Trojan’s Trek Foundation Annual General Meeting

 

The AGM of the Trojan’s Trek Foundation
will be held in the

RAR Association club rooms,
13 Beatty St, Linden Park,
commencing 1800 hrs on
Thursday 2nd December 2021.

Apologies to
margaret@trojanstrek.com

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2021 TROJAN’S TREK…A POEM

2021 Trojan’s Trek insight,

Arrived for the flight as said,

Stomach twisted and confused,

Battling the thoughts in my head.

 

Don’t want to have the thoughts,

Don’t want the nightmares I see,

Looking to find some peace,

I’m just trying to be free!

 

Moolooloo’s rolling hills that surround,

Evening sunlight beautiful and real,

Supporting the load we share,

Positive honesty is the deal

The loss, despair, self-hate,

Sleeping in the swag at night,

Isolation and wide awake,

The black dog takes another bite!

 

Triggered by a word, sound or smell,

It’s my choice for what to be,

“If you say so,”

Changing my words to positivity!

 

We climbed mountains

Positivity in temperament,

I know in seeing the chance

Amazing to do in complement.

It’s now worth admitting

While scratching gently on my brain

That my wife was right in asking

Go and ease the pain…….

 

What it comes down to,

Understanding the journey in the head,

Visiting The Flinders Rangers

It’s not as easy done, as said.

Choco 21

 

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SUBMISSION TO THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO DEFENCE AND VETERAN SUICIDE

Preamble

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

Background

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

Existing Services 

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

Trek Design 

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

Cost-Benefit 

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

Role of NGO

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

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

Looking to go to uni?

The Flinders University Military Academic Pathway Program (MAPP) is a free, fast-tracked university entry program available exclusively to veterans. 

Successful completion of the program allows direct admission to more than 30 Flinders’ degrees.

The next course starts on 18 October.

The MAPP recognises the extensive skills veterans already have and how they can help readiness for university study and provides direct links to support services and peer mentoring. This supportive environment is why 100% of MAPP students surveyed say they feel more confident to start university after completing the program.

Veterans can choose to complete the MAPP 100% online, part-time from the comfort of their own home over eight weeks, or in-person at Flinders’ Bedford Park campus over a four-week period.

Military experience qualifies you for entry, so no prior study experience is required. Best of all, the MAPP is free to current and former Australian defence force personnel.

Contact us

Visit: flinders.edu.au/study/pathways/military-veterans
Call: 1300 354 633 (select option 1)
Email: askflinders@flinders.edu.au

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TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 2021

Introduction

  1. Trojan’s Trek in South Australia (SA) was conducted on Moolooloo Station in the North Flinders Ranges from 11 to 17 September 2021. This was the 13th year treks have been conducted in SA and the first time meeting with the station’s new owners. The remote location supports one of the key elements of the success of the program, a peaceful setting in an ancient land, free from electronic, mental, and physical distractions. This significantly increases the impact of the messages delivered. Treks are alcohol and recreational drug-free.
  2. The Trek was advertised to include first responders such as volunteer firefighters, ambulance officers, and police officers who have been exposed to traumatic situations in the line of their duties. It is the second time a trek targeting first responders has been conducted by the Foundation. This was a change in approach to the normal practice when first responders are taken more by exception. Fourteen males attended, of the total, six were ex-army, one RAAF, two police officers, and five firefighters. Over time it has been noted that many first responders have served in the military.

Aim

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

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

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

Validation

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

Daily Journals

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

COVID 19

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

Program Delivery

7. The success of the trek is built on the credibility and impact of the sessions delivered by facilitators. During this trek four experienced facilitators were employed to deliver fourteen formal sessions. One of the facilitators and one participant were from QLD. Three mentors were also used to reinforce the messages.  When not engaged in delivery, the staff were utilised as mentors to the participants around the campfire and during 4WD vehicle movement.  This interaction of staff with small groups of participants assists in building trust and reinforcing messages. The total number attending including base staff was 26. A total of 14 nights’ accommodation was required before and following the trek to link with transport and other limitations. Keswick Barracks through the Chief of Staff, assisted with the provision of rooms.  This arrangement is most satisfactory, economical, and safe for vehicle parking.

8. All staff departed Adelaide for Moolooloo a day in advance of the participants. This provided additional opportunities for staff briefing and to consolidate content.  The total attending was 27 as follows:    

Location

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

Access

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

Medical Support

 11. The nearest fully equipped hospital was at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First-line medical support was provided by a medic based with the team.  First aid kits were also available and a number of the staff were qualified St John, Apply First Aid.  An AED added to the medical capability.  In terms of risk management, the longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo.

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

Equipment and Vehicles

 13. All equipment was satisfactory.  Seven vehicles were hired from Complete Ute and Van at a 50% discount and a 200 series Landcruiser and Hilux were loaned to the Foundation by Pioneer Tanks.  This represents a significant saving in hiring costs.  A self-drive hire bus driven by two volunteers transported the trekkers to Moolooloo Station on Sunday.  At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.

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

Weather

15. The weather was cold on two nights with the temperature dropping to below zero. Daytime temperatures were in the low to mid 20s which was optimal for trek delivery.  The North Flinders Ranges was experiencing a period following rain, but the creek beds were dry and the roads and tracks relatively stable.  Some creeks showed the effects of flooding earlier in the year which changed the landscape and creek lines in places.  4WD travel to one location was avoided because of difficult crossings.

Communications

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

Program

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

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

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

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

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

Journals

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

Partners

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

Staff Debrief

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

Program Viability

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

Finance

  1. Approximately $600 worth of food was provided by our normal supporters. Approximately $390 worth of bread, eggs, and meat products were donated.  The costs for food and other consumables averaged $26.90 per person per day.  Dietary restrictions add to the cost.  The donors have been acknowledged.
  2. The sustainability of funding for the SA trek requires continual monitoring as SA funds are dependent on a number of irregular sources. Each October the Foundation raises funds through a major fundraising activity organized by Adelaide Exercise Physiology, the Veterans’ Support Walk. This was not run in 2020 due to COVID but hopefully will be run this year.

Trek Delivery

  1. Participant numbers will continue to dictate the number and location of future treks offered. This will be assessed and adjusted as needed. The existence and efficacy of the trek anecdotally appears to be well known and understood among ex-service organizations (ESOs) and now among first responders.

Conclusion

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

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

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


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Young Veterans’ Charity Walk, Sunday 31st October, 2021

Entry is $30/person and includes a t-shirt.

We normally order enough t-shirts for everyone, but please note, late entries made after October 15th do not guarantee your preferred size.

Online registrations are now closed.
You can still join in by simply presenting to the registration table prior to the walk on Sunday

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REPORT: TROJAN’S TREK SOUTH AUSTRALIA APRIL 2021

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

Introduction

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

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

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

 Aim

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

Objectives

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

Validation

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

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

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

COVID 19

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

Program Delivery

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

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

Location

12. The trek is supported from a base established at the shearers”™ quarters on Moolooloo which is 36 km northeast of Parachilna on the Glass Gorge Road.   The station occupies 1400 square kilometres of country which varies in type and relief from east to west. The distance to the area of the trek is 520 km from Adelaide.

Travelling this distance is time-consuming and expensive in fuel, but the advantages in having no mobile telephone, television or radio reception more than offsets the disadvantages of travel. A trip of this duration also permits the participants to get to know each other en-route. The feedback from the participants on the travel and location is positive.

Medical Support

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

Equipment and Vehicles

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

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

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

Weather

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

Communications

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

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

Program

20. The program is reviewed regularly to ensure relevant content.  The messages conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and understanding cognitive strategies for behavior management.  A selection of topics including How the Brain Works, Leaving a Legacy, Victim to Warrior and Communications were delivered.   The style and method of delivery, combined with the surroundings, make the messages much more powerful.   This is further enhanced by the group sharing personal experiences.

21. Daily journals also provide useful insight into the power of the program and how the content is being understood by participants. The simple benefit gained from reconnecting with other sufferers cannot be overstated. This is in accordance with the philosophy of the trek which is based on shared first-hand experience.

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

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

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

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

 Journals

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

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

Partners

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

 Staff Debrief

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

Program Viability

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

Finance

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

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

Trek Delivery

33. Participant numbers will continue to dictate the number and location of future treks offered. This will be assessed and adjusted as needed. The existence and efficacy of the trek anecdotally appears to be well known and understood among ex-service organizations (ESOs) and now among first responders.

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SmartBar Walk for a Veteran 2021

By Cess Glasspool

On Friday 7th May I was offered the opportunity to represent Trojan’s Trek at the launch of the SmartBar Walk for a Veteran with PTSD.  This annual walk began in 2016 and Walk for a Veteran became a recognised charity in 2020.

Chad McLaren is the driving force behind this event and is a defence force veteran. He told me he spent 5 years in the Army as an infantry soldier with one East Timor deployment in 2000 and 10 years in the Navy as a medic, discharging from the ADF in 2013. He recognised that some of his defence force friends were struggling with mental health issues and he felt that he was able to support them by creating an event like this.

In 2016 Chad joined with two of his defence force buddies for the inaugural Walk for a Veteran which raised funds for Operation K9.  2021 is the 6th running of the event in SA and there are plans to host a similar event in WA and a 24 hr endurance event in SA in 2022.

Chad is passionate about supporting Veterans and first responders and each year, he nominates four organisations as beneficiaries of the funds raised by the walk. This year, Trojan’s Trek has been nominated as one of those beneficiaries.

One of the principal sponsors for this year’s SmartBar Walk for a Veteran is Spinifex Brewing Co. Spinifex Brewing Co. is a dynamic new player in the craft beer industry.  SA Sales Representative for Spinifex Brewing Co, Sean Batson proudly states that Spinifex is an Aboriginal and Veteran-owned WA brewery company that produces beers flavoured with native botanicals unique to Australia.

CEO Adam Barnard is an army veteran who states, “Our business was founded in part to support Veterans and we are proud to be able to join forces with Walk for a Veteran Inc. as our South Australian partner to ensure this event raises much-needed awareness and funds”.

Spinifex established the F88 range of beers; sourcing the name from the Australian Army-issued rifle. Spinifex is a world-first initiative aimed at raising funds to support our returned servicemen and women. The F88 Campaign is dedicated to the memory of SIG Geoffrey GREGG (Afghanistan) who took his life on 23 September 2006 because of severe PTSD and is the inspiration behind the campaign.

SPINIFEX will operate its full mobile bar facility with the full range of beers available. 50% of the profit from SPINIFEX F88 Premium Lager sales at the event will be donated to charity.

I participated in the event last year and I have registered for the 2021 event which is being held on 28 August. This year looks like being bigger and better with no public roads or traffic to contend with.

A 10km loop has been created totally on the trails of the reserve, of which 1/3 will be on the renowned Heysen Trail. The course will rise to 450m above sea level and provide some incredible views over the valleys below. Individuals will have the option of completing one, two, three, or four laps of the course.

Teams can complete the 40km as a team of 2 or 4 each completing one or two 10km laps. The start and finish of each lap will be from the same location, which will be the venue for the post-event activities.

Secure camping sites will be available on Friday and Saturday night, with off-road parking provided. St John Ambulance will be located across the 10km course.

The event will see the introduction of the first “after walk” concert starting at 2pm. Headlining the concert are Pierce Brothers (VIC) and Hollow Coves (QLD), joined by folk legend Carus Thompson and band (VIC/WA), ex-Army Officer and singer/songwriter Pat Kenny (QLD), Lucinda Grace from the Adelaide Hills, and Yorke Heath (SA). Yorke Heath and Mark Aiston will be our Masters of Ceremonies.

The event presents a fantastic opportunity for trekkers and their families to get involved and enjoy some Adelaide Hills atmosphere, fine food, and refreshments.

Huge thanks to Chad and his fantastic sponsors.

Further information can be obtained at http://www.walkforaveteran.org.au/

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OPERATION UNITY’s 366 DAYS FOR VETERANS AND FAMILIES

On 28 April 2021, there will be a launch of 366 days to raise $500,000. Reaching the goal will mean we can:

  • Link 10 veterans with a support dog each through Operation K9 (RSB).
  • Arrange for 64 veterans and first responders to attend a trip that includes counselling and training through Trojan’s Trek.
  • Facilitate 206 attendances at camps and other initiatives for children through Legacy South Australia.
  • Supply a small trailer for Operation Unity to continue with its work for veterans, current ADF members, and their families.
  • The fundraising will commence on the anniversary of the deployment and run for 366 days ending on the anniversary of the deployment.

    The launch is taking place at:

  • Drill Hall and Torrens Parade Ground, King William Street, Adelaide
  • 7:15 am for 7.30 am start on Wednesday 28 April 2021 for attendees of the opening.

Attendance is limited, please contact Operation Unity on 0403 337 772 or e-mail operationunity3@gmail.com if you wish to attend.

You MUST advise on or before Monday 19 April 2021, then we will do our best to ensure you can attend.A short walk of honour for the Al Mathanna Task Group will be taking place at approximately 8.10 am by members of Operation Unity, Operation K9 (RSB), Legacy SA, and Trojan’s Trek.

You can show your support by cheering them on from the Torrens Parade Ground or on the gardens bounded by Frome Road, Sir Edwin Smith Avenue, and King William Street from approximately 8.30 am.

Tax-deductible donations can be made into the following account:

Friends of the Veterans Incorporated

BankSA, BSB 105-086,

Account Number 057073640 and MUST BE MARKEDWALK21

Download the flyer here

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

Aim

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

Objectives

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

Validation

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

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

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

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

COVID 19

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

 

PROGRAM DELIVERY

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

9. The total attending was 25 as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journals

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

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

Partners

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

Staff Debrief

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

Program Viability

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

Visitors and Media

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

Costs

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

Viability

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

 Trek Delivery

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

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

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

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

_______

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM

Operations Director

Trojan”™s Trek Foundation

30 Sep 2020

Distribution:

TT Board Members

Repatriation Commissioner

Minister for Veterans”™ SA

Member for Mayo

Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC

President RAR Assoc SA

CEO RSL Care

CFS VA

Jane Abdilla SAFECOM

SA Police Association for Mark Carroll

Staff