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TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2022

Introduction

1. The 2022 SA trek was conducted for the first time at Alpana station from 18 to 23 Sep.  Staff deployed on 17 Sep to set up. This change follows the tenuous relationship with the new owners of Moolooloo, which resulted in finding a new base on Alpana. It marks the 14th year of running treks in SA. A reconnaissance of the new station was completed from 2 to 4 April 22 by 9 staff.  The program was rewritten to accommodate the new location.

Aim

2. Trojan’s Trek aims are to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting and positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships.

Objectives

3. The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants through group and individual challenges, 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.

Alpana

4. The station meets the program requirements, although the country does not contain places of general interest like Nuccaleena. However, it offers the following advantages over Moolooloo:

• 5 km south of Blinman town,

• Bitumen road access to the station,

• Continuous electric power generated in Blinman,

• Kitchen facilities superior to Moolooloo,

• Cool room available

• Hire rate negotiated to the same rate as Moolooloo, and

• Owners happy with our objectives

5. The Trek was advertised to include 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 third time the Foundation has conducted a trek targeting first responders.  This was a change in approach to the previous practice when first responders were taken, but more by exception.

Attendance

6. Eleven trekkers and ten staff attended the SA trek as follows:

7. Four ex-military attended, and two Victorians made up the group to 11. The group included 4 women, an aspect which was an advantage in sharing what may be different male/female opinions.

Accommodation 

8. Keswick Barracks provided accommodation for interstate and out-of-town trekkers. This again worked well thanks to Paul Wilton the POC and the support of the Chief of Staff 9 Bde.  The following events impacted arrival times for those requiring accommodation:

a. The Overland train arrival was delayed by 5 hours due to a tree falling across the line at Bridgewater, affecting the two Victorians’ arrival time,

b. The ferry from KI was cancelled due to poor weather. The member affected decided to fly, which ensured his arrival in time to catch the bus, and

c. The City to Bay caused Anzac Highway to be closed on Sunday morning, resulting in a circuitous route to enter the barracks.

9. Despite this, all managed to catch the bus, which departed on Sunday morning at 0800 hrs. The bus was hired self-drive, driven by two volunteers.

Vehicles

10. Eight 4WD vehicles were required for the trek. This number is needed as the staff deploy a day early, and the vehicles which are used during the Trek carry all back to Adelaide.  Six vehicles were hired from Complete Ute and Vehicle Hire at 50% of normal rates, a deal that the Foundation has with the owner Rob Davey. Rob has provided this support since 2014, saving approximately $680 per vehicle hire. Two vehicles were also loaned at no cost by Pioneer Tanks. The owner Tim Harper has supported the Foundation in this way since 2015, saving approximately $7,000 over time. An extra driver was required to ferry one hire vehicle to Alpana. The driver returned to Adelaide on the bus.

11. One vehicle sustained a broken windscreen on the way up, and one tyre was damaged during the trek.

Program

12. The program is reviewed regularly to ensure relevant content. The messages conveyed during the trek relate 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.

13. Daily journals also provide useful insight into the program’s power and how participants understand the content. 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.

Victuals

14. The non-perishable food for the trek is collected over a 2 to 3-month period by the chefs. Cheap prices drive their purchases. In addition to those savings, the following are suppliers who assist the foundation from year to year, depending on their situation

a. 60 dozen eggs from Blewitt Springs Egg Farm, Don and Laura Fell,

b. $150 worth of fine meats from Holco, Duncan Booth,

c. 20 kg of potatoes from SA Potato Company,

d. 25 kg of sausages from Stirling Variety Meats, Chris, and

e. $20 voucher and a box of mushrooms from Hallett Cove Coles.

Weather

15. The weather during the trek was generally fine, except on Tuesday afternoon, a very heavy shower released 23 mm of rain in the area resulting in a wall of water descending the Wokerawirra Creek.

Water rushes down a dry creek bed during a flash flood.

Assessment   

16. Following the trek, the trekkers were sent a trek evaluation sheet which is enclosed. Their comments and ratings are combined on the enclosure.  In short, all benefitted from the trek through their own evaluations.

Goal Achievement Scaling (GAS)

17. This trek again saw the use of the evaluation system introduced in April 2021 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 motivate the individual, particularly when they are functional and directly relate to real-life activities.  Its use will be retained.

Conclusion

18. The trek was successful in terms of feedback from those attending. The group worked well and quickly adjusted to the theme of non-judgemental in their discussions which were frank and honest.  As indicated earlier, four women attended as part of the group, and their presence enhanced the discussion.  Over the last three years, the mixing of gender has been adopted and has proved to be successful.

 

Moose, signature

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM
Trek Commander
27 Oct 2022

 

Distribution:

TT Board Members
President RAR Assoc SA
Repatriation Commissioner
CEO RSL Care
Minister for Veterans’ SA
President CFS VA
Minister for Emergency services SA
Chief Officer CFS
SA Police Association for Mark Carroll
DC DVA Adelaide
Veterans SA
Catherine Hutchesson CFS VA
Member for Mayo
DGO3 Mt Lofty Group
Staff

Enclosure. 1:  Trekker Evaluation Combined

 

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Trojan’s Trek Charity Walk 2022

After a promising start with over 200 registrations and numerous sponsors, the 2022 Trojan’s Trek Charity Walk looked set to break records!

The predicted bad weather (including thunderstorms and lightning) kept a few away. However, Mother Nature was kind and kept her rain clouds full until after the event had finished.

Belinda McKeown, a self-declared “army brat” with indigenous ties and a clear understanding of life in the Defence Force, gave an emotional and moving “Welcome to Country.” We were all touched by her words.

Our special guest and Patron, Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia, spoke before the start and showed both a keen interest in and understanding of what Trojans Trek is all about. The results achieved and life-changing tools learned on treks impressed her greatly.

And so the Walk began!! Runners, walkers, and strollers set off along the Torrens, hoping to beat the rain – and they did.

Winners were announced, awards were presented, raffles were drawn, auction items fiercely fought over, music and coffee were enjoyed, and delicious BBQ sausages were devoured … then the heavens opened!

A fabulous morning with amazing souls who helped raise around $18,000 for Trojans Trek, about half the cost of one Trek – great effort!

Special thanks to Reuben and his team from AEP Health Group for all their hard work organising the event and to our many sponsors and supporters for braving the weather and making the 2022 Walk such a memorable success.

Look forward to seeing you all (and more) again next year …

 

Sponsors

AEP Health Group

Pioneer Water Tanks (SA)

Operation Unity

Bolton Clarke

Silver – Ascendancy ABA

Silver – Edwardstown Rotary Club

Silver – TWU SA/NT

Silver – Unitech Building

Bronze – Wealth Evolution

Bronze – Defence Health

Bronze – Advanced Promotional Products

Bronze – Unifi Technology

Bronze – Johnston Grocke Group

Bronze – Police Credit Union

$750 – DVA Grant (Veterans Health Week)

Goods – North Terrace Tyres

Goods – Maine Beach

Goods – Mark Lobert Gallery

Goods – Running Bare

Goods – Trelivings

Goods – False Cape Wines

 

 

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OPERATIONS DIRECTOR ANNUAL REPORT 1 DEC 2022

Introduction
1. This report is both my Board report for SA and the end-of-year report to the AGM. The QLD report for the year will be presented by the Chair or Brendan.

2. The year has passed with difficulties related to the issues presented by COVID. This has been further complicated by the apparent reluctance of our clients to join an unknown group of individuals for a period in the bush, an attitude which I completely understand.

Alpana
3. The SA trek for 22 was scheduled to be run for the first time at the new location at Alpana station. The reasons for the relocation were outlined in my report last AGM.  To ensure that the trek was planned and re-written, a reconnaissance of the location was conducted by nine staff in April.  Following the recon, four members returned a positive result for COVID despite a negative RAT before departure.  One member from Tasmania could not travel home and was accommodated in a separate area at Keswick Barracks until clear.  This arrangement was most welcome given the alternative in a nominated Medi-motel or hotel would have been expensive.

4. In short, Alpana is satisfactory as a base. The country is not as spectacular and does not contain places like Nuccaleena, the Bushman’s Inn, or Hannigan Gap, but it offers other advantages at the base, which are a welcome offset. The facilities are superior, and power does not depend on running the noisy generator, which was the case at Moolooloo. There are other minor issues to be attended which will occur over time, making Alpana suitable. I am confident that it meets or will meet the Foundation needs.

SA Trek 18 to 23 SEP 2022
5. Eleven nominated to attend. The group included four women, an aspect which was an advantage in sharing what may be different male/female opinions.  This added another view to the discussions. The composition of the group was:

• Paramedics 3 (2 from VIC), 1 female,

• Ex-army 4, 1 female,

• CFS 2,

• SAAS volunteer 1 female, and

• Board Member 1 female.

6. Those attending included four ex-military, with the balance being first responders.  This appears to be the trend of late, with fewer military nominating.  The reason for that is not known but combined with the lack of combat deployments and the proliferation of organisations that assist veterans, it is probably the way of the future.

7. The trek was successful, and the participant evaluations which are available all indicate the group was assisted greatly in commencing their journey to recovery. It was also of interest to note that Goal Attainment Setting (GAS) was accepted as a good personal concept in supporting recovery. One member has had a setback since return, resulting in his admission to the Margaret Tobin Centre for a short stay.

Accreditation
8. The Foundation’s attempts to achieve some form of recognition from the Department of Veterans is a chapter filled with disappointment. Three previous notices of advice that the Foundation is not recognised as an ESO were challenged and dismissed.  However, following a recent application for a grant, the Grants Hub advised that the Foundation was not recognised as an ESO, therefore, not eligible to apply.  The reason was based on new conditions which categorically eliminated the Foundation.  The new conditions are as follows:

 Ex-service organisations (ESOs) provide day-to-day ongoing support to current and former ADF members.

 For the purposes of the VWG program, an ESO is an organisation that satisfies all of the below points:

 • has demonstrated direct links to the ex-service community.

has membership consisting primarily of veterans, past and present members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and/or their dependants.

is established primarily to provide compensation advocacy and/or wellbeing advocacy to veterans, past and present members of the ADF and/or their dependents.

does not charge any fee for acting on behalf of the veterans, past and present members of the ADF and/or their dependants in the provision of claims or well-being services.

has objectives that aim to benefit the well-being of its members.

 

9. My entries in red will be difficult to overcome. Contact with the Repatriation Commissioner, who understands our work, to attempt rationalisation of the decision has been to date, non-productive.  In his words, “he is snookered by the bureaucracy.”  The Foundation has the option to partner with the RAR Corporation, which I think will permit acceptance of applications.  However, this remains to be tested.

10. On 29 Nov, 2022, I will be speaking with Minister Geoff Brock, who is the state minister for Veterans, about several matters of concern, among them will be this topic. I hope to bring some up-dated news to the AGM.

NT Trek
11. This matter has not received attention over recent months because of other priorities. However, it is an issue that will be addressed in 2023.  I have reservations about the advantages of expansion at the moment because of the reluctance of DVA to support the Foundation supporting their clients.  A reconnaissance is planned for 2023 but a lot of prior work is necessary to establish whether financial support is likely from NT sources.  The position of the NT Administration related to financial support is not known.

Staff Training
12. Staff training, which prior to COVID was an annual event, has not been conducted for two years. This is disappointing but understandable. Training the staff is considered vital in maintaining the successful approach to recovering from stress illness. I can’t emphasise enough that the Foundation has developed a unique home-grown approach to recovery from the issues of mental health.  The independent evaluations confirm our success which in large part is because the delivery is by individuals who have walked the walk, not learned the theory.  They will be the target of the training weekend.

13. However, now with the relaxation of interstate movement and other restrictions, it is anticipated that staff training will be reintroduced in 2023. I addition, I have managed to gain a grant which will cover interstate movement to Adelaide for interstate members.  I anticipate that Keswick Barracks will be the location.  More on that next year.

Finances
14. Our financial situation is sound with good investments and return on our invested money. I refer readers to the Financial Report.  My thanks to John Grocke for his advice and assistance in our investments in the Australian Money Market and other funds. 

Acknowledgments
15. Finally, I extend my thanks to the staff. The field staff in QLD and SA have performed up to expectation, producing outcomes which other organizations strive to achieve over much longer periods. To my fellow board members, thanks for being part of, and directing the Foundation over the year. To the treasurer and secretary, a busy grandmother who makes the time to keep me off her back, many thanks. To our supporters, and there are many, I single out Reuben and his staff for organizing the Charity Walk which this year raised over $18,000, a great result.

 Patron
16. Many of us met our new Patron, Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia on 30 Oct. She attended the Charity Walk and spoke to the group en-masse and several individuals on the day.  She has a good understanding of our mission and success and has expressed a desire to attend a trek in 2023.

Conclusion
17. In conclusion, the Foundation faces significant issues with our relationship with DVA through the Grants Hub. This matter is particularly disappointing because of the Foundation’s successful years of operation assisting DVA clients in QLD and SA.  I add, all of the Foundation outcomes have been independently evaluated, a point apparently not understood by the Department.  If this attitude is maintained our funding opportunities will be limited which in time, may affect the financial viability of the Foundation.

 

Moose, signature

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

25 Nov 22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SUBMISSION TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO DEFENCE AND VETERAN SUICIDE

Preamble

  1. The Trojan’s Trek Foundation has been invited to comment in accord with the TOR subject listing. The list is comprehensive and includes several topics or areas in which the Foundation has very little experience recorded, and therefore no comments are offered.  However, those areas which, through the delivery of the intervention programs over 13 years in SA and QLD have provided a wealth of hands-on experience, the Foundation submits comments in two of the listings as follows:
  2. Existing services. The availability, accessibility, timeliness, and quality of health, wellbeing, and support services (including mental health support services) to the defence member or veteran, and the effectiveness of such services; and
  3. Role of NGO. The role of non-government organisations, including ex-service organisations, in providing relevant services and support for defence members, veterans, their families and others.

Background

  1. Trojan’s Trek Foundation (www.trojanstrek.com) commenced operations in SA in 2009 and was incorporated in 2013 in response to an identified shortfall in effective hands-on support to veterans suffering from stress illness.  The program expanded into QLD in 2015.  It is a recognised not-for-profit charity, has gift deductible status and is run by a board of six directors. The program was established to assist younger military veterans and first responders suffering from stress illness by taking part in treks. Although first responders have always attended, they were added as a target group was a result of the recent fires and other disasters over the 2019-2020 period which saw many first responders many of whom were ex-military, deeply impacted.  The experience termed a circuit breaker, provides a valuable adjunct to clinical and other alternates over a six-day, remote live-in program.
  2. The program was independently evaluated by ACPMH (now Phoenix) and UniSA in 2009, and in 2012 and 2013 by way of masters’ theses. The results were presented at the Australasian Military Medicine Conference (AMMA) in Adelaide in November 2014 and 2019.  The outcomes established new benchmarks for peer support.  This approach to stress illness is a valuable adjunct to other methods of treatment.  Several longitudinal studies looking at longer-term impacts on individuals have also been completed over time.  They have established that the positive impact of the experience was present after 12 months.  The Primary Health Network (PHN) a federally funded body, has also completed a 12-month evaluation which was completed in Oct 2019.  In 2020, the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) was commissioned by RSL Qld to write and publish a paper to determine the efficacy of the program. Having been peer-reviewed and published, it provides empirical, research-based evidence that the program is most effective.
  1. The results of these evaluations indicate that the Trojan’s Trek program promotes sustained improvements in depression, anxiety, stress, self-efficacy, and life satisfaction.  Each trek continues to be independently evaluated both qualitatively and quantitatively in QLD by GMRF and in SA by Flinders University Staff.  A simplified quantitative result before and after a 6-day trek is enclosed as an example.  It shows improvement in depression, anxiety, and stress, in 87% of participants with the others remaining at no change.  Other methods of gauging outcomes are being trialled.

Existing Services 

  1. Current Practice.  The mental health services which currently are devoted to well-being and support are based on the time-honoured practice of one-on-one counselling and pharmacology.   This is the gold standard, which is adopted in most developed western countries, of which Australia is one.  One of the contradictions in medical practice terms is that most one-on-one counselling rarely if ever, uses the term recovery.  And despite the occasional dropping of the letter D in PTSD, the practice has not changed, presumably based on the definition of the condition as a permanent “disorder”.  This often results in what our clients term the “revolving door syndrome”, which refers to the ongoing referrals experienced in the clinical approach.  This is generally non-productive and frustrating for individuals.
  2. Access to Services. One of the difficulties faced by individuals and GPs is the long waiting periods faced when attempting to access psychiatric services. In some cases, waiting periods of more than nine months are common.  Clearly, this is not acceptable, and these long stressful periods can result in triggers.

Trek Design 

  1. Because the staff of Trojan’s Trek has shared the same frustrations of our clients, they understand the difficulties faced by endless consultations with no endpoint in sight or referred to. To that end, the trek program which is delivered over a six-day live-in experience in the remote bush, includes a transition from victim to gentle warrior.  The trek, sometimes described as the start of a new journey in life, is the primary business of the Foundation. Women attend as a separate group, their preference.
  2. The treks are more cranial than physical and provide the setting and conditions under which participants will experience a lasting positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships designed to improve their lifestyle and community involvement. The thrust of the program, which is centred on 15 formal sessions, is improved condition self-management to result in a better more productive life.  It is designed to improve social interaction and contribute to a healthy lifestyle, resulting in better family and community members by equipping our clients with “tools” to assist in their recovery.
  3. Trojan’s trek is a circuit breaker; the Foundation does not have the resources nor intent to maintain contact which can be successfully carried out by existing organizations. Most individuals will benefit from some form of follow-up treatment on completion.  The differences between this program and conventional treatment may be summarized as follows:
  • It is culture-specific.
  • It encourages group identity and results in the formation of support groups.
  • It involves veteran to veteran, responder to responder delivery.
  • It utilizes the remoteness and isolation of the bush as part of a “live in” experience.
  • The program focus is on individuals transferring from “victim to gentle warrior”, and
  • The process includes partners understanding the illness.
  1. The impact of the trek on individuals can be gauged by reading the testimonials enclosed which are taken from daily journals completed during the treks. Longer term outcomes are referred to in paragraph 3 and all the studies completed confirm that the trek impact is present after periods of 12 months and more.

Cost-Benefit 

  1. Attendance at a trek is free ex Brisbane and Adelaide. The amortised cost of taking one individual on a trek is approximately $2,500.  Groups of 12 to 16, all of whom self-nominate, make up the normal participant group.  Depending on the level of financial assistance offered to supplement travel expenses, each trek costs approximately $35,000 to run.  A total of five treks per year are conducted in SA and QLD.
  2. These are significant costs for a small charity that receives very little Government support. However, when compared with patient costs for clinical care at approximately $1,500 per day, they pale into insignificance given the benefits.

Role of NGO

  1. Mental health is certainly impacting many more individuals than even 5 years ago and the suffers are now more prepared to seek assistance. Combined with COVID 19, the mental health support system is close to overwhelmed.   This has placed a strain on alternate support systems and some NGO have attempted to assist, some unsuccessfully.  However, there is a role for NGO to become involved in providing even simple MH first aid to supplement the system and this should be encouraged.
  2. Currently, it is understood that more than 3,000 organisation list that they provide support to the veteran community. The Foundation is aware of the work of some, but little independent evidence is available to indicate the value of the service provided.  RSL QLD appears to be the only organisation that has attempted to grade or measure the impact of various NGOs.
  3. NGO’s play a key role in supporting government-based services in three specific ways: additional resources, alternative approaches, and broader geographic availability. The sheer volume of Ex-Service Organisations (ESO’s), most of which are NGO’s, speak to the demand for additional and alternative resources.
  4. Many of our participants report having tried the numerous currently accepted therapies including, but not limited to, regular and long stints in mental health facilities at up to $1500/day, pharmacology, one-on-one counselling with a clinician, EMDR, ECT, etc. They will universally say that the experience provided by Trojan’s Trek is the best and most effective treatment they have had.
  5. The ability to utilise alternate therapies such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) as part of our approach has been a key to our success. While our clients are encouraged to listen and discuss, they take away from the experience what they consider useful for their recovery, nothing more.   Whilst some of these therapies are making their way into current clinical practice but they are still largely considered fringe, and not supported by clinicians.  Our most recent peer-reviewed and published results prove that the Trojan’s Trek programs are three times more effective than the ‘Gold Standard’ treatment of pharmacology and one-on-one counselling and are sustained after two months.
  6. Finally, the ability of NGOs to be nimble and responsive (without the bureaucratic restraints of a large organisation) means that organisations like Trojan’s trek are typically the first port of call for people who need an acute response. The fact that most government services are city-based also creates opportunities for regionally located NGOs to take up the cudgel. It is in these ways that NGOs provide a valuable adjunct to the current government-provided services.

Conclusion

19.   The workings of the brain and the impact which experiences have on behaviour, is an area about which new information is continually presented and investigated.

There is no doubt that traumatic exposures have an adverse impact on behaviour.  Almost all who suffer from stress illness exhibit unacceptable behaviour or periods of poor anger management.  This in turn results in failed relationships, which further enhance depression and anxiety. If behaviour can be changed to conform with what is termed “normal,” recovery by reversion to the norm can be commenced.

The way in which the individual decides or is persuaded to commence that journey is of no consequence as the program “does no harm.” That is to say, the decision to make positive change is up to the individual which results from the experience of the trek.  And if that attitudinal change is supported by simple tools and individuals who have experienced similar events and are supportive, there is a significant opportunity to implement positive gains to the benefit of the community, children, loved ones, friends, and those in other relationships.

Trojan’s Trek has achieved those outcomes over 13 years with more than 400 male and female clients benefitting from the intervention.

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

Please see the attached submissions:
Submission by Jake Sparrow
Submission by Dean Saddler
Submission by Lee Bailey
Combined comments

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TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2021

Introduction

  1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 11 to 17 September 2021. This was the 13th year treks have been conducted in SA and the first time meeting with the station’s new owners. 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. Treks are alcohol and recreational drug-free.
  2. The Trek was advertised to include 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. Fourteen males attended, of the total, six were ex-army, one RAAF, two police officers, and five firefighters. Over time it has been noted that many first responders have served in the military.

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
The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants through group and individual challenges, 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

4. This trek again saw the use of the system of evaluation introduced in April 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 individuals to participate in rehabilitation 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.

Daily Journals

5. 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 feed-back as well as a gauge of personal impact.

COVID 19

6. 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

7. The success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the sessions delivered by facilitators. During this trek four experienced facilitators were employed to deliver fourteen formal sessions. One of the facilitators and one participant were from QLD. 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 and other limitations. Keswick Barracks through the Chief of Staff, assisted with the provision of rooms.  This arrangement is most satisfactory, economical, and safe for vehicle parking.

8. 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 27 as follows:    

Location

9. 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.

Access

10. On arrival it was discovered that the keys to the quarters were not located where we were informed, they would be.  This meant that access to the ablution block and other areas was denied.  After searching external areas without success, it was decided that we would have to gain access to the homestead to attempt to locate the keys.  This was gained by slipping a blade between the striker and the door frame and releasing a window latch.  Another search had just commenced as the new owners arrived.   We explained our problem to the owners, Reece and Tarina, who also did not know where the keys were. After further searches the keys were located in the linen cupboard, thus providing access.  Since that time, a complaint from the new owners was received via the foundation email.  This matter is being investigated and a report will be submitted by 11 October.

Medical Support

 11. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First-line medical support was provided by a medic 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 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.

12. On the last day of the trek one of the participants was suffering from inflamed sinuses, a condition with which he was familiar. After telephone advice from the Hawker hospital, he was transported there for treatment.  He returned to the bush that evening and his condition improved over the next 24 hours.

Equipment and Vehicles

 13. All equipment was satisfactory.  Seven 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 significant saving in hiring costs.  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.

14. During the trek, the 4WD vehicles were used to travel between locations.  This is in alignment with the program logic which utilises the small group environment of the vehicles to prompt further discussions and reflections on issues as they surface 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 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

15. The weather was cold on two nights with the temperature dropping to below zero. Daytime temperatures were in the low to mid 20s which was optimal for trek delivery.  The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period following rain, but 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

  1.   Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman.  On this trek, fixed line communications were not available at the shearers’ quarters despite earlier requests to Telstra and advice that the service had been reconnected.   Outside contact and messages could be facilitated by using the station homestead phone.
  2. Radio. While in the bush UHF hand-held and vehicle-mounted radios were used for communications on simplex.  This year four new handheld UHF radios donated by Supacat were used.  They proved to be excellent, with good battery life and range.  Duplex on Channel 3 was available in the area for contact at greater distances by UHF.

Program

  1.  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.
  1.   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.

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 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.

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. For this trek four 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 that is perceived differently to that presented by the veterans.

Journals

  1. 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. Personal comment on the program content and processes are also gathered.  These are subtended as an enclosure.

Partners

  1. A Partner’s Handbook was posted to each partner prior to the trek. It is designed to deliver three key outcomes;
  1. provide information regarding the trek and its intent,
  2. provide the partners with some of the ideas and tools that the trekkers will be exposed to, and
  3. encourage support for what may be new ideas, and behaviours.
  1. Although the handbooks were posted on the Thursday before deployment, some of the books did not arrive until the trekkers were back home. This is a disappointing performance from Australia Post. 

Staff Debrief

  1. 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

  1. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand-driven; that is, individuals approach the point of contact indicating a desire to attend. This has worked well in SA where male numbers remain reasonably high but military nominations are diminishing. However, with the experience of this and the April trek, the inclusion of first responders added to the pool of experiences 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:
  1. continue to advertise the program, targeting those who need support,
  2. focus on those establishments which are central to the clinical treatment,
  3. convince the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of the benefits offered, and ensure funding is available to offer the program at no cost to participants.

Finance

  1. Approximately $600 worth of food was provided by our normal supporters. Approximately $390 worth of bread, eggs, and meat products were donated.  The costs for food and other consumables averaged $26.90 per person per day.  Dietary restrictions add to the cost.  The donors have been acknowledged.
  2. The 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

  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) and now among first responders.

Conclusion

  1. 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.

34. The role modeling exhibited by the trek staff, coupled with the credibility of being surrounded by others with similar lived experiences 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The follow-up support among trekkers is immediately evident by the setting up of a closed Facebook account. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized.
  4. 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 confirmed by Foundation experience.
  5. Further information about the Foundation and trek is available on the web site at www.trojanstrek.com


,

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

, ,

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 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. 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

  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 the 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 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.

  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 website 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 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. 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 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.

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.v 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 website at www.trojanstrek.com

 

 

 

 

 

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