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Trojan’s Trek Reports — QLD & SA

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

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

 

TROJAN’S TREK (QLD AND SA) 2015

Introduction

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

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

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3. The bush in SA was looking good having had about 70 mm of rain in the preceding month. Surface water was present in some creeks. The bush in Qld was dry although normal for that time of year.

 

Aim

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

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

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

6. These objectives have been reviewed and remain valid. The philosophy backing the trek is one which enables successful condition self-management resulting from changes in participant perception. This in turn changes behaviour and personal interaction in a positive way, and although these objectives appear simple in concept, the successful delivery depends heavily on the credibility of the advice given. Therefore the part played by the staff in the process cannot be over-emphasised.

Validation

7. In order to justify the program’s claims to successful outcomes, four standard psychosocial instruments were again used to measure outcomes.

They are:

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

8. These are completed on three occasions:

  • prior to the commencement of the trek,
  • Immediately following the completion of the trek, and
  • two to three months later.

Attendance

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

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

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11. Four serving members from 7 RAR attended the male SA trek as well as one ex NSW police officer. This is the third police officer who has attended a trek. His inclusion was due to a personal approach from his sister. Initial feedback has indicated that he benefitted significantly.
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12. All services were represented among the female attendees. For the second year, HMAS Albatross at Nowra nominated a past trekker to attend. Realising the benefits which result from trek attendance, the navy paid for travel from Nowra. Her contribution was valuable and appreciated.

Staff

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

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

Weather

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

Funding

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

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

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

Movement

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

    • One 13 seat bus to carry the team and one staff supervisor to Captain’s Mountain, the start point.
    • Six vehicles (3 x 4 WD vehicles and 3 x AWD Vehicles) were hired for the duration of the trek. These were supplemented by a Hilux 4WD owned by one of the mentors. The vehicle with the enclosed trailer was driven from South Australia.
    • At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Brisbane in the 4 WD vehicles.
    • Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS.
    • Eleven 4 WD vehicles; two towing a covered and an enclosed trailer, and one towing an uncovered trailer. These were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS.
    • At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.

18. The insurance excess which applies to hire vehicles in the case of accident remains a matter of concern. In spite of a payment of $33 per day per vehicle to reduce the insurance excess to the minimum in the case of accident, the excess remains at $2,500 (single vehicle accident) and $550 (multiple vehicles).

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19. Qld. The trek location is approximately 300 km west of Brisbane. The base was established at the SSAA Range complex which is 20 km west of Millmerran on the Gore Highway. The facility is well presented, has a full time curator, an industrial kitchen, dams and with a capability to cater for about 200 people. The property occupies approximately 400 acres which varies in type and relief from north to south. The property adjoins a national park and state owned forest covering a further 30,000 hectares to which the trek had unfettered access. The hiring arrangements with SSAA are most agreeable.

 

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20. SA. The trek established a base at Moolooloo HS Shearers’ Quarters which is 32 km NE of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies approximately 540 square miles of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km from Adelaide. Travelling these distances is time consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offset the disadvantages of travel. A trip of this duration also permits the participants to get to know each other en-route. The feedback from the participants on the location is positive.

Publicity

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

Journals

22. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal responses to the various lessons of the day and to make general comment on the trek. This has proved to be satisfactory from the point of view of progressive comment and also provides an opportunity to collectively review and anchor the day’s lessons. Although these comments are qualitative they do represent the perceptions of the participants at the time and are not always strictly in accord with the quantitative measurements gained via the psychosocial instruments listed at paragraph 7.

23. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and behavior management. Simple subjects; but the style and method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the messages much more powerful. There is no doubt having read the journals, that the live-in nature of the trek when shared with other veterans is a significant factor in the success of the program.

Medical

24. A doctor was not available in either state on this occasion but this was not considered a problem. Adequate coverage was provided as follows:

a. Qld. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Millmerran, approximately half an hour away by road from the base. First line medical support was provided by an ex-defence force medical member. A number of other staff are also qualified as senior first aiders. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Captain’s Mountain. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

b. SA. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.2 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a Victorian Ambulance Para-medic. He reported with his own vehicle and equipment. A number of other staff are also qualified as senior first aiders. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

Program Delivery

25. Program content in both states is the responsibility of the Project Director, Moose Dunlop. The delivery of the male program and most aspects of the female program is the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Dogs Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. Additionally a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Connie Jongeneel and Anna Sutcliffe. These treks again utilized the opportunity to provide further training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. A female RAN member who previously attended as a trekker attended 2015 as a mentor. It is hoped her involvement will continue.

26. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when delivered by a veteran as opposed to clinician in consulting rooms. This is completely
In accord with the philosophy on which the trek is based; that is veterans helping veterans with oversight of the tribal elders. This approach has been adopted over many thousands of years by other civilizations.

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

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

Communications

29. Telephone. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker and are patchy in the Captain’s Mountain area. However, telephone communications are available via a landline at the Shearer’s Quarters and at the SSAA Complex at Captain’s Mountain. A satellite telephone was available in the bush during both treks if an emergency arose. It was not used.

30. Radio. While in the bush, UHF CB hand held and vehicle mounted radios were used for communications on simplex. Duplex on Channel 3 is also available at Moolooloo for contact at greater distances by UHF.

Conclusion

31. There is no doubt that the isolation and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying opinions and promoting disarming honest comment from all concerned. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence, the trek was an outstanding success; this comment applies to both male and female versions. However, the realization that behavior affects relationships and behavior modification may offer an answer to an unsatisfactory personal life is just the start. In the opinions of the participants, they have universally achieved a number of goals and leave equipped to face the challenge. By their own admission, not only have the participants faced and discussed their problems frankly among the other attendees and staff, many have formed relationships which are based on personal and common problems.

32. For some this is the commencement of a long journey; understanding and further help will assist in their arriving at a better place. The real test will be to carry the determination into each individual’s domain and anchor that in their lives. It is desirable that participants form a mental strong point to which they can retreat before consolidation and continuation. It is this aspect of the total picture which requires much greater external support and follow-up from existing supporting networks.

33. One of the discoveries which more than half of the group became aware of was that they and their families have lived through personal problems thinking they were alone in their pain and frustration. All of the participants exchanged email addresses and intend to maintain contact and provide advice and assistance to each other. This internal bonding is proving most valuable in their respective journeys

34. Both the participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans. The principles may also be applied to other vocations. The trek may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.

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

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Moose Dunlop
Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) OAM
Program Director

20 October 2015

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

REPORT TO THE AGM 20 June 2015

Introduction

2015 is the seventh year of operations in SA and heralds the first year of operating in QLD. Since the first trek in 2009, the program has assisted 75 male and 16 female veterans adapt to life following deployments. These were all individuals with mental health issues resulting from service. The program outcomes have been independently gauged by two studies at UniSA and one at ACPMH, providing confirmation of our strong beliefs.

Activities
In 2014 the Foundation decided to conduct a female trek which was run in parallel to the male version. The separation was necessary because of significant differences in the issues facing women, allied with the fact that better outcomes were achievable with single sex groups. The female version was rated a success and 2015 will again see a male and female trek run in SA based at Moolooloo station in the North Flinders Ranges.

As previously mentioned a QLD trek will commence this year in August, run as a pilot trek to ascertain its viability and demand in that state. It will be based near the town of Milmerran on the Darling Downs 200 km west of Brisbane. The facilities of the QLD Sporting Shooters Association (SSAA) at Captain’s Mountain will be used as the base camp.

With the expanded program it is vital that the organisational structure is capable and a succession plan is developed, in particular to understudy key positions within the organisation. In short the 2015 commentary and highlights were:

– South Australia: The SA organisation currently consists of a Project Director, an administrative assistant and a treasurer. My overall responsibilities are to oversee the running and development of the SA and QLD treks. I am also involved in :
a. Speaking engagements to various service clubs and interested parties,
b. The provision of advice to government agencies as it relates to veteran matters,
c. Addressing the entire staff of Ward 17 at the Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne as a result of glowing reports from previous trekkers.
d. Attending fund raisers for the cause. One was a music gig at the Jade Monkey organised by one of past trekkers ($728) and another was the provision of six past trekkers who attended and assisted in the running of the Centenary of the Motor Car at Carrick Hill for Adelaide Rotary.
– Marryatville Primary School. Trojan’s Trek for two years has been the recipient of the sale of poppies made by the students of Marryatville Primary. This touching gesture has been organised by a veteran friend of the foundation, Ken Duthie. This year the project benefitted to the tune of $230.
– Uber Transport. I am pleased to report that I was contacted by Uber (the taxi organisation) who promised $1 for every taxi job on Anzac Day. Yet to materialise.
– Royalties. I also extend my thanks to John Schumann for the generous donation of the royalties from his recent CD, On Every Anzac Day.
– AEP Support. Reuben Vanderzalm through his company AEP, has offered to run the Veterans’ Support Walk on 25 October. This is our major fund raiser for the year.
– Assistant Staff. For the SA treks I have enlisted the support of two other staff who are responsible to identify, screen and fill each of the SA treks. One is based in the NT and the other in VIC.
– QLD. A QLD trek director has been appointed. He is Peter Keith who has been a facilitator with the Foundation since 2010. He is supported by an administrative assistant who was a trekker in 2011. The QLD Chapter, although independent in a fund raising sense, operates under my and board direction. Four trek staff will travel to QLD to assist and guide the first trek.
The QLD achievements to date are:
a. The formation of a team of seven individuals to load spread responsibilities,
b. A funding agreement for four years with RSL Care QLD with conditions,*
c. Media and financial support and advice from RSL QLD,
d. A close partnership with Mates4Mates QLD,
e. Excellent fund raising support from the 8/9th battalion of the RAR and the 1st Division Commander, based at Enoggera,
f. Running an annual fund raising event which was conducted this year for the second time raising $7500 approximately, and
g. Establishing a good working relationship with SSAA, National Parks and State Forestry staff.

At the field level the assessing and training of suitable individuals to assume roles during the trek is progressing well and will occur during the QLD trek. In SA and in QLD a number of past trekkers are fulfilling mentor roles and in time some will be suitable to occupy the facilitator positions.

Equipment and Assets
As a general principal, the foundation hires equipment and other necessaries rather than purchase. The foundation currently owns the following:
– 30 swags,
– 6 CB radios,
– an enclosed trailer,
– a St John’s off road first aid kit, and
– a number of bush suitable pots and pans and tables.
The swags are stored at the RAR Club at Linden Park and the trailer is stored at the home of the Camp Commandant, Colin Cogswell.

Finances
The Foundation is in a relatively sound financial position with the following balances:

– SA Chapter ANZ Trading Account $14,633.00. Westpac Term Deposit $123,853.00

*Continuing RSL Care support is conditional upon 80% of the participants showing improvement in 80% of the responses to the
4 Measuring Instruments

– QLD Chapter ANZ $12,849.00 with anticipated contribution of $60.000 from RSL Care (QLD) on 1 July. Additional financial support from RSL(QLD) is anticipated.

Affiliations

SA. Trojan’s Trek is open to partnerships and affiliations. Currently TT has an MOU with the RSL in SA. This is seen as beneficial to both organisations. Trojan’s Trek also retains good working relationships with a number of other companies and organisations in SA. They are:
– Adelaide Exercise Physiology,
– RSL Care SA,
– Adelaide Rotary Club, and
– Pioneer tanks.

Competition
Although no other organisations are operating in the same field with the same objectives as the Foundation, it is probable that some attempt to mirror the program could occur.

That observation is made based on the proliferation of well-meaning support groups which flourish in this space. This may tend to spread the resources more thinly and place greater pressure on funding. I look to our partners, in particular the RSL, to assume a greater more pro-active role in the product and in market education and outcomes.
Staff
This year 18 staff members will be used to run the programs. Of these the four main facilitators and the mentors are vital elements in maintaining consistent and effective delivery. Efforts continue with selection and identification of suitable staff to fulfil the succession plan. Four understudy facilitators will be assessed on the 2015 treks. I publicly extend my thanks to the staff, without whose support and skill, the program would be less effective. In short, these men and women achieve outcomes in six days which many clinicians could only dream of.

Outcome Measurement
Since the commencement of the program in 09, the requirement to produce independent evidence based outcomes was recognised. To that end on each trek, four standard psycho-social measuring instruments have been administered to every trekker on three occasions. These are;
– prior to commencement,
– immediately on conclusion and
– two to three months after completion.
This sequence provides the quantitative data for later analysis. In addition, personal journals are completed on a daily or more frequent basis progressively during the trek. These provide a good measure of qualitative gains, which are also important in the measurement of outcomes. Analysis of this data by UniSA students and undergraduates on two occasions indicates the effectiveness of the program even after a period of 8 months has passed. Trojans Trek is the only program of this type which I am aware of, which measures outcomes independently.

The Future
It seems that there is a continuing demand for trek services. I anticipate that a female trek will occur in QLD in 2016 as now happens in SA. It will be necessary to review our structure and processes in the near future to cater for increased workload and staffing requirements.

Conclusion
The program is running well and provides valuable advice and assistance to veterans. The method of delivery is different and in many cases more effective than other means. The staff provide outstanding delivery and the results reflect that. Although the program charter does not provide for follow-up support, most of the facilitators provide a welcome shoulder to the trekkers long after the trek has concluded. In addition, social media fills a necessary link to the past enlightenment for many.

Moose Dunlop OAM
Program Director
15 June 2015

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VETERANS’ SUPPORT WALK thanks for your support!

The day dawned with lots of black clouds and the threat of rain imminent. But our concerns were unfounded. Overcast, 24 degrees, an ideal day for a stroll or run round the 5 km track Trevor Atkins had marked out round the Torrens Lake. The sponsors were committed, the coffee was brewing, and the barbeque was warming as they set off.

The serious runners blasted out of the blocks keen to compete for the $100 male and female prizes. The rest, all 120, with dogs and children at foot moved off as a wave of support for the concept of veterans helping veterans. It was not long before the first male and female runners completed the course to the accolades of the injured, the workers and the lazy. Well done to the winners, a special thanks to the first lady home, Catherine May who donated her prize money back to the cause.
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After a period of indulgence at the Metro Fire Service & 9 RAR sausage sizzle, Kevin Scarce ex SA Governor, drew the big raffle.

The prize winners were:
FIRST PRIZE: Rod Graham, a Battle Field Tour to Vietnam for two to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in that war;
SECOND PRIZE: Robert Day OAM, a Big TV,
THIRD PRIZE: $250 Mr Stait from Wagga Wagga and
FOURTH PRIZE: Greg Hallam, a selection of fine SA parliamentary wine.

All in all a successful day which will underpin future operations. Moose and the board extend their sincere thanks for your involvement on the day with a special mention extended to the great sponsors of the event.

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Trojan’s Trek on Lateline.

2014 was the first time Trojan’s Trek expanded into female veterans. We had a overwhelming response. The ABC’s Lateline programme was there to film it. Reporter, Ginny Stein; cameraman, Brant Cummings; presenter, Steve Cannane.

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TROJAN’S TREK; THE FEMALE EXPERIENCE

On Sunday 21 September 2014, a gathering of 16 women and two facilitators met up in Adelaide to take part in a complete unknown. They were a collective of women who had been finding it tough to live a normal life due to ill health, physical injury or issues related to military service. Most of the women hadn’t met before and they were about to participate in a pilot program for Trojan’s Trek sisters.  This was to be a national, if not world first program, in recognition of various traumas suffered by women who have volunteered to serve their country in the Australian Defence Force.

The Trek is a 6 day outdoor experience in the North Flinders Ranges on Moolooloo Station. The women were based at the Blinman Hut, a small remote stone hut, yet adequately serviced with running hot and cold water and toilet facilities. To say that the women were anxious, would be a massive understatement as fear of the unknown and loss of control in a challenging situation are the enemies of most women, let alone women suffering.

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A set of sisterly virtues was adopted which in turn set the scene for the duration of the trek. That basic connection was made with each individual and holistically as a group. Every woman was individually supported and allowed to be themselves in a safe and secure environment with the knowledge that they could choose to discuss their personal story if they so desired. All had equal opportunity to “spill their guts of burden” and be no longer judged for a past that wasn’t their fault.  All took that opportunity in some way shape or form with support, validation and recognition that their story was worth telling. As a result, all felt no longer the need to carry the load that they had personally been holding within for a very long time.

To place a dollar value on the return of self-worth and empowerment is just not possible. To allow a woman to choose a release from a past in which she has been trapped is priceless! To show them that care and compassion can exist in such a raw and rugged environment is an experience that will resonate with them for life!  I know for a fact that there are now 16 women carrying a lighter load due to our week in the bush.  Sixteen sisters with spirit and new hope for change facing the future. It is a cause and awareness of the needs of service women which is long overdue. It has shown the way and given the participants the choice of “living versus existing”.

This program needs to continue and be funded accordingly for all of the reasons that I have stated above, no ifs or buts.  There is no price on saving a human life and empowering a person again with unity, purpose and cause! This is a very real issue and after all we are someone’s sister, mother, aunt and friend!

Anna Ventry-Sutcliffe

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TROJAN’S TREK 2014, A FIRST FOR WOMEN VETERANS

This year’s trek was unusual in that it was the first time a women’s team had been included and the first such project run in Australia, perhaps the world. The decision was one carefully considered by the board and in the end it became obvious having gained the responses from a number of women that it was overdue and necessary.

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Overdue, because it was inequitable that they had been excluded to date; and necessary because it appeared that women’s needs are not considered different but lumped in with the male solutions when a separate approach was required.

One of the very useful outcomes from the male treks has been the strength of the relationships formed between trekkers. In some ways this is a side benefit from the trek, and although it was forecast to occur to some degree, the very useful and practical value of these friendships should not be underestimated. Predictably that would, and did happen among the women. However it was surprising to find that prior to the trek, many of the women lived a lonely life with few friends to share personal concerns. This was a contradiction to some conventional views regarding female habits, but on reflection it is reinforcement that women tend to “suck it up” and get on with things in spite of.

What additional aspects were necessary to cater for a female team? Should presentations be different, would the approach which had been used for the men work, could they swag it in the bush as the males had done, would the program content require review, what gender should the primary facilitators be, could it be funded and so on? These were some of the topics considered during the planning phase.

Did we get it right? Time will tell but initial assessments indicate it would seem so.

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TROJAN’S TREK 2014 — REPORT FROM THE GROUND

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

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

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

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

  1. an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
  2. exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
  3. individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
  4. improving interpersonal relationships, and
  5. enhance self-esteem.

Validation
5. In order to justify the program’s claims to successful outcomes, four standard psychosocial instruments have been administered since trek one in 2009.

They are:

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

6. These are completed on three occasions:

  1. prior to the commencement of the trek,
  2. Immediately following the completion of the trek, and
  3. two to three months later.

7. In some respects these instruments are repetitive, verging on annoying for those compiling, but efforts to identify more appropriate tools through the Psychology Faculty of UniSA and VVCS have not met with success. There are obvious benefits in maintaining use of the current measurements which can be directly compared with earlier data, therefore at this time no changes are predicted in the short term.

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

Participants
9. Male. As in previous years final numbers were not confirmed until two weeks before the trek. This late but unavoidable as one of the base tenets of involvement is that the participants must volunteer to attend. Many of the male participants were lacking in self-confidence and had low self-esteem. It is true that the stigma surrounding mental health exist in the community, particularly for male members. It is therefore difficult to gain an early commitment to take part in an activity which may be conducted a long way from home and from which withdrawal is difficult once commenced. In addition, because participants will probably be unknown to each other, the course of least resistance can be failure to attend. No pressure is placed on any of those who wish to be involved. The profiles of those who attended were as follows:

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Following a request from VicAmb, two of their members were short listed to attend if vacancies became available.

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

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Staff

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

Team Composition

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

Participant Identification

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

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

Accommodation

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

Hire Vehicles

15. Because of the state of the roads in the area of the trek, the use of 4WD vehicles is necessary. This mode of travel offers an additional benefit, in that during transit from one location to the next, it is the practice for one staff member to travel with three participants in each vehicle. This provides the opportunity for further discussion related to the presentation just concluded or in fact to any other issue which surfaces. And that happens so frequently the staff refer to the practice as moving in “mobile consulting rooms.” It also affords the chance to mix different individuals and staff with an aim to maximize exposure to others’ views. This has proved to be beneficial. This year a cheaper vehicle hire deal was arranged with Complete 4WD Hire and two vehicles were again kindly loaned by Pioneer Tanks of Norwood.

Program Delivery

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

Selection

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

Organization

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

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

Visitors

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

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

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

21. The insurance excess which applies to hire vehicles in the case of accident remains a matter of concern. In spite of a payment of $33 per day per vehicle to reduce the insurance excess to the minimum in the case of accident, the excess remains at $2,500 (single vehicle accident) and $550 (multiple vehicles). No claims were necessary. There appears to be no way to avoid this exposure.

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

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

Location
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24. The trek established a base at Moolooloo HS Shearers’ Quarters which is 32 km NE of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies approximately 540 square miles of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km. Travelling these distances is time consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offset the disadvantages of travel. A trip of this duration also permits the participants to get to know each other en-route. The feedback from the participants on the location is positive.

Publicity

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

Journals

26. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal responses to the various lessons of the day and to make general comment on the trek. This has proved to be satisfactory from the point of view of progressive comment and also provides an opportunity to collectively review and anchor the day’s lessons. Although these comments are qualitative they do represent the perceptions of the participants at the time and are not always strictly in accord with the quantitative measurements gained via the psychosocial instruments listed at paragraph 5. This is considered to be a limitation of the tools used to measure change.

27. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and behavior management. Simple subjects; but the style and method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the messages much more powerful. There is no doubt that the live-in nature of the trek when shared with other veterans is a significant factor in the success of the program.

Weather

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

Staff Debrief

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

Internal Evaluation

30. On the last night of the trek a ’tick and flick’ survey was issued and completed by the participants. The questions were aimed at an immediate response to the trek and were primarily designed to gauge how the course was conducted, the efficiency of the administration as well as an opportunity to comment on the content.

Communications

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

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

Medical

33. A doctor was not available for this trip. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.2 hours away. First line medical support was provided by an ex-defence force member who is now with the Victorian Ambulance service as a Para-medic. He arrived fully equipped with his own vehicle and equipment. He undertook training in CPR for the teams. A number of other staff are also qualified as senior first aiders. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

Staff

34. The delivery of the male program and some aspects of the female program was the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Robert Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. Additionally a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Connie Jongeneel and Anna Sutcliffe. Their collective credibility and insight made for interesting and varied sessions which carry a common message presented in a unique way in a different environment. This trek was again utilized to provide training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. Two mentors were placed with the female team and one with the male team. All performed well.

35. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when delivered by a veteran as opposed to clinician in consulting rooms. This is completely in accord with the philosophy on which the trek is based; that is older veterans helping younger veterans. In other words, the tribal elders provide advice and encouragement to the young. This approach has been adopted over many thousands of years by other civilizations and in today’s society is adopted by alcoholics and gamblers.

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

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

Follow-up

38. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. It also would be beneficial if an organization with greater resources could become actively involved in follow-up. This year the Director of VVCS advised he would be present at the conclusion in Adelaide. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend at the last minute.

Future Issues

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

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

Conclusion

40. There is no doubt that the isolation and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying opinions and promoting disarming honest comment from all concerned. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence, the trek was an outstanding success; this comment applies to both male and female versions. However, the realization that behavior affects relationships and behavior modification may offer an answer to an unsatisfactory personal life is just the start. In the opinions of the participants, they have universally achieved a number of goals and leave equipped to face the challenge. By their own admission, not only have the participants faced and discussed their problems frankly among the other attendees and staff, many have formed relationships which are based on personal and common problems.

41. For some this is the commencement of a long journey; understanding and further help will assist in their arriving at a better place. The real test will be to carry the determination into each individuals’ domain and anchor that in their lives. It is desirable that participants form a mental strong point to which they can retreat before consolidation and continuation. It is this aspect of the total picture which requires much greater external support and follow-up from existing supporting networks.

42. One of the discoveries which more than half of the group became aware of was that they and their families have lived through personal problems thinking they were alone in their pain and frustration. All of the participants exchanged email addresses and intend to maintain contact and provide advice and assistance to each other. This internal bonding is proving most valuable in their respective journeys.

43. Both the participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans. The principles may also be applied to other vocations. The trek may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.

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

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Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop (Retd) OAM
Program Director

15 October 2014

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

SA RSL FORMS PARTNERSHIP WITH TROJAN’S TREK

The South Australian RSL today announced the forming of a partnership with Trojan’s Trek.

RSL CEO Sam Jackman said that RSL had decided that due to the excellent results which the program has achieved over the past 5 years in assisting young male veterans, the RSL had thrown their corporate weight behind the initiative.

In addition, she was pleased that the RSL was able to assist at a time of program expansion to include a parallel female program.

This is the second time this year the RSL has supported worthwhile local initiatives designed to assist contemporary veterans returning to life following combat deployments.

Why Trojan’s Trek Works

Kendall Bird followed the progress of veterans on Trojan’s Trek as part of her Master’s Degree in Psychology at UniSA. This is what she discovered.
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When I started my evaluation of Trojan’s Trek, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. There’s no quick fix’ when you are suffering. Change is often deeper, more meaningful and more complex. My question was this: can outdoor peer support work as a part of therapy for veterans? Trojan’s Trek is a good example. It takes
veterans with mental health stress on a trek’ in the Northern Flinders Ranges where they are exposed to outdoor activities, with support for targeted self-reflection and learning by peers.

Through self-completed questionnaires, a substantial shift and sustained improvement in their mental health and wellbeing was seen, with much lower depression, anxiety and stress and greater life satisfaction and self-efficacy by the end of their time away. These outcomes were maintained even two months after completing the Trek.

Studies in the USA have found that veterans fare better when they have access to peer support. The USA, Canada and the UK all have peer-based services for veterans in some form. Canada, in particular, has integrated the approach with national veterans’ services.

For the men who took part in the 2011 and 2012 Royal Australian Regiment Association (SA) Trojan’s Trek, I saw remarkable results. Through self-completed questionnaires, a substantial shift and sustained improvement in their mental health and wellbeing was seen, with much lower depression, anxiety and stress and greater life satisfaction and self-efficacy by the end of their time away. These outcomes were maintained even two months after completing the Trek.

In general, the men started the Trek with extremely low levels of wellbeing, and left with much higher levels of mental health and satisfaction with life. That’s impressive, I thought. This is a big deal.
Why Trojan’s Trek Works

I was also privileged to read veterans’ diaries from the Trek. It was clear that change happened because they were immersed’ with new-found mates for six days. Sharing the experience of change with others who understood was the key: they could make greater sense of the past and look forward to the future with a greater sense of personal power in their lives.

While peer support can have its pitfalls, when it’s well-managed and structured the approach is promising. There’s something real, something meaningful. If it means one more veteran taking that step to seek more help, or one less suicide, or one more veteran who makes the transition out of the military with less mental pain and panic, then it has to be worthwhile. It’s an ideal approach that can work alongside other
therapies.

As one veteran said: Really, what some of us have done is put into practice a lot of concepts our medical practitioners have been talking to us about.’

Kendall Bird presented her findings at the Australasian Military Medicine Association National Conference held in Adelaide in November. Full research results are due to be published in a Special Edition on Australian Mental Health early in 2014. A link will be available via the RSL-SA & NT website.

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Trojan’s Trek on Lateline

Recently the ABC’s Lateline programme was extremely generous to give us 20 mins of national airtime. You can read the transcript here or watch the video below.

Many thanks to Anne Blake for the video