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 trekkers 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

26 November 2017

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