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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

 

,

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

 

,

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

,

Trojan’s Trek Reports – QLD & SA

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.18.09 am

“If I wasn’t here, I know I would not live to see Xmas.” Trekker

 

TROJAN’S TREK (QLD AND SA) 2015

Introduction

1. This report covers the Qld and SA treks. The Qld trek was conducted from 9 to 14 August and was the first run in that state. It was conducted as a pilot program to ascertain the viability of future treks. In SA, the male and female treks ran from 20 to 25 September.   A number of staff from SA travelled to Qld to assist with the initial trek conduct. The longer term intention is to train and employ staff from Qld to make that operation self-supporting.

2. For the second year, the SA treks included a female version which was conducted concurrently but separately to the male. This year reinforced our earlier experience with the female team, confirming that females are not as flexible in terms of overnight stays, preferring strongly to have access to showers and flushing toilets. This can be managed but does cause issues with staff movement from the male to the female team to present. This aspect will be covered later in this report.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.23.13 am
3. The bush in SA was looking good having had about 70 mm of rain in the preceding month. Surface water was present in some creeks. The bush in Qld was dry although normal for that time of year.

 

Aim

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:

  • an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
  • exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
  • individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
  • improving interpersonal relationships, and
  • 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.

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 participants attended the treks. The breakdown was as follows:Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.26.51 am

10. The number attending the male trek in Qld was fewer than expected, the target figure being twelve. A better response is predicted for future treks.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.29.44 am

11. Four serving members from 7 RAR attended the male SA trek as well as one ex NSW police officer. This is the third police officer who has attended a trek. His inclusion was due to a personal approach from his sister. Initial feedback has indicated that he benefitted significantly.
Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.30.30 am

12. All services were represented among the female attendees. For the second year, HMAS Albatross at Nowra nominated a past trekker to attend. Realising the benefits which result from trek attendance, the navy paid for travel from Nowra. Her contribution was valuable and appreciated.

Staff

13. Qld. Providing sufficient competent staff for the Qld trek proved to be challenging. To resolve this Dogs Kearney and Moose Dunlop flew from SA to take part in the trek. As well two members, who were camp and kitchen staff, travelled by road from SA carrying the swags and some additional cooking gear.

14. SA. The SA trek is more difficult to staff. There are two teams which operate some distance apart and two of the male facilitators are used to present material to both. This is problematic as travelling times are slow and teams are denied some of their staff for varying periods. This problem is being addressed by embarking on a program to train female facilitators to enable them to present sessions which the males have presented to date. This will occur early in the New Year.

Weather

15. The weather during both treks was as anticipated and predicted. The Millmerran area was subjected to below zero morning temperatures.

Funding

16. The funds for the 2015 treks were raised in both SA and Qld and devoted to activities in the respective states.

a. SA. The SA treks were funded from a number of sources. Each year the foundation conducts a major fund raiser with the Veterans’ Support Walk in October. These funds were complimented by a number of other organisations and corporations as well as individuals. This year a $10K gant was secured from SA Health to support the initiative.

b. Qld. The Qld trek was funded by RSL Care and RSL Qld who have been aware for 3 years of the successful outcomes achieved by the program. Their financial support has been secured into the future.

Movement

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

    • 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.
    • Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS.
    • Eleven 4 WD vehicles; two towing a covered and an enclosed trailer, and one towing an uncovered trailer. These were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS.
    • At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.

18. 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).

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.34.29 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

19. 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 with 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.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.36.31 am

20. 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.

Publicity

21. A press release prior to each trek was issued through the RSL. The ABC SE Qld attended the Qld trek and a sensitive TV report went to air. In SA the Sunday show on ABC 891 carried an interview with the Project Director.

Journals

22. 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 psychosocial instruments listed at paragraph 7.

23. 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 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.

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 1.2 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a Victorian Ambulance Para-medic. He 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. Additionally a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Connie Jongeneel and Anna Sutcliffe. These treks again utilized the opportunity to provide further training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. A female RAN member who previously attended as a trekker attended 2015 as a mentor. It is hoped her involvement will continue.

26. 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 veterans helping veterans with oversight of the tribal elders. This approach has been adopted over many thousands of years by other civilizations.

27. 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 the experienec run along military lines. This is the antithesis of the practice.

28. The inclusion of two civilian experts provides a balance to the military presence. They deliver sessions linked to their expertise and are skilled in providing advice and encouragement in a form which is perceived differently to that provided by the veterans. The balance is fine but necessary to gain the confidence of the attendees. The gains from their inclusion are manifold.

Communications

29. Telephone. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker and are patchy in the Captain’s Mountain area. 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.

30. 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

31. 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.

32. 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 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. This internal bonding is proving most valuable in their respective journeys

34. 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.

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.39.54 am

Moose Dunlop
Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) OAM
Program Director

20 October 2015

Distribution: TT Board Members
TT staff
Minister for Veterans’ SA
CEO, RSL SA
Director VVCS Adelaide
President RAR Assoc SA
Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC

,

TROJAN’S TREK 2014 – REPORT FROM THE GROUND

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.44.09 am

 

Introduction
1. Trojan’s Trek 2014 was conducted from 21 to 26 September on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges. This facility has been used for the past five years, is a suitable location at which to base the trek and is a mobile ‘phone free environment. It offers a slice of early South Australian mining history and a remoteness which has an impact on the messages delivered. As one of the trekkers wrote, “being out here opened up and showed me the bigger picture in life.”

2. The trek which targets veterans from conflicts post 1980, was the sixth run to date. Until 2013 male only treks have been conducted, but this year the Foundation decided to conduct a pilot female version of the trek which would be run separate to, but in parallel with the male version. This has not been previously attempted because of financial limitations. With assistance from Health SA, Adelaide Rotary Club, RSL Care and the RSL (SA) the venture was made possible.

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:

  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.

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:

  1. Life Satisfaction Scale (Hilda) for comparison with Australian normative data,
  2. Positive and Negative Interactions,
  3. General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, and
  4. DASS 21.

6. These are completed on three occasions:

  1. prior to the commencement of the trek,
  2. Immediately following the completion of the trek, and
  3. 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.

Longitudinal Study
8. An honours student from Uni SA has recently commenced a longitudinal study into the longer term impact on the trekkers after a 12 month period. Although the results from such a study will be of interest to the Foundation and staff, many factors outside the influence or impact of the trek may affect long term outcomes. There are in place strict guidelines governing personal identification and the use of the data to protect confidentiality.

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

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 6.25.13 am
Following a request from VicAmb, two of their members were short listed to attend if vacancies became available.

10. Female. The response from the women was above expectation, both in rapidity and numbers. Nominations were closed at 16 which was more than the ideal number of 12. The willingness of the women to become involved in an Australian first was reassuring.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 6.35.53 am

Staff

11. Because the male and female teams would be separated, it was necessary to identify and train two suitable female facilitators to accompany and control the women. This arrangement would comply with the successful formula which had been used with the male team. The selection proved to be far from a simple task as the selected women would have to meet certain criteria which fitted with the concept and philosophy of the trek. The search took more than nine months to identify two suitable persons to accept the envisaged role. Given the non-scientific nature of the process, the outcome was most pleasing with two very committed and aware women taking on the role.

Team Composition

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.56.44 am12. It was decided that there was a requirement to station two suitable male members with the female team to provide information on local terrain and geography as well as providing muscle and advice where applicable. This was potentially a sensitive matter which was discussed with the female facilitators prior to a decision. As transpired the concept worked better than anticipated. Both male members were previous participants and met with universal approval in their role. However, it is important to realize that the role is sensitive due to many of the women harbouring negative thoughts on a male presence as a result of their background experience. Both members who fulfilled the role are to be commended for their sensitive involvement in the day to day achievements of the women but more importantly, for helping to re-establish a degree of male trust among the women. As summed up by one of the women, “thank you for making me feel safe and supported in my rawest moments, I will be forever grateful for your open heart, mind and warmth.”

Participant Identification

13. Because of the increase in the administrative workload involved in assembling and vetting two teams, the responsibility for coordinating the male and female teams was allocated to two previous trekkers. This task is time consuming and involves a significant degree of follow-up phone and email contact. The teams were very well coordinated by:

a. Male: Greg Hallam, and
b. Female: Mark Keynes.

Accommodation

14. Because 11 women and eight men were from locations other than Adelaide it was necessary to identify budget accommodation to cater for them in Adelaide. The males were accommodated in the Granada Motel on Portrush Rd and the women in the RAH residential wing. Both locations proved to be satisfactory although the women’s accommodation was reported as “noisy but safe.” Both locations offered suitable pick-up areas free of City Bay hindrances on the Sunday morning.

Hire Vehicles

15. Because of the state of the roads in the area of the trek, the use of 4WD vehicles is necessary. This mode of travel offers an additional benefit, in that during transit from one location to the next, it is the practice for one staff member to travel with three participants in each vehicle. This provides the opportunity for further discussion related to the presentation just concluded or in fact to any other issue which surfaces. And that 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. This year a cheaper vehicle hire deal was arranged with Complete 4WD Hire and two vehicles were again kindly loaned by Pioneer Tanks of Norwood.

Program Delivery

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.24.49 am

16. The program which was adopted for the female team included a number of presentations which are used for the male team. Subjects such as Communication, How the Brain Works and others were part of the list. Because of the generic nature of the subject matter and the honed skills of the male presenters, it was decided to use male staff for these presentations. However, because of the more static nature of the female team (located at the Blinman Hut) the sessions often involved the male presenter travelling up to 8 km to deliver. Although this may not sound significant it took the male facilitators away from the male team for periods up to 2 hours or more. The absences were manageable and did not appear to detract from the overall outcomes. However, it is a subject to be considered for future planning.

Selection

17. As previously indicated, participants are self-nominating. However, it is important to gain approval from their treating doctor to avoid including individuals with the potential for self-harm or pose a danger to the staff. This was achieved as part of the nomination process by the submission of a form signed by the participant’s doctor.

Organization

18. The organization for Trojan’s Trek 2014 was:

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.33.23 am

Note. For all except the arrival and departure nights, the participants and field staff including the Director spent four days and three nights in the bush. The staff numbers were satisfactory and the response to mentors was positive particularly from the women.

Visitors

19. Ginny Stein and cameraman Brant Cummings from ABC TV Lateline visited and remained with the group for approximately three days during which time material for an ABC TV program Lateline was captured. The program was aired on 10 October. Initial concerns regarding the visitors’ presence and a TV camera were quickly forgotten. Filming and questioning was handled sensitively by the ABC members who were well versed in the individuals’ issues and privacy matters. You can watch the report here.

Transport
20. Transport requirements for the trek were as follows:

  1. Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS.
  2. Eleven 4 WD vehicles; two towing a covered and an enclosed trailer, and one towing an uncovered trailer. These were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS. The vehicle with the enclosed trailer was dispatched 24 hours before the main body to allow for early preparations.
  3. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.
  4. Discussion regarding the early deployment of some of the instructional staff was discussed following the trek. There are obvious advantages in having key presenters on the ground 24 hours prior to the trek commencement. This is a matter for further discussion.

21. 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. There appears to be no way to avoid this exposure.

Purchases
22. For this trek it was necessary to purchase additional swags to cater for the female team. Fifteen swags were purchased at a total cost of $2380. This is expensive but unavoidable as swags cannot be hired. It also presents an additional storage issue.

23. A combined briefing for the participants and partners was held on 19 September at the RAR club in Linden Park. Partners were invited as past experience has shown that it is an advantage if the partners have some understanding of the veteran’s condition and the objectives of the trip. Interstate partners were not able to attend. Nonetheless, for those who did attend they reported it was a valuable session.

Location
Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.36.02 am

24. 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. 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.

Publicity

25. A press release prior to the trek was issued through the RSL in combination with Lesley Johns Media. No calls were received in response.

Journals

26. 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 psychosocial instruments listed at paragraph 5. This is considered to be a limitation of the tools used to measure change.

27. 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.

Weather

28. On Tuesday evening 25 mm of rain fell on Moolooloo. This caused some creeks to run up to 400mm deep and delayed some aspects of the program, namely the combined male/female breakfast and session on Communications. In some individual cases it was a harsh reminder of the folly of sleeping too close to a water course. The time loss was absorbed by some program amendments which did not affect final outcomes. The frequency of rain in such quantity that time of year is most unusual but of interest and welcome.

Staff Debrief

29. On the last evening, a staff debrief was held in order to capture the immediate thoughts of the staff. A number of matters were raised which will be considered during planning for the next trek.

Internal Evaluation

30. 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

31. Telephone. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker which is approximately 88 km south of Moolooloo HS. Telephone communications were available via the homestead telephone to the outside world. This was in contrast to a previous arrangement which saw a telephone connected to the shearers’ quarters, (the base location) through close liaison with a CFS contact. This is preferred. This option will probably add to the costs in the future. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose. It was not used.

32. 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 for contact at greater distances by UHF

Medical

33. A doctor was not available for this trip. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.2 hours away. First line medical support was provided by an ex-defence force member who is now with the Victorian Ambulance service as a Para-medic. He arrived fully equipped with his own vehicle and equipment. He undertook training in CPR for the teams. 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.

Staff

34. The delivery of the male program and some aspects of the female program was the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Robert Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. Additionally a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Connie Jongeneel and Anna Sutcliffe. 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. This trek was again utilized to provide training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. Two mentors were placed with the female team and one with the male team. All performed well.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. The inclusion of two civilian experts provides a balance to the military presence. They deliver sessions linked to their expertise and are skilled in providing advice and encouragement in a form which is perceived differently to that provided by the veterans. The balance is fine but necessary to gain the confidence of the attendees. Both these members have been instrumental in providing follow-up advice which in a number of cases has resulted in job placement. The gains from their inclusion are manifold.

Follow-up

38. 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. This year the Director of VVCS advised he would be present at the conclusion in Adelaide. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend at the last minute.

Future Issues

39. The topics which will need to be addressed in the short to mid-term period are:

  1. the interstate expansion of the program to QLD,
  2. the permanent inclusion of a female trek,
  3. whether the QLD operation will reduce the viability of the local product,
  4. succession planning to ensure that the management and style of the project is maintained, and
  5. the development of an achievable business plan to support the Foundation’s objectives.

Conclusion

40. 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.

41. 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.

42. 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.

43. 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.

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

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Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop (Retd) OAM
Program Director

15 October 2014

Distribution: TT Board Members (8)
TT staff
Minister for Health SA
Minister for Veterans SA
CEO, RSL SA
CEO RSL Care SA
President Adelaide Rotary Club
Director VVCS Adelaide
Secretary of RARC, Ted Chitham MC