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REPORT: TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2020

REPORT:  TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2020

 

Introduction

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

 Aim

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

 

Objectives

  1. The objectives of the trek are to assist the participants through group and individual challenge, achieve the following:
  • an understanding of how thoughts and feelings influence behaviour,
  • exposure to various strategies which will bring about positive change,
  • individual responses which are effective in achieving goals,
  • improve interpersonal relationships, and
  • enhance self-esteem.

Validation

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

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

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

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

COVID 19

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

 

PROGRAM DELIVERY

8.          Success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators.  During this trek three experienced facilitators were employed to deliver the fourteen formal sessions. Three mentors were also used to reinforce the messages.  When not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the campfire and during 4WD vehicle movement. This interaction of staff with small groups of participants assists in building trust and reinforcing messages. The trek utilised local and interstate staff to achieve a blend of skills and experience. All staff departed Adelaide for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.  Three participants from trek 2018 were utilised as mentors. The total number attending including base staff was 25.  Only one member required accommodation at Keswick Barracks on the night before departure.  This location is economical and safe for vehicle parking.

9. The total attending was 25 as follows:

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

Location
11. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of the country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km from Adelaide. Travelling these distances is time-consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offsets the disadvantages of travel. A trip of this duration also permits the participants to get to know each other en-route. The feedback from the participants on the travel and location is positive.

Medical Support
12. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. A satellite phone was on hand if the RFDS or medical advice was required. First line medical support was provided by a paramedic based with the team. First aid kits were also available and a number of the staff were qualified St John, Apply First Aid. An AED which was purchased as the result of a successful grant application added to the medical capability. In terms of risk management, the longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical issues arose.

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

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

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

Weather
16. The weather was optimal for trek delivery with no temperature extremes apart from a cool 5-degree morning. The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks relatively stable. Some creeks showed the effects of 25 mm of rain in March which changed the landscape and creek lines in places. 4WD travel between locations was comfortable.

Communications
17. Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed-line communications were available through a link established at the shearers’ quarters but on this occasion, it did not operate. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose. It was not required.

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

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

  1. Two new mentors were given the opportunity to continue to develop their skills assisted by experienced facilitators.  This is essential for staff succession planning.
  1. All facilitators are selected from past participants. These are normally individuals who found the trek so powerful they decided to take the opportunity to assist in program delivery. Those who have accepted this responsibility describe their continuing gains from attendance by assisting in the transformation of the lives of others.
  2. The tenor of the week is relaxed yet highly focused on outcomes. This comes as a surprise to most of the participants whose expectations are for a course run along military lines. This is the antithesis of the program.
  1. The inclusion of staff other than ex-military provides a balance and different skill sets. Sessions linked to this expertise provide advice and encouragement in a form that is perceived differently to that presented by the veterans.

 Journals

24. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal reflections on the various lessons of the day and the daily experience of the trek. This practice provides an opportunity to review and anchor the day’s lessons.

  1. Past trekkers have commented on the usefulness of this record of reflections as a reminder of the strategies and tools to use after the trek. With consent, the journals are de-identified and used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

Partners

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

Staff Debrief

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

Program Viability

  1. The Trojan’s Trek program is demand-driven; that is, individuals approach the points of contact indicating a will to attend. This has worked well in SA where male numbers remain reasonably high but are diminishing.  However, with the experience of this trek, the inclusion of first responders added to the vast pool of experiences and the younger age of the participants was beneficial.  The inclusion of first responders is worthy of discussion.  In any case, to ensure that the program remains viable and continues to provide support to veterans it is necessary to:
  • continue to advertise the program, targeting those who need our support,
  • focus on those establishments which are central to the clinical treatment,
  • convince the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of the benefits offered, and
  • ensure funding is available to offer the program at no cost to participants.

Visitors and Media

  1. Before each trek, a media release is distributed. This year the release was distributed through RSL Care SA. As a result, the Mt Barker Courier and the Islander will each publish an article about the trek and its impact on those attending.
  1. No visitors attended the trek. The travelling time by road required for visitors to attend the trek is a challenge.  Past visitors have reported they gained an enhanced understanding of the power of the program and the significant benefits gained by participants.  Visitors will continue to be invited.

Costs

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

Viability

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

 Trek Delivery

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

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

35. The role modeling exhibited by the trek staff, coupled with the credibility of being surrounded by others with similar lived experience allows participants to talk openly. Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants recognize and acknowledge past thoughts and behaviors and how they have contributed to their present situation. They then develop a clear sense of hope and self-efficacy, as the realization that other ways of coping are possible and achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

  1. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence and the qualitative feedback from the journals, the trek achieved the objectives. This was gained through the pursuit of the Foundation philosophy which is supported by the staff. The experience is intended as a circuit-breaker.  Following the trek participants describe having a new understanding of their choices in thinking and behaviour, a shift in their worldview.  From one of the journals,
  1. As trekkers return to their daily routines, the challenge for them is to practice and consolidate the strategies learned within their existing support structures with the additional layer of support from past trekkers. They are provided with a “Trek Bible” which contains a brief on all the sessions covered during their time on the trek.  Feedback is positive.
  2. The follow-up support among trekkers is immediately evident by the setting up of closed pages of the trek’s social media accounts. This aspect of the experience is important if the impact of the trek is to be maximized. This group established their own closed FB page.
  1. The participants and staff believe that there is an ongoing role for programs of this nature for veterans (and others). The principles may also be applied to other vocations. The trek is unique and may not suit every veteran, but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatments.  The efficacy of peer to peer programs is now well established in academic literature.

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

Trojan’s Trek Foundation

30 Sep 2020

Distribution:

TT Board Members

Repatriation Commissioner

Minister for Veterans’ SA

Member for Mayo

Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC

President RAR Assoc SA

CEO RSL Care

CFS VA

Jane Abdilla SAFECOM

SA Police Association for Mark Carroll

Staff

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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.

Fund Raising

  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

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TOUGH YEAR

The year 2020 will go down in the annals of many not for profits as a dog of a year.  Not only was the impact of COVID 19 extremely significant in curtailing activity but add to that the dreadful fires in the eastern states and SA and one sees a fund-raising bottom line which is not impressive.  The community response to the fires was nothing short of exceptional both before and after the COVID impact and most deserving.  However, predictably other fund-raising efforts were made more difficult due to donor fatigue and other more pressing needs.

Because of social distancing Trojan’s Trek could not conduct the annual Charity Walk fundraiser in SA, instead, organised by Reuben Vanderzalm, a virtual walk was held during October.  It was successful but fell short of our usual target.  A dedicated group of AEP gym attendees encouraged by Caelum decided to make the effort to wring out a little more by running a special gym session.  Eight gathered early on 30 October (Veterans’ Health Week) at the Daws Road gym for a dedicated workout to aid the cause raising $555.  The oldest Charity Walk T-shirt competition was won by Brian with a 2013 model. My sincere thanks go to the group for their dedicated welcome support.

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

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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

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REPORT: TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2020

INTRODUCTION

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

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

AIM

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

OBJECTIVES

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

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

VALIDATION

5. Four standard psychometric instruments are administered to qua

ntitatively evaluate the trek outcomes.   These are:

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

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

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

COVID 19

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

PROGRAM DELIVERY

8.  Success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the messages delivered by facilitators.  During this trek, three experienced facilitators were employed to deliver the fourteen formal sessions. Three mentors were also used to reinforce the messages.
Moonbeam's RestWhen not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the campfire and during 4WD vehicle movement. This interaction of staff with small groups of participants assists in building trust and reinforcing messages. The trek utilised local and interstate staff to achieve a blend of skills

and experience. All staff departed Adelaide for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.  Three participants from trek 2018 were utilised as mentors. The total number attending including base staff was 25.  Only one member required accommodation at Keswick Barracks on the night before departure.  This location is economical and safe for vehicle parking.

9. The total attending was 25 as follows:

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

LOCATION

11. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers’ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road. The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is approximately 520 km from Adelaide. Travelling these distances is time-consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offsets the disadvantages of travel. A trip of this duration also permits the participants to get to know each other en-route. The feedback from the participants on the travel and location is positive.

MEDICAL SUPPORT

12. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. A satellite phone was on hand if the RFDS or medical advice was required. First-line medical support was provided by a paramedic based with the team. First aid kits were also available and a number of the staff were qualified St John, Apply First Aid. An AED which was purchased as the result of a successful grant application added to the medical capability. In terms of risk management, the longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical issues arose.

EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES

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

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

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

WEATHER

16. The weather was optimal for trek delivery with no temperature extremes apart from a cool 5-degree morning. The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period without recent rain, so the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks relatively stable. Some creeks showed the effects of 25 mm of rain in March which changed the landscape and creek lines in places. 4WD travel between locations was comfortable.

COMMUNICATIONS

17. Telephone. Mobile telephone coverage in the area is patchy or non-existent with the nearest service at Parachilna and Blinman. Fixed-line communications were available through a link established at the shearers’ quarters but on this occasion, it did not operate. A satellite telephone was available in the bush if an emergency arose. It was not required.

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

PROGRAMME

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

Dogs at Pendulum Wall

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

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

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

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

JOURNALS

24. The use of a period set aside daily to complete individual journals has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal reflections on the various lessons of the day and the daily experience of the trek. This practice provides an opportunity to review and anchor the day’s lessons.

25. Past trekkers have commented on the usefulness of this record of reflections as a reminder of the strategies and tools to use after the trek. With consent, the journals are de-identified and used to provide qualitative data to supplement the quantitative psychometric evaluation of the program.

PARTNERS

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

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

STAFF DEBRIEF

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

PROGRAMME VIABILITY

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

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

VISITORS AND MEDIA

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

30. No visitors attended the trek. The travelling time by road required for visitors to attend the trek is a challenge. Past visitors have reported they gained an enhanced understanding of the power of the program and the significant benefits gained by participants. Visitors will continue to be invited.

COSTS

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

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

TREK DELIVERY

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

CONCLUSION

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

35. The role modeling exhibited by the trek staff, coupled with the credibility of being surrounded by others with similar lived experience allows participants to talk openly.  Commonly, a paradigm shift occurs over the duration of the trek. Participants recognize and acknowledge past thoughts and behaviors and how they have contributed to their present situation. They then develop a clear sense of hope and self-efficacy, as the realization that other ways of coping are possible and achievable as evidenced by past trekkers.

Moolooloo landscape

36. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence and the qualitative feedback from the journals, the trek achieved the objectives.  This was gained through the pursuit of the Foundation philosophy which is supported by the staff. The experience is intended as a circuit-breaker.  Following the trek, participants describe having a new understanding of their choices in thinking and behaviour, a shift in their worldview. From one of the journals,

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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2020 Trojan’s Trek Charity Walk is going virtual!

We didn’t think we were going to be able to conduct a Charity Walk this year, but we have found a way we can!

The 2020 Trojans Trek Charity Walk is going to be a little different. It is going to be a virtual event whereby you can undertake your walk/run on any day during the month of October. The event itself will be hosted by Bolt for Gold, and registrations and donations can be taken via their app or website (see below for more information).

Under the current circumstances, we feel it is the best way to undertake The Trojans Trek Foundation’s major fundraiser in 2020. As a positive, it will allow the many Queensland supporters to join in on this year’s walk as well.

This year, you can either just make a donation OR register for the event. There are detailed instructions below or just follow this link.

If you want to register:

• this year we have options of either 2km, 5km, 10km, or 21km.

• Once you register you are able to download the app onto your phone which will allow you to press “start” when you are ready to do the walk/run (at any time during the month of October).

• When you have completed the distance it will record it!

REGISTER HERE

If you want to make a donation: 

• head to this link

• Select the blue “donate now” button. (If you select the larger “donate” button, you’ll need to select Trojan’s Trek from a drop-down menu).

• Decide if you want to donate to or sponsor a user, or just hit “skip”

• Enter the amount you want to donate

• that’s it!

MAKE A DONATION HERE

Scroll down to see step-by-step instructions to register or donate.

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WELCOME SUPPORT FROM AN UNDERSTANDING ESO

The 9 RAR Association SA has a long history of philanthropy.  I have always considered the organization an ESO with a strong focus on issues that impact very positively on our community values.

As an example, I recall a visit to South Australia by five Turkish veterans in about 2005 which was organized and funded by the 9 RAR Association. The visit was to mark Anzac Day in South Australia, a day of great significance to the military and the community in both countries.  It also highlighted the respect and relationship forged on Gallipoli in 1915 as enemies and reinforced as allies in Korea in the Korean War. As a great conclusion to the experience, the five veterans were taken to Canberra to meet the then Governor-General, Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC.

Additionally, the Association sponsored the creation of a Turkish Australian Cultural Study unit at the Canakkale University.  And if that was not enough, a dual text booklet named “The Victory of Friendship” was distributed to school children in Turkey and Australia. Approximately 200,000 copies were distributed.

So it did not surprise me when at a recent 9 RAR SA Incorporated quarterly meeting, the membership voted to provide financial support Trojan’s Trek.

As reported to me:

“We chose this enterprise because of the credibility and success in outcomes and high level of probity which has been demonstrated within this group.  Two of our members have been past participants, and one member in particular, strongly endorsed Trojan’s Trek and the positive outcomes from attendance at a Trek.  The funds will enable Moose Dunlop and his team to conduct ongoing and required training for the leaders who are on hand at each Trek to counsel and support the participants.”

This is a very generous donation that will fund our annual on-going staff selection and training programs thus ensuring the maintenance of our benchmark outcomes.

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

 

 

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LOCAL MEMBER ADDS SUPPORT

The Federal Member for the seat of Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie MP, is well known as a supporter of local initiatives.

Recently she wrote letters to the Minister of Veteran Affairs and others, in support of a grant application submitted by the Foundation to the Veteran and Community Grants Hub.  The application was successful, no doubt assisted by her endorsement.

This will enable the program to be enhanced with the development and expansion of two of the four phases of the program. These are Phase 1, induction and goal setting and Phase 3, post trek review.

I look forward to the commencement of this exciting process with the September trek in SA.

SEEKING FIRST RESPONDERS

It was in March that the first attempt to attract first responders to attend a SA trek was launched.  The occasion was at a gathering of first responders at the Parndana hotel attended by HE the Governor of South Australia, the Honourable Hieu Van Le, AC and the Mayor. As the Foundation Patron, HE spoke highly of the work of the Foundation, advertising the benefits offered by attendance.

Sadly COVID 19 put paid to that initiative but with the situation in SA on the improve it has been decided that a trek can be conducted with attendance limited to those states with no infection spikes. Sadly, individuals from VIC, NSW and the ACT are excluded.

Lesson in the creek

To re-launch the 2020 trek, Moose spoke at a meeting on Sunday at Penneshaw.  In attendance were Jane Abdilla, Health and Wellbeing representative SAFECOM, Dr. Jeremy Wells, the KI Medical Practice Director together with representatives from SPAM, CFS WH&S, the Penneshaw Progress Association, KI RSL President, Lions Club of Kingscote, CWA and local brigade members.  The gathering heard presentations from several speakers, each related to early addressing of mental health and stress illness.

A good level of interest in trek attendance was shown. It is hoped that this can be converted into completing the Annex A on the web site.

Enquiries to Moose 0408 088 886 or Paul 0435 780 237 or read more here.

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ANOTHER WELCOME DONATION FROM BUDDY

Brian Budden was a member of Charlie Company 5 RAR on the battalion’s first tour of duty in Vietnam in 1966-67.  Over the years, Brian has been a strong supporter of Trojan’s Trek and has provided very generous donations to assist the Foundation goals supporting our veterans.  Brian has provided these donations in memory of a member of Charlie Company who was killed-in-action.

His most recent donation honours Captain Peter Williams who died on 14 February 1967 during Operation Beaumaris in SVN.  Peter was a member of 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, and joined C Company at very short notice as the usual artillery forward observer had suffered an injury and could not participate in the operation. During the night of 13/14 February, B and C Company quietly moved into cordon and search positions on the south and western side of An Nhut village.

At about 0900, the officer commanding C Company, Major Don Bourne held an orders group to coordinate activities for the search of the village. As the group dispersed, a mine detonated killing Major Bourne, the company 2IC Captain Bob Milligan, and Captain Peter Williams. Five other members of C Company were wounded-in-action, some seriously.

Lest we Forget.