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Students assist Trojan’s Trek investigate marketing and costs

A team from the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law Student Employability of the University of QLD opted to investigate some aspects of the Foundation operations as part of the semester qualification requirements.

Picture L to R –– Janelle Murray (project advisor and MBA student), Winnie Sim, Derek Ricketts, Madeleine Bibo, Alexandria Rogers, James D’Amato, Huang Peishang and Vannessa Patterson, Board Member, Trojan’s Trek

Team member and Bachelor of Commerce student Winnie Sim said she was drawn to working with Trojan’s Trek because of the emphasis on mental health and wellbeing for veterans.

The team developed an engagement strategy to build awareness of the Trojan’s Trek program among veterans in need across Australia. They also produced an analysis of actual and amortised costs to assist in managing expenditure.

The team spent the semester devising their engagement strategy, including their three primary recommendations for the future.

The project was the overall winner of this semester’s Community Engagement Program (CEP), an initiative of UQ’s community strategy.

Board member Vannessa Patterson, who was the contact between the students and the Foundation, said she was impressed by the teamwork and willing devotion to all aspects of the work completed by the team.

Our congratulations on a great outcome!

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RSL CARE SA CONTRIBUTES


Following a successful Trojan’s Trek Board workshop held in Adelaide on 31 Aug, the board of Trojan’s Trek met with the board of RSL Care SA to share information and as social interaction.

The meeting received an update from Ben Challinor, the manager of the Andrew Russell Veteran Living (ARVL) centre which provides accommodation for homeless veterans.

Through ARVL, RSL Care SA seeks to provide veterans with accommodation support to assist them get back on their feet. The meeting was also updated on Trojan’s Trek operations in SA and QLD.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Loretta Byers, the chair of the RSL Care Board presented a $10,000 cheque to the Chair of Trojan’s Trek, Moose Dunlop OAM, as a contribution to the continuation of the good work of the program.

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SA Government to Assist Trojan’s Trek

The SA government has just announced that it will contribute $25,000 to assist the Trojan’s Trek Foundation to continue their work in SA.  The decision was made by the Minister for Veterans,  The Hon Stephen Marshall MP, Premier of SA. 

The Chairman of the Board Moose Dunlop OAM, said he was extremely pleased with the news which will ensure the conduct of the SA trek during 2018 will go ahead, enabling another 25 to 30 veterans and first responders to experience the trek; gaining the tools to positively manage their condition and become better family and community members.     

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NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR QLD CHAPTER

Trojan’s Trek is pleased to announce a new partnership in QLD with Hand Heart Pocket (HHP). 

HHP is the charity arm of the Freemasons in QLD which for centuries have used the symbols of hand heart and pocket to pledge practical help, genuine empathy and financial generosity to those who need it most.  One of the areas of focus for the charity is on initiatives which promote and support positive physical and mental health for men; a target which coincides with the work of the Trojan’s Trek Foundation.

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Robe to Recovery


The Robe community has instigated an innovative concept to support Australian Defence Force veterans.

“Robe to Recovery” supports veterans who have returned from active duty and need to begin to heal physical and psychological wounds.

Jacqui Bateman and returned vet Justin Brown have teamed up to organise stays of a few days of respite for returned veterans who may be struggling to fit back into civilian life after returning from deployment and discharging from the defence force.

Adelaide-based Justin knows who is likely to need support through his contacts in the Australian Defence Force.

WATCH: ABC TV Back Roads on “Robe to Recovery”

Many traders in Robe and the Robe Tourism Association members are involved.

“I went along to a RTA meeting and explained the concept to the members and asked for any support from the local businesses,” Jacqui said. “The response was amazing.

“I had local cafes and restaurants offering meal and coffee vouchers and other offers of bakery goods, seafood, ice-cream, wine, massages and art.

“Several accommodation providers offered a few days accommodation, the local dairy donating milk and cheese.

“The first veteran who came down with his family was totally overwhelmed.

“He was just expecting a weekend away but when he walked in and saw a gift basket containing a whole bunch of extras, he couldn’t believe it.”

Jacqui believes that handwritten notes from each of the donors to the visiting veteran – often something as simple as thanking them for their service – is the thing which makes the most impact.

Robe to Recovery gives Ex-Australian Army veteran Leith Bache a much-needed break

“They go away from the weekend knowing that people do care, that people appreciate what they have done for their country, and that the little town of Robe appreciates their service and sacrifice.”

“We are hoping to grow the program to where we have up to 12 families visiting each year.

“The response from the Robe business owners and community has been absolutely fantastic.”

“The opportunity to create a respite program for returning vets seemed like a good idea,” said Justin.

“Between Jacqui and myself we have made the program and the difference it has made to the veterans has been tremendously rewarding.

“We think that the program has on-going opportunities and benefits for the veterens.

“The Robe community have have been wonderful supporters.

“I would like to see the program replicated around the country.”

For more information on the Robe to Recovery program and to assists in some way call Jacqui on 0427 343132 or email jacqui@jacquibateman.com.au.

Text from https://www.coastalleader.com.au/story/4964806/robe-to-recovery/

Photo by Royston Rascals. Image has been cropped and colour saturation increased. Used under license https://www.flickr.com/photos/roystonrascals/

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CHAIRMAN’S REPORT TO THE 2017 AGM

Treks and Outcomes

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

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

Frequency and Size

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

Staff

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

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

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

Funding

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

Partnerships

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

Patron

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

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop

Chairman
26 November 2017

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REPORT FROM TROJAN’S TREK SA SEPTEMBER 2018

Distribution:  See below

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

11. Staff                                                                                                                                                                                                                Participants: Blue (SA based)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journals


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Trojan’s Trek Foundation is pleased to announce…

His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC Governor of South Australia has agreed to be the Patron of the Foundation for the term of his office.

This represents a milestone in the short history of the organisation and we look forward to showing His Excellency the program next year on Moolooloo.

 

 

 

Moose Dunlop OAM
Chairman
October 16, 2017.

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RSL Queensland reports on the first ever QLD Women’s Trek

Matilda Dray reports in RSL News that the Women’s Trek, held in Millmerran “…..provided camaraderie, new perspectives and a second chance at life for the trek’s participating veterans and mentors.”

Read the full report here

 

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REPORT QLD AND SA 2016

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

“I have learnt so much about myself and how I react with people.” Trekker 2016

Introduction

1. This report covers the QLD and SA treks. Trojan’s Trek QLD was conducted from 8 to 13 May on, and around the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) Range Facility at Captain’s Mountain on the Darling Downs. This facility provides a very suitable location at which to base the trek. It is also a generally free mobile phone free environment. It offers a slice of early Queensland history and a remoteness which has an impact on the messages delivered. The QLD trek was the second run in that state resulting from a satisfactory pilot program run in 2015. The date for the QLD trek was brought forward to give a more even calendar spread for the treks.

2. In SA, the male and female treks ran from 17 to 23 September. This year because of the number of individuals under instruction in both states, the staff deployed one day earlier than the usual practice. This worked well and will be adopted for the future for both states. A number of staff from SA and QLD travelled to respective states to assist with each trek. The longer term intention is to train and employ staff from QLD and SA in those locations to make each chapter self-sufficient in staff.

3. For the third year, the SA treks included a female version which was conducted concurrently but separately to the male. This year reinforced earlier experience with the female team, confirming that females are not as flexible or resilient in terms of overnight stays or change. This aspect of female behaviour will be closely examined from a number of points of view to ensure that the trek provides the outcomes which are sought. There is no doubt that the qualitative outcomes which show huge personal gain by the men are not reflected in the female experience. It is the opinion of the author having seen three female trek results that the female members are so obsessed with their personal circumstances that some of the important messages, quickly understood and journalised by the men, are lost on most of the female trekkers. This topic is discussed later in this report.

The bush in SA was looking good having had substantial rains over the previous months and for the second year in a row. Both treks experienced rain which fell in both locations. This had no effect on the QLD trek but had a significant impact on travel during the SA trek.

Aim

4. The aim of Trojan’s Trek is to provide a setting and conditions under which participants experience a lasting positive shift in personal values and interpersonal relationships. This aim has stood the test of time and remains current and appropriate.

Objectives

5. The trek is a designed as a circuit breaker. 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,
• re-connect with others,
• improving interpersonal relationships, and
• enhance self-esteem.

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

Validation

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

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

8. These are completed on three occasions:
• prior to the commencement of the trek,
• Immediately following the completion of the trek, and
• two to three months later.

Attendance

9. A total of thirty five participants attended the treks. The breakdown was as follows:
SA Male

10. Two serving members from 7 RAR and two serving VIC police officers attended the SA treks. This was the fourth male police officer and first female who has attended a trek.
QLD Male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA Female

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Apart from one RAN member, none of the female members had qualified for operational service. One woman was a Victorian police officer and one a registered nurse. This is disappointing as the foundation is set up to cater for veterans although assistance is provided to others if space permits. In spite of the lack of operational service, all had some form of mental health illness. Four were diagnosed with PTSD, one with depression and two with complex medical conditions. All carried clearances from their doctors to attend but for most, a period in the bush was beyond their capability. This may relate to a lack of understanding of the conditions to be expected or a lack of resilience of the individuals. Either way, the impact of the experience is significantly lessened by individual complaints about everything from the use of swags to long drop toilets. The female team staff were continuously involved in settling minor complaints or reassuring the trekkers that things will get better. This is in stark contrast to the men who are much more resilient in more basic conditions and are clearly prepared to make the most of the trek. This issue will be explored separately. For the third year, CPO Vickers from the RAN attended as a staff member. Her contribution was valuable and appreciated. It is hoped she can continue to contribute.

Staffing

12. The intent to train and employ competent staff in both states thus avoiding inter-state travel remains current. Two male and four female potential staff members were involved.

13. QLD. Providing sufficient competent staff to deliver material for the Qld trek proved to be challenging again this year. To resolve this Dogs Kearney and Moose Dunlop flew from SA to take part in the trek. A chef and a kitchen staff member carrying stores also travelled by road from SA to Milmerran. A number of local staff “in-training” were employed on the QLD trek to provide experience for them and also to permit the QLD Director to gauge their potential to replace the older hands. This exercise was successful in identifying a new chef and some male presenters.

14. SA. Normally the SA trek is more difficult to conduct because of the requirement to provide expert male staff presenters to both male and female teams which are sometimes up to 10 km apart. To ease that problem this year the female team was relocated to a new camp site which was more accessible to the presenters and the base. It differs from the site used previously in that there is no stone building which in the past was the base for the team. However the new site has a shower shed, long drop and running tank water. Sleeping accommodation is in swags, the same as previous, and a tent was supplied as a base to hold excess equipment. It offers advantages over the previous site mainly because it removes the need to travel significant distances to deliver the program, meals and the like. Communications are more reliable and the track to the old site is often badly eroded by weather. As previously indicated, the new location, although considered adequate for purpose, was not embraced by the women trekkers.

Weather

15. QLD. The QLD trek experienced some precipitation which did not inconvenience the program. The trek area was subjected to below zero temperatures on two mornings.

16. SA. An extreme weather event affected the SA treks. Very heavy rain fell on Tuesday which resulted in local flood warnings necessitating the withdrawal of the teams from their locations back to the vicinity of the shearers’ quarters.  The female team was housed in the shearing shed and the men in the shearers’ quarters where they remained for the duration of the trek. No vehicle movement was possible for 24 hours because all the creeks were impassable. The program continued in to be delivered in sequence but at a different venue. After about 36 hours, limited vehicle movement was possible, exercising care crossing creeks.

17. The funds for the 2016 treks were raised in both SA and QLD and devoted to activities in the respective states. Funding security remains one of the matters which demands continuous attention particularly the SA Chapter which is the poor cousin in the funding stakes.

a. QLD. The QLD trek was funded by RSL Care and RSL Qld who have maintained their financial support since the commencement of the QLD trek.

b. SA. The SA treks were funded from a number of sources. Each year in October, the foundation conducts a major fund raiser with the Veterans’ Support Walk. These funds are complimented by a number of other organisations and corporations as well as individuals. This year a $10K grant was secured from RSL Care SA and a significant grant from the Reid Thyme Foundation was received. The foundation is most appreciative of this support.

Movement

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

a. QLD. One 13 seat bus to carry the team and one staff supervisor to Captain’s Mountain, the start point. Six vehicles (3 x 4 WD vehicles and 3 x AWD Vehicles) were hired for the duration of the trek. These were supplemented by a Hilux 4WD owned by one of the mentors. The vehicle with the enclosed trailer was driven from South Australia. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Brisbane in the 4 WD vehicles.

b. SA. Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS. One bus with driver came from a bus company and the other was hire/self-drive. Twelve 4 WD vehicles; (10 hired and 2 borrowed,) 2 towing a covered and an enclosed trailer. These vehicles were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS on Saturday prior to the start. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in these 4WD vehicles.

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

Base Locations

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

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

22. A period is set aside daily to complete individual journals. This has proved to be an important element for participants. The journals are used to record personal responses to the various lessons of the day and to make general comment on the trek. This has proved to be satisfactory from the point of view of progressive comment and also provides an opportunity to collectively review and anchor the day’s lessons. Although these comments are qualitative they do represent the perceptions of the participants at the time. These comments are used to complete qualitative assessment.

23. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and behavior management. These are simple subjects; but the style and method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the messages much more powerful. The journals reflect accurately the participant responses to the various lessons and the positive responses appear to be related to simple messages. This year the female responses were generally critical of the staff, weather, program, swags, accommodation etc. to the extent that in some respect the messages may have been overlooked. The female view aside, there is no doubt having read the journals, that the live-in nature of the trek when shared with other veterans is a significant factor in the success of the program. The simple benefit gained from reconnecting with other veterans cannot be over-stated.

Medical

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

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

b. SA. The nearest fully equipped hospital is at Hawker, approximately 1.5 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a Victorian Ambulance para-medic and a female registered nurse. The para-medic reported with his own vehicle and equipment. A number of other staff are also qualified as senior first aiders. The longest exposure to the most serious risk was assessed as traffic accidents during the trip to and from Moolooloo. No medical or psychiatric issues arose.

Program Delivery

25. Program content in both states is the responsibility of the Project Director, Moose Dunlop. The delivery of the male program and most aspects of the female program is the joint responsibility of the Chief Instructor Dogs Kearney and civilian consultants Peter Keith and Andrew Badenoch. This year additional content was included in both programs and delivered by Tim Smith and Andrew Badenoch. The value or otherwise of these additions will be evident when the journals are analyzed. Additionally, a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Anna Sutcliffe and CPO Amy Vickers. These treks again utilized the opportunity to provide further training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. In all a total of two male and four female facilitators were exposed to the requirements of facilitation. This training was an extension of the Train the Trainer weekend held in SA in March 2016

26. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when simple and delivered by a veteran as opposed to clinician in consulting rooms. This is in accord with the philosophy on which the trek is based; that is veterans helping veterans with messages which are credible and based on first-hand experience.

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

Communications

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

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

Conclusion

30. There is no doubt that the isolation and the live-in nature of the treks are powerful catalysts in conveying opinions and promoting disarming honest comment from all concerned. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence, the male treks were an outstanding success. The female version achieved limited gains compared to the male treks. This is the third female trek run in SA and confirms my opinion that the female trek in this form may limit the potential gains to be made in behavior management. The reason for the difference in perceived value for the two treks based on gender is puzzling. Even a change of the leadership of the female trek appears to have made little difference to outcomes.

31. In the first instance, it is very difficult to attract female attenders and in this case only one navy female had experienced operational service. That three were diagnosed with PTSD, one with depression and two with complex medical issues related to employment does not show the military up in a good light. Nonetheless, in the opinions of the female participants, they appear to have universally achieved a number of goals and leave better equipped to face the challenge. By their own admission, not only have the participants faced and discussed their problems frankly among the other attendees and staff, many have formed relationships which are based on personal and common problems.

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

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

Moose Dunlop OAM

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel (Retd)
Program Director

12 October 2016

Distribution: TT Board Members (7) CEO RSL SA
Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC CEO RSL Care SA
President RAR Assoc SA CEO RSL QLD
TT staff (e copies) Minister for Veterans’ SA