,

REPORT:  TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA APRIL 2021

 “No-one can ever take away what this course has provided for me.”  Trekker 2021

Introduction

1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 17 to 23 April 2021. This was the 13th year treks have been conducted in SA.  The remote location supports one of the key elements of the success of the program; a peaceful setting in an ancient land, free from electronic, mental and physical distractions.  This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered.

2. The Trek was advertised specifically for first responders such as volunteer firefighters, ambulance officers, and police officers who have been exposed to traumatic situations in the line of their duties. It is the second time a trek targeting first responders has been conducted by the Foundation.  This was a change in approach to the normal practice when first responders are taken more by exception.  All nominations were accepted.

3. Twelve males and two females attended. Of the total, seven were police officers, four firefighters, one paramedic, and two ex-military attended.  A new base camp team of three was given the responsibility for base domestic and cooking duties. They performed well.

 Aim

4. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting, and positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships.

Objectives

5. 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. improve interpersonal relationships, and
e. enhance self-esteem

Validation

6. This trek saw a new system of evaluation introduced as a pilot called Goal Attainment Setting (GAS).  The concept involves trekkers setting their own goals and also setting enabling goals to achieve the outcomes they want from life.  Goal setting is important for recovery because it can provide the individual with motivation, particularly when they are functional and directly relate to real-life activities.  A meaningful goal can maximise patient engagement and motivate a patient to participate in rehabilitation in order to achieve their goals.  From initial feedback it appears that goal setting is more useful to the trekkers than ticking boxes in four psychosocial instruments on three occasions to rate change, the method used previously.

7. This practice, recommended by VVCS in 09 was supposed to set the Foundation apart in terms of independent evaluation as the most effective peer outdoor support therapy (POST) in Australia and elsewhere.  That objective was achieved over the past 13 years in spades, but without traction or even inquiries from those in the business who should be forensically looking at data and outcomes, it was assessed as no longer useful.

8. Trekkers are encouraged to complete daily journals which, with agreement are copied and used to measure qualitative gains as well as gaining insight into what sessions are well or otherwise received.  The comments are powerful and provide extremely good feedback as well as personal impact.

COVID 19

9. Fortunately, COVID 19 was a lesser problem during this trek than it was in 2020.  Social distancing and food handling were required to meet health advice standards but these were not onerous.

Program Delivery

10. Success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the sessions delivered by facilitators. During this trek five experienced facilitators were employed to deliver fourteen formal sessions. Three of the facilitators were from inter-state. Three mentors were also used to reinforce the messages.  When not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the campfire and during 4WD vehicle movement.  This interaction of staff with small groups of participants assists in building trust and reinforcing messages. The total number attending including base staff was 26. A total of 14 nights’ accommodation was required before and following the trek to link with transport. Keswick Barracks through the Chief of Staff assisted with the provision of rooms. This arrangement is most satisfactory, economical and safe for vehicle parking.
The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road.   The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of the country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is 520 km from Adelaide.

11. All staff departed Adelaide for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content. The total attending was 26 as follows:                                                                                     

Location

12. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast 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 520 km from Adelaide.

Travelling this distance 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 Support

13. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away.   A satellite phone was on hand if the RFDS or medical advice was required.  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.  An AED which was purchased as the result of a successful grant application and added to the medical capability.  In terms of risk management, the longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo.   No medical issues arose.

Equipment and Vehicles

14. All equipment was satisfactory.  Six vehicles were hired from Complete Ute and Van at 50% discount and a 100 series Landcruiser and Hilux were loaned to the Foundation by Pioneer Tanks.  This represents a significant saving in hiring costs.  Two tyres, one from the trailer and one from a hire vehicle and one steel wheel from a hire Hi-Lux were damaged and were replaced.

15. A self-drive hire bus driven by two volunteers transported the trekkers to Moolooloo Station on Sunday.  At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.

16. 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 refers 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

17. The weather was optimal for trek delivery with no temperature extremes apart from a manageable 6 degree morning.  The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks relatively stable.  Some creeks showed the effects of flooding earlier in the year which changed the landscape and creek lines in places.  4WD travel to one location was avoided because of difficult crossings.

Communications

18. Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. This trek, fixed line communications were not available at the shearers’ quarters despite earlier requests to Telstra.  Although the number was no longer connected or required by the previous owner, apparently the number is quarantined for several months.  It appears the number and line will be available later in the year.  A satellite telephone was available if an emergency arose.  It was not required.

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

Program

20. 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 and Communications were 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 personal experiences.

21. 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 sufferers cannot be overstated. This is in accordance with the philosophy of the trek which is based on shared first-hand experience.

22. Two new mentors were given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by experienced facilitators.  This is essential for staff succession planning.

23. All facilitators are selected from past participants. These are normally individuals who found the trek messages so powerful they decided or were invited 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.

24. 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.

25. For this trek a number of first responders were used as facilitators and mentors. The inclusion of staff other than ex-military provides a balance and different experience sets which identified with the trekkers.  Sessions linked to this expertise provides advice and encouragement in a form which is perceived differently to that presented by the veterans.

 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 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.

27. 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 de-identified and used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

Partners

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

 Staff Debrief

29. A staff debrief was conducted at the conclusion of the trek to capture immediate feedback and comment.  Individual feedback was provided to the staff.  The comments will be reviewed by the Operations Director.

Program Viability

30. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact indicating a will to attend. This has worked well in SA where male numbers remain reasonably high but are diminishing.  However, with the experience of this trek, the inclusion of first responders added to the pool of experiences and the younger age of some of the participants was beneficial.  The inclusion of first responders is beneficial and does not detract from the outcomes.  In any case, to ensure that the program remains viable and continues to provide support to veterans it is necessary to:
a. continue to advertise the program, targeting those who need support,
b. focus on those establishments which are central to the clinical treatment,
c. convince the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of the benefits offered, and
d. ensure funding is available to offer the program at no cost to participants.

Finance

31. Some food was provided through Mick who was trek chef. Approximately $370 worth of bread, eggs and meat was donated.  The costs for food and other consumables averaged $25.70 per person per day.  Dietary restrictions add to the cost.  The donors have been acknowledged.

32. Sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires continual monitoring as SA funds are dependent on a number of irregular sources. Each October the Foundation raises funds through a major fundraising activity organized by Adelaide Exercise Physiology, the Veterans’ Support Walk. This was not run in 2020 due to COVID but hopefully will be run this year.

Trek Delivery

33. Participant numbers will continue to 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) and now among first responders.

Conclusion

34. 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 frank and disarming nature of trek staff creates an environment that facilitates honesty and openness from participants. This in turn aids self-management and recovery.

35. 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. Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants 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 achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

36. 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 of the Foundation philosophy which is supported by the staff. The experience 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.

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

38. The follow-up support among trekkers is immediately evident by the setting up of closed pages of the trek’s social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. This group has established their own closed FB page.

39. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans (and others). 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.

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

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REPORT: TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2020

REPORT:  TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2020

 

Introduction

  1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 13 to 18 September 2020. This was the twelfth year treks have been conducted in SA.  The remote location supports one of the key elements of success of the program, a peaceful setting in an ancient land, free from electronic, mental and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered
  2. Due to the devastating fires over the summer which had impacted many individuals; fire fighters and first responders were encouraged to attend through publicity and open information sessions on Kangaroo Island. This was a change in approach to the normal practice when first responders are taken more by exception. Twelve males, all from SA, attended.  Of the total, six fire fighters, one police officer and five ex-military made up the contingent.  The average age of the group was 40 with three being under 30.  This was a lower average age than usual and is seen as an advantage as younger participants appear to embrace new concepts willingly.  Participant comments and journals from the trek provide an early indication of significant positive shifts in thinking which occurred as a result of the program.  The three month Independent analysis following the trek has not yet been completed.

 Aim

3. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting, and positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships.

 

Objectives

  1. 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,
  • improve interpersonal relationships, and
  • enhance self-esteem.

Validation

5. Four standard psychometric instruments are administered to quantitatively evaluate the trek outcomes. These are:

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

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

6. Since commencement in 2009 each trek has been independently evaluated. This trek will also be evaluated using data collected at before, after and at the 2/3 months point.

COVID 19

7. Because of the complications caused by COVID 19, only one staff member from interstate (QLD) attended. This was manageable and the staff requirement was covered by SA based members.  A COVID Marshall was briefed and appointed for the trek.  He fulfilled the requirements and ensured that where appropriate, practices met the medical advice.  The most onerous task was the contact point cleaning when changes to the vehicle passenger lists were necessary.  Other changes were implemented with meal serving and delivery but no issues were too difficult to resolve.

 

PROGRAM DELIVERY

8.          Success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators.  During this trek three experienced facilitators were employed to deliver the fourteen formal sessions. Three mentors were also used to reinforce the messages.  When not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the campfire 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 for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.  Three participants from trek 2018 were utilised as mentors. The total number attending including base staff was 25.  Only one member required accommodation at Keswick Barracks on the night before departure.  This location is economical and safe for vehicle parking.

9. The total attending was 25 as follows:

10. The observer attended to understand and record the trek at first hand. He is employed under the DVA Community Grants scheme to study the program generally with a view to introducing additional sessions particularly as they relate to delivery and the impact on partners.

Location
11. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of the 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 Support
12. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. A satellite phone was on hand if the RFDS or medical advice was required. 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. An AED which was purchased as the result of a successful grant application added to the medical capability. In terms of risk management, the longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical issues arose.

Equipment and Vehicles
13. All equipment was satisfactory except for 8 of the cheaper folding chairs which have never been robust enough for the bush. As a result of a call on return, I was informed that they will be replaced by new stronger versions to be donated by one of the firefighters. Six vehicles were hired from Complete Ute and Van at a 50% discount and a 200 series Landcruiser and Hilux were loaned to the Foundation by Pioneer Tanks. This represents a saving of $5,200 in hiring costs.

14. A self-drive hire bus driven by two volunteers transported the 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 refers 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 apart from a cool 5-degree morning. The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks relatively stable. Some creeks showed the effects of 25 mm of rain in March which changed the landscape and creek lines in places. 4WD travel between locations was comfortable.

Communications
17. Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed-line communications were available through a link established at the shearers’ quarters but on this occasion, it did not operate. 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 was 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, Communications were 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 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 sufferers cannot be overstated. This is in accordance with the philosophy of the trek which is based on shared first-hand experience.

  1. Two new mentors were given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by experienced facilitators.  This is essential for staff succession planning.
  1. All facilitators are selected from past participants. These are normally 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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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 that 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.

  1. 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 de-identified and used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

Partners

  1. A Partner’s Handbook was 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

  1. A staff debrief was conducted at the conclusion of the trek to capture immediate feedback and comment. The comments will be reviewed by the Operations Director.

Program Viability

  1. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand-driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact indicating a will to attend. This has worked well in SA where male numbers remain reasonably high but are diminishing.  However, with the experience of this trek, the inclusion of first responders added to the vast pool of experiences and the younger age of the participants was beneficial.  The inclusion of first responders is worthy of discussion.  In any case, 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

  1. Before each trek, a media release is distributed. This year the release was distributed through RSL Care SA. As a result, the Mt Barker Courier and the Islander will each publish an article about the trek and its impact on those attending.
  1. No visitors attended the trek. The travelling 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.  Visitors will continue to be invited.

Costs

  1. The SA business community provided excellent support by way of consumables and food organized by Jackie McCandless who is a local Adelaide hills resident and Shane and Colin the trek chefs. Approximately $1060 worth of bread, eggs and other meat items was donated.  The donors will be acknowledged.  The CFS Volunteer Association has promised $5,000 to help defray attendance costs of firefighters.

Viability

  1. Sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires continual monitoring as SA funds are dependent on a number of irregular sources. Each October the Foundation raises funds through a major fundraising activity organized by Adelaide Exercise Physiology, the Veterans’ Support Walk. This year because of COVID this activity will be virtual.  The success of this is not guaranteed and may affect future SA funding.

 Trek Delivery

  1. Participant numbers will continue to 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
34. 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 frank and disarming nature of trek staff creates an environment which facilitates honesty and openness from participants. This in turn aids self-management and recovery.

35. 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. Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants 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 achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

  1. 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 of the Foundation philosophy which is supported by the staff. The experience 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 worldview.  From one of the journals,
  1. As trekkers return to their daily routines, the challenge for them is to practice and consolidate the strategies learned within their existing support structures with the additional layer of support from past trekkers. They are provided with a “Trek Bible” which contains a brief on all the sessions covered during their time on the trek.  Feedback is positive.
  2. The follow-up support among trekkers is immediately evident by the setting up of closed pages of the trek’s social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. This group established their own closed FB page.
  1. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans (and others). 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 treatments.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

_______

“Thanks, Moose, you have turned the light on I can see a better way of coping with my problems.  Trojan’s trek was the best thing I have ever done to help me with my problems with people that understand. “

 

40. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans (and others). 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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

Trojan’s Trek Foundation

30 Sep 2020

Distribution:

TT Board Members

Repatriation Commissioner

Minister for Veterans’ SA

Member for Mayo

Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC

President RAR Assoc SA

CEO RSL Care

CFS VA

Jane Abdilla SAFECOM

SA Police Association for Mark Carroll

Staff

,

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR ANNUAL REPORT 2020

Introduction

  1. 2020 was a difficult year because of bush fires in the eastern states and SA combined with COVID 19 restrictions. This prohibited running treks in QLD but because the situation had improved by September, a trek was conducted in SA.  QLD has planned to go ahead with the postponed trek on Morton Island in Feb and following that, hopefully, will revert to the normal program.

 

  1. Because the foundation has no significant overheads like wages, shop front, vehicles, or running costs, the lack of activity did not result in pressure on the bottom line which many businesses and not-for-profits felt. However, I do believe that the community is experiencing donor fatigue due to the wonderful response to the fires from the end of 2019 to Feb 2020 which may affect our future fundraising.

Fundraising

  1. The QLD Chapter continues to maintain excellent corporation support through QLD RSL and Bolton Clarke both of which contribute significant financial support. In SA, our support base is much more diverse, the major fundraiser being the Charity Walk which could not be held in its normal form this year because of COVID 19.  Consequently, donations were well down on previous years despite a good effort by Reuben through Adelaide Exercise Physiology (AEP) to conduct a virtual walk.   However, this was offset to a degree by donations from the 9 and 4 RAR Associations, the Country Fire Service Volunteer Association, Kensington RSL, and the Northern Chapter Veterans Motorcycle Club, and several individuals and small businesses.

SA Trek

  1. This year as mentioned, a trek was able to be conducted in SA in September because of easing COVID restrictions. Those attending were a different mix to the standard in that the participation of first responders, particularly firefighters and others affected by fire, were invited.  This initiative originally planned for March was not held because of COVID lockdowns but interest was then shown and retained.  Support for the concept was strong with HE, The Governor, SAFECOM, and the CFS Volunteer Association assisting with advertising and funding among them $5,000 was provided by the CFS Volunteer Association.  The final attendance figures were five firefighters, one paramedic, one police officer, and five ex-military.  The average trekker age was reduced significantly with five firefighters being under 30.  The very good outcomes certainly confirmed my opinion about old dogs and new tricks.

 

  1. Because of COVID isolation requirements, all staff was from SA with one exception. They performed well despite some having to deliver new material.  Although I am not yet in possession of the independent evaluation figures from Flinders University staff, reading the journals provides a forecast of a very successful six days.  Although the Foundation has always included first responders, the Board will discuss the potential of this new market as it impacts our stated objective.

 

  1. Moolooloo is on the market. I hope the new owners yet to be identified, will continue with the current arrangements.

 

QLD Treks

  1. As mentioned, no treks were conducted in QLD in 2020.

 

Services Demand

  1. As indicated in last year’s report v last year, the demand for the type of intervention provided by the Foundation has not decreased despite lower exposure to traumatic operational events overseas. This certainly appears to be the case in QLD where a greater number of ex-military personnel reside.  This trend will continue to be monitored.

 

Newcastle Beacon

  1. In October I received an email approach from a social worker who works for a support organisation called Newcastle Beacon which supports first responders and veterans. She asked if the Foundation was interested in establishing a presence as part of her organisation.  I asked her a number of questions related to the level of interest, local support and funding opportunities.  I have not received a response to date and it remains in the pending box.

 

Program Recognition    

  1. Efforts to have the value of the program publicly recognised by the Department of Veterans Affairs have continued throughout the year. The federal member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie MP, in July, wrote to the Minister, expressing her support and encouraging the Department to do likewise.   To date, no measurable outcome has been achieved.  Sadly, an appointment with the Repatriation Commissioner Mr. Don Spinks AM which was scheduled for 16 Nov in Adelaide had to be cancelled because of new COVID infections in SA.

 

Trek Attendance

  1. Individuals wishing to attend treks are self-nominating. This system works with the added benefit that most who follow this practice have recognised a need and come prepared to take action to correct unhelpful behaviour. Occasionally, trekkers attend because the program is recommended by their clinician or counsellor and as an adjunct to their treatment.  This process makes sense and is preferred to the sometimes laborious alternative of individuals dealing with the various POC.  It also appears to be beneficial according to the trekkers themselves who have added the trek to their treatment regime.

 

Accreditation Day

  1. The Foundation will continue to run what has been termed annual accreditation training. This is now possible with open borders with all states.  Next year it will be run in SA with the support of the 4th Military District, which to date has been most supportive with accommodation before and following treks.  However, I am conscious that this may change over-night.

 

Operations Director Role

  1. As part of the succession, I am in the process of handing over the SA Operations Director role to Eric Ford. I will remain on as the Operations Director, reporting to the board as a member.  I publicly thank Eric for his enthusiasm and interest in veteran matters.

 

Supporting Staff

  1. Finally, to our staff. To Margaret who diligently maintains the Foundation books and minutes to the standard required for the annual audit, thanks.  To our staff in both states, I thank and congratulate them for their input and achievements.  To the three points of contact, whose continual attention to detail ensures our profile in the market is viewed with efficiency, thanks.   To the webmaster, Rachael located in the US, also a big thank you. The website is busy but contains a lot of information which simplifies client understanding of what we are about.  It is our window to the world.  To Dave and Jono who have contributed two years as board members and strong supporters, thanks.  We appreciate the time we have been given by two busy consultants.

 

Conclusion

  1. After 12 years I am constantly amazed at the positive behavioural changes I have witnessed in the client group over this time. I credit these improvements to the diligence and credibility of the staff together with their dedication and professional performance. The beneficiaries from these interventions extend far beyond the individuals directly affected.  I refer of course to the families, partners, and children who are suddenly blessed with having a father or mother back.  And not to overlook the communities which also gain in the broadest sense.

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

19 Nov 2019

,

OBSERVATIONS OF A FIRST TIMER ON TROJAN’S TREK

INTRODUCTION

At my invitation, the following article is written by Eric Ford to record his feelings and observations as a first-time attendee on a trek. Eric is taking over the role of Operations Director SA from me. I will remain as the Operations Director for the Foundation. This trek had a slightly different mix of attenders in that first responders, particularly firefighters, were encouraged to take part.  This gesture was in response to the dreadful fires over the summer period in SA. Six firefighters and one police officer were in the group of 12. All were from SA.

OBSERVATIONS OF A FIRST TIMER ON TROJAN’S TREK

As a mental health nurse who had spent 12 years working in Ward 17 at the Repat and then at the Jamie Larcombe Centre, I have known of Trojan’s Trek for some years. I had also worked with Moose back in the 80s at the Reserve Command and Staff College at Hamstead Barracks and had been there when Dogs Kearney was the RSM. They are both essential elements of the trek.

When I retired, I contacted Moose to see if someone with my experience could be of use to the trek. He seemed to think so! So, having worked with Moose in the military, I felt ready to take part.

The trek is run at Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges of SA. It is a non-clinical adjunct to assist veterans and first responders with issues related to post-traumatic stress illness. These issues range from depression, anxiety, anger, drugs, and alcohol overuse, all of which inhibit the trekkers’ ability to function in his or her “normal” life.

The trek is a six-day bush experience with mentors and facilitators who have been trekkers themselves. As Moose would say they have walked the walk and understand the frustrations being experienced.

On arrival on day one, it was patently obvious that this group had problems. There was no eye contact and I sensed that they shared some common problems as they each introduced themselves. This was difficult for some as it was inevitable that the story of why they had joined the trek would resurface emotional responses.

Three nights in swags around a campfire would change that. Each day was filled with the delivery of sessions on subjects that inevitably struck a chord with the group. The trekkers spent time travelling in 4WD from place to place, talking, and sharing experiences and feelings with the three other passengers which included a staff member.  These periods permitted honest and frank discussion with the mentors and facilitators in the vehicle, and I suspect some had never told their story previously.

The evenings around the campfire also promoted the continuation of the frank non-judgemental sharing. Games were played in the evenings which made trekkers feel part of the group. By day three everyone appeared to be comfortable and open to the ideas and concepts put forward during the daily sessions. Each day was a cathartic experience as we moved from place to place in that beautiful ancient land. By week’s end, there was eye contact all round.

As a first-timer I was impressed with the attitude of the facilitators and mentors, knowing that they had been trekkers themselves. It was obvious that the trekkers gained from the experience with a few asking if they could come back as mentors. Does it work, this quote tells it all,

“I feel like I am about to cry but not for the usual reasons like I used to but because for the first time in as long as I can remember I am so happy so calm and so peaceful and I truly believe I have been given the tools I need to continue this journey of life outside of Trojan’s Trek.”

Certainly, I will be back, I regret that I did not put up my hand much earlier.

Eric Ford

Operations Director SA

,

REPORT: TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2020

INTRODUCTION

1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 13 to 18 September 2020.  This was the twelfth year treks have been conducted in SA.  The remote location supports one of the key elements of success of the program, a peaceful setting in an ancient land, free from electronic, mental, and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered.

2. Due to the devastating fires over the summer which had impacted many individuals; firefighters and first responders were encouraged to attend through publicity and open information sessions on Kangaroo Island.  This was a change in approach to the normal practice when first responders are taken more by exception. Twelve males, all from SA, attended.  Of the total, six firefighters, one police officer, and five ex-military made up the contingent.  The average age of the group was 40 with three being under 30.  This was a lower average age than usual and is seen as an advantage as younger participants appear to embrace new concepts willingly.  Participant comments and journals from the trek provide an early indication of significant positive shifts in thinking which occurred as a result of the program.  The three-month Independent analysis following the trek has not yet been completed.

AIM

3. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting, and 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 that will bring about positive change,
c. individual responses that are effective in achieving goals,
d. improve interpersonal relationships, and
e. enhance self-esteem.

VALIDATION

5. Four standard psychometric instruments are administered to qua

ntitatively 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.

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

6. Since commencement in 2009 each trek has been independently evaluated.  This trek will also be evaluated using data collected at before, after, and at the 2/3 months point.

COVID 19

7. Because of the complications caused by COVID 19, only one staff member from interstate (QLD) attended.  This was manageable and the staff requirement was covered by SA based members.  A COVID Marshall was briefed and appointed for the trek.  He fulfilled the requirements and ensured that where appropriate, practices met the medical advice.  The most onerous task was the contact point cleaning when changes to the vehicle passenger lists were necessary.  Other changes were implemented with meal serving and delivery but no issues were too difficult to resolve.

PROGRAM DELIVERY

8.  Success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators.  During this trek, three experienced facilitators were employed to deliver the fourteen formal sessions. Three mentors were also used to reinforce the messages.
Moonbeam's RestWhen not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the campfire 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 for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.  Three participants from trek 2018 were utilised as mentors. The total number attending including base staff was 25.  Only one member required accommodation at Keswick Barracks on the night before departure.  This location is economical and safe for vehicle parking.

9. The total attending was 25 as follows:

10. The observer attended to understand and record the trek at first hand. He is employed under the DVA Community Grants scheme to study the program generally with a view to introducing additional sessions, particularly as they relate to delivery and the impact on partners.

LOCATION

11. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast 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 SUPPORT

12. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. A satellite phone was on hand if the RFDS or medical advice was required. 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. An AED which was purchased as the result of a successful grant application added to the medical capability. In terms of risk management, the longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical issues arose.

EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES

13. All equipment was satisfactory except for 8 of the cheaper folding chairs which have never been robust enough for the bush. As a result of a call on return, I was informed that they will be replaced by new stronger versions to be donated by one of the firefighters. Six vehicles were hired from Complete Ute and Van at 50% discount and a 200 series Landcruiser and Hilux were loaned to the Foundation by Pioneer Tanks. This represents a saving of $5,200 in hiring costs.

14. A self-drive hire bus driven by two volunteers transported the 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 refers 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 apart from a cool 5-degree morning. The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks relatively stable. Some creeks showed the effects of 25 mm of rain in March which changed the landscape and creek lines in places. 4WD travel between locations was comfortable.

COMMUNICATIONS

17. Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed-line communications were available through a link established at the shearers’ quarters but on this occasion, it did not operate. 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 was available in the area for contact at greater distances by UHF.

PROGRAMME

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, Communications were 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 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 sufferers cannot be overstated. This is in accordance with the philosophy of the trek which is based on shared first-hand experience.

Dogs at Pendulum Wall

20. Two new mentors were given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by experienced facilitators. This is essential for staff succession planning.

21. All facilitators are selected from past participants. These are normally 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 that 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.

25. 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 de-identified and used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

PARTNERS

26. A Partner’s Handbook was posted to each partner during the trek. It is designed to deliver three key outcomes;

a. provide information regarding the trek and its intent,
b. provide the partners with some of the ideas and tools that the trekkers will be exposed to, and
c. encourage support for what may be new ideas and behaviours.

STAFF DEBRIEF

27. A staff debrief was conducted at the conclusion of the trek to capture immediate feedback and comment. The comments will be reviewed by the Operations Director.

PROGRAMME VIABILITY

28. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand-driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact indicating a will to attend. This has worked well in SA where male numbers remain reasonably high but are diminishing. However, with the experience of this trek, the inclusion of first responders added to the vast pool of experiences and the younger age of the participants was beneficial. The inclusion of first responders is worthy of discussion. In any case to ensure that the program remains viable and continues to provide support to veterans it is necessary to:

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

VISITORS AND MEDIA

29. Before each trek, a media release is distributed. This year the release was distributed through RSL Care SA. As a result, the Mt Barker Courier and the Islander will each publish an article about the trek and its impact on those attending.

30. No visitors attended the trek. The travelling 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. Visitors will continue to be invited.

COSTS

31. The SA business community provided excellent support by way of consumables and food organized by Jackie McCandless who is a local Adelaide hills resident and Shane and Colin the trek chefs. Approximately $1060 worth of bread, eggs, and other meat items were donated. The donors will be acknowledged. The CFS Volunteer Association has promised $5,000 to help defray the attendance costs of firefighters.

VIABILITY
32. Sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires continual monitoring as SA funds are dependent on a number of irregular sources. Each October the Foundation raises funds through a major fundraising activity organized by Adelaide Exercise Physiology, the Veterans’ Support Walk. This year because of COVID this activity will be virtual. The success of this is not guaranteed and may affect future SA funding.

TREK DELIVERY

33. Participant numbers will continue to 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

34. 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 frank and disarming nature of trek staff creates an environment that facilitates honesty and openness from participants. This in turn aids self-management and recovery.

35. 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.  Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants 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 achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

Moolooloo landscape

36. 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 of the Foundation philosophy which is supported by the staff. The experience 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 worldview. From one of the journals,

Thanks, Moose, you have turned the light on I can see a better way of coping with my problems.  Trojan’s trek was the best thing I have ever done to help me with my problems with people that understand. “ 

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

38. The follow up support among trekkers is immediately evident by the setting up of closed pages of the trek’s social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized.  This group established their own closed FB page.

39. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans (and others).  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 treatments. The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM
Operations Director
Trojan’s Trek Foundation
30 Sep 2020

,

REPORT: TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2019

Patron: His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Li AC Governor of South Australia

Distribution:  See below 

REPORT:  TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2019 

Introduction

  1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted at Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 15 to 20 September 2019. This was the eleventh year of treks conducted in SA.  The remote location supports one of the key elements of success of the program; a peaceful setting in an ancient land, free from electronic, mental and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered.  Fifteen males, of whom eight came from SA, indicated they would attend however illness and a panic attack left 13 participants to make the journey.  Participant comments and journals from the trek provide an early indication of significant positive shifts in thinking which occurred as a result of the program.

Aim

  1. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting, and positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships. 

Objectives

  1. 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) improve interpersonal relationships, and
    e) enhance self-esteem.

Validation

  1. Four standard psychometric instruments are administered to quantitatively 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.
  1. Qualitative evaluations are also measured through the entries in daily journals which are completed by the participants.
  1. Since commencement in 2009 each trek has been independently evaluated and from 2012 has been undertaken by Flinders University staff. This trek will follow the evaluation process.

Participants and Staff

  1. Of the thirteen participants, one was an ex NSW police officer, one a SA paramedic, two ex RAN, 6 ex-Army and 3 ex RAAF.   Four had been operationally deployed across one or more theatres.   The average age of the group was 55, outside the target age which aims at younger veterans.
  2. 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 campfire 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 for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.  Two participants from trek 2018 were utilised as mentors. The total number attending was 34.  Interstate staff and trekkers were accommodated at Keswick Barracks.  This location is economical and safe for vehicle parking.
  3. Staff                                                                                                                            Participants
                                             

This trek was the last for Dogs Kearney OAM who has been involved since the Trek’s inception in 2009.  A presentation to him was done on the last night of the trek.

Assistance

10. TAFE SA. During this trek four students from TAFE SA attended with the task of producing vision and sound which will be utilised to produce new DVDs for the Foundation.  They used their own vehicle and displayed sensitivity which enabled them to fit into the trek group easily.  At no time were they overtly noticeable and managed to capture some excellent comments and vision which will be used appropriately.

11. Supacat Staff. Supacat is an international company that provides support to the foundation.  This year the Managing Director (MD) offered two of his staff as general hands.  Both contributed at the base and in the bush. No doubt they will report their experience to the MD which will enhance the relationship.

Location

12. The trek is supported by a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 27 km northeast 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 travel and location is positive.

 Medical Risks

13. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. A satellite phone was on hand if the RFDS or medical advice was required.  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.  An AED which was purchased as the result of a successful grant application added to the medical capability.  In terms of risk management, 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. Six hire 4WD, two Pioneer Tank loaned vehicles and three personal 4WD were utilised to transport the staff to Moolooloo on Saturday. A self-drive hire-bus driven by two volunteers transported the 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 refers 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 apart from a 4 degree morning. The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a long 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. Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed-line communications were available through a link established at the shearers’ 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 was available in the area for contact at greater distances by UHF.

Program

19. The program is reviewed regularly to ensure relevant content. Enclosure 1 indicates the participant responses.  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, Communications etc were 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 its 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. Two new staff were given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by experienced facilitators. This is essential for staff succession planning.

21. All bar two of the facilitators are selected from past participants.  These are normally 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.All bar two of the facilitators are selected from past participants. These are normally 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.

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 that 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.

25. 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

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

Staff Debrief

27. A staff debrief was conducted at the conclusion of the trek to capture immediate feedback and comment. The comments will be reviewed by the Operations Director.

Program Viability

28. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand-driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact for each trek indicating a will to attend. This has worked well to date, particularly in SA where male numbers remain 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:
a) continue to advertise the program, targeting those who need our support,
b) focus on those establishments which are central to the clinical treatment,
c) convince the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of the benefits offered, and
d) ensure funding is available to offer the program at no cost to participants.

Visitors and Media

29. Before each trek, a media release is distributed. This year the release was distributed through RSL Care SA. As a result, the Messenger Newspaper offered to publish short stories submitted by participants.  To date, only one has done that.

30. No visitors, apart from TAFE and Supacat attended the trek. The travelling 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.  Visitors will continue to be invited.

Costs

31. This year judicious shopping and successful donation seeking reduced costs. For example, the average single meal cost was reduced to $3.01.  The catering staff is to be congratulated.

Other savings were achieved as follows:                                    Saving

  1. vehicle hire costs, less 50% granted by the hire coy,    $ 3418
  2. donated processed meats, and                                          $ 210
  3. donated 50 dozen eggs                                                        $ 300

Although not finalised at the time of writing, the trek will cost approximately $32K.

Viability

32. Sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires continual monitoring as SA funds are dependent on a number of irregular sources. Each October the Foundation raises funds through a major fundraising activity organized by Adelaide Exercise Physiology; the Veterans’ Support Walk. These funds are complemented by a number of other organizations, corporations, and individual donors. This year significant funding was received from Veterans SA, Supacat and a private donor.  A number of smaller donors also contribute and collectively this is significant. This support is much appreciated and vital for our ability to continue to conduct the treks.

Annual Trek Delivery

  1. 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

  1. The isolation and serenity provided by the bush and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying the content with impact. The disarming nature of trek staff creates an environment that facilitates honesty and openness from participants. This, in turn, aids recovery.
  2. 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 achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.
  3. 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 of the philosophy which is supported by the staff. The experience 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.
  4. As trekkers return to their daily routines, the challenge for them is to practice and consolidate the strategies learned within their existing support structures with the additional layer of support from past trekkers. They are provided with a “Trek Bible” which contains a brief on all the sessions covered during their time on the trek.  Feedback is positive.
  5. The follow-up support among trekkers is immediately evident by the setting up of closed pages of the trek’s social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized.
  6. 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 treatments.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.
  7. Further information about the Foundation and trek is available on the web site at www.trojanstrek.com

Operations Director
Trojan’s Trek Foundation
7 October 2019

Distribution:
Minister for Veterans’ SA
Member for Mayo
Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC
Supacat MD
TT Board Members 8
President RAR Assoc SA
CEO RSL Care
Staff

 

 

 

, ,

Programme Evaluation shows success of TT

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

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

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

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

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

REPORT FROM TROJAN’S TREK SA SEPTEMBER 2018

Distribution:  See below

Introduction

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

Aims
2. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting, positive, shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships.

Objectives
3. The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants, through group and individual challenge, achieve the following:

a. an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
b. exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
c. individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
d. improving interpersonal relationships, and enhance self-esteem.

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

a. Life Satisfaction Scale (HILDA) for comparison with Australian normative data,
b. Positive and Negative Interactions,
c. General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, and
d. DASS 21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

11. Staff                                                                                                                                                                                                                Participants: Blue (SA based)

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

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

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

15. During the trek, the 4WD vehicles were used to travel between locations. This is in alignment with the program logic which utilises the small group environment of the vehicles to prompt further discussions and reflections on issues as they surface following the sessions. This has been found to be so successful that staff refer to this practice as mobile consulting rooms.It also affords the chance to mix different individuals and staff with an aim to maximize exposure to others’ views. This has proved to be beneficial; many of the trekkers have remarked on the advantages of spending time in the company of a few individuals as opposed to a larger group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. The tenor of the week is relaxed yet highly focused on outcomes. This comes as a surprise to most of the participants whose expectations are for a course run along military lines. This is the antithesis of the program.

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

Journals


24. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal reflections on the various lessons of the day and the daily experience of the trek. This practice provides an opportunity to review and anchor the day’s lessons. Past trekkers have commented on the usefulness of this record of reflections as a reminder of the strategies and tools to use after the trek. With consent, the journals are used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

37. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans. The principles may also be applied to other vocations. The trek is unique, and may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

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

 

,

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT TO THE 2017 AGM

Treks and Outcomes

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

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

Frequency and Size

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

Staff

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

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

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

Funding

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

Partnerships

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

Patron

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

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop

Chairman
26 November 2017

,

REPORT FROM TROJAN’S TREK SA SEPTEMBER 2018

Distribution:  See below

Introduction

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

Aims
2. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting, positive, shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships.

Objectives
3. The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants, through group and individual challenge, achieve the following:

a. an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
b. exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
c. individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
d. improving interpersonal relationships, and enhance self-esteem.

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

a. Life Satisfaction Scale (HILDA) for comparison with Australian normative data,
b. Positive and Negative Interactions,
c. General Perceived Self Efficacy Scale, and
d. DASS 21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

11. Staff                                                                                                                                                                                                                Participants: Blue (SA based)

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

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

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

15. During the trek, the 4WD vehicles were used to travel between locations. This is in alignment with the program logic which utilises the small group environment of the vehicles to prompt further discussions and reflections on issues as they surface following the sessions. This has been found to be so successful that staff refer to this practice as mobile consulting rooms.It also affords the chance to mix different individuals and staff with an aim to maximize exposure to others’ views. This has proved to be beneficial; many of the trekkers have remarked on the advantages of spending time in the company of a few individuals as opposed to a larger group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. The tenor of the week is relaxed yet highly focused on outcomes. This comes as a surprise to most of the participants whose expectations are for a course run along military lines. This is the antithesis of the program.

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

Journals


24. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal reflections on the various lessons of the day and the daily experience of the trek. This practice provides an opportunity to review and anchor the day’s lessons. Past trekkers have commented on the usefulness of this record of reflections as a reminder of the strategies and tools to use after the trek. With consent, the journals are used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

37. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans. The principles may also be applied to other vocations. The trek is unique, and may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

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