved.

“I went along to a RTA meeting and explained the concept to the members and asked for any support from the local businesses,” Jacqui said. “The response was amazing.

“I had local cafes and restaurants offering meal and coffee vouchers and other offers of bakery goods, seafood, ice-cream, wine, massages and art.

“Several accommodation providers offered a few days accommodation, the local dairy donating milk and cheese.

“The first veteran who came down with his family was totally overwhelmed.

“He was just expecting a weekend away but when he walked in and saw a gift basket containing a whole bunch of extras, he couldn’t believe it.”

Jacqui believes that handwritten notes from each of the donors to the visiting veteran – often something as simple as thanking them for their service – is the thing which makes the most impact.

Robe to Recovery gives Ex-Australian Army veteran Leith Bache a much-needed break

“They go away from the weekend knowing that people do care, that people appreciate what they have done for their country, and that the little town of Robe appreciates their service and sacrifice.”

“We are hoping to grow the program to where we have up to 12 families visiting each year.

“The response from the Robe business owners and community has been absolutely fantastic.”

“The opportunity to create a respite program for returning vets seemed like a good idea,” said Justin.

“Between Jacqui and myself we have made the program and the difference it has made to the veterans has been tremendously rewarding.

“We think that the program has on-going opportunities and benefits for the veterens.

“The Robe community have have been wonderful supporters.

“I would like to see the program replicated around the country.”

For more information on the Robe to Recovery program and to assists in some way call Jacqui on 0427 343132 or email jacqui@jacquibateman.com.au.

Text from https://www.coastalleader.com.au/story/4964806/robe-to-recovery/

Photo by Royston Rascals. Image has been cropped and colour saturation increased. Used under license https://www.flickr.com/photos/roystonrascals/

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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

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REPORT FROM TROJAN’S TREK SA SEPTEMBER 2017

Distribution:  See below

TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2017

1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted at Moolooloo Station in the Flinders Ranges from 24 to 29 September 2017.This was the ninth male trek conducted at this location and the fourth female trek in SA. The remote location supports one of the key elements of success of the program – a peaceful setting within nature, free from the usual electronic, mental and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered. Twenty-three participants attended the trek across both groups. Participant comments and journals from the trek provide an early indication of the significant shifts in thinking that occurred throughout the program.

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
  • e. 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. All male and female participants were experiencing mental health challenges. Most commonly, this included post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

6. Sixteen male participants attended. This included one ambulance officer and one observer/psychologist.Fourteen had been operationally deployed across one or more of: East Timor, Christmas Island, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Cambodia, Bougainville, Somalia and South Vietnam.

7. Seven female participants attended. These included one registered nurse, one fire-fighter, two ex-army, two ex-navy and one ex-air force.One of the females had qualifying service.

Programme and staff
8. The success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators. This is enhanced by interaction with mentors who are past trekkers.By sharing the experience, peer support is established.Succession planning to maintain a balance between experienced facilitators, mentors and mentors ‘in-training’ is recognised and practiced. The trek utilised local and interstate staff to achieve this 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.

9. Based on total numbers attending (48), an additional general hand was employed at the base camp. This proved to be a satisfactory solution to long hours and high workloads as well as gaining another person who now understands the operation.

10. The female team was located at the Oratunga Creek campsite and the male team moved locations each night. This worked well with the respective teams. The daily programs were planned to remove the need to travel significant distances for delivery of food and staff movements.

Location
11. The trek is supported from a base established at Moolooloo shearers’ quarters which is 32 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 of 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 location is positive.

Medical
12. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a paramedic and a registered nurse, who were based in the male and female teams respectively, and each carried a fully equipped first aid kit. First aid kits were located with each group and a number of the staff were qualified at 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. Apart from a gastrointestinal issue experienced by one participant, no other medical issues arose.

Transport
13. Two buses transported the male and female teams separately to Moolooloo Station. Thirteen 4WD vehicles were used to transport the staff to the location on Saturday prior to the arrival of the trekkers. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in these 4WD vehicles.

14. 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 in the sessions. This has been found to be so successful that staff refers to this 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.

Hire Vehicle Costs
15. Hire vehicle costs for 2017 were higher than normal. This was due to:

a) a larger number of in-training mentors on staff, and
b) two vehicles which are normally loaned at no cost were unavailable.

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 some 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 used.
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 Delivery
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 behaviour management. A selection of topics including, How the Brain Works, Leaving a Legacy, Victim to Warrior were delivered. The style and method of delivery, combined with the surroundings, make the messages much more powerful. This is further enhanced by mentors sharing their personal experiences. The female team delivered additional topics which have been developed over time and found to be effective. The journals 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 mentors are given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by skilled and experienced facilitators and mentors. This is essential for staff succession planning and was enhanced this year by the production of lesson plans to assist with staff development.

21. The majority of staff are past participants 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 civilian staff provides a balance and different skill-sets to the ex-military presence. 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 booklet is posted to each partner during the trek. It is designed to deliver three key outcomes;

  • to provide information regarding the trek and its intent,
  • to provide you with some of the ideas and tools that your partner will be exposed to, and
  • to prepare you for what you may experience once your partner comes home

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

Program Viability
27. To ensure that the program remains viable and continues to provide support to veterans it is necessary to:

  • continue to widely 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.

Before each trek, a media release is sent out. This year the release was distributed to a list of contacts supplied by RSL Care. No contact was made by media outlets.

28. The following were invited to attend:

a. President of the SA RSL;  Bronson Horan,
b. Commissioner for Mental Health; Chris Burns, and
c. CEO Veterans SA;  Rob Manton

None were able to attend.  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.

29. 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
30. In 2017 an additional female trek was conducted in QLD in August.  This resulted in difficulty in identifying sufficient female trekkers for the SA trek to make the experience viable. The foundation will continue to monitor demand to ensure economic use of resources.

31. Participant numbers will dictate the number 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 organisations (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 role-modelling from 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. A paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. First, participants are able to recognise and acknowledge past thoughts and behaviours and how they have contributed to their present situation. They then develop a clear sense of hope and self-efficacy, as the realisation that other ways of coping are possible and are achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

33. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence and the qualitative feedback from the journals, the trek achieved the set objectives. This was achieved through strong trek leadership 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 behaviour; a shift in their world view.

34. As they return to their daily routines, the challenge is to practice and consolidate the strategies they have learned within their existing support structures and with the additional layer of support from past trekkers. Also each trekker is provided with a Trek Bible which contains all of the sessions which were covered during their time on the trek.  Feedback is positive

35. 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.

36. 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.

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

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The Trojan’s Trek Foundation is pleased to announce…

His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC Governor of South Australia has agreed to be the Patron of the Foundation for the term of his office.

This represents a milestone in the short history of the organisation and we look forward to showing His Excellency the program next year on Moolooloo.

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM
Chairman
October 16, 2017.

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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