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TROJAN’S TREK 2014, A FIRST FOR WOMEN VETERANS

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

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

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

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

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

Next Trek: 21 to 26 September 2014, we need your help.

Welcome! Here at Trojan’s Trek we’ve been conducting Treks for men-only for several years. But what about women who return from combat zones?

Next year we will be doing separate men and women treks and we need your help.

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It is the opinion of trek staff that returned women have, by and large, been ignored by many organisations which provide advice and assistance following deployments. So we’re putting the call out for a women-only trek in 2014.

We need your help

If you can spare some cash, please DONATE directly to the Foundation bank account. The details are:

Trojans Trek Foundation Limited

BSB 015 367  Account number 382 585 648. 

Or send a cheque to The Treasurer, Trojan’s Trek Foundation, C/- 135 Upper Sturt Rd, Upper Sturt SA, 5156

Or via PayPal or credit card. See the DONATE button in our side bar.

All donations are tax deductible via the Trojan’s Trek Foundation.

If you can help us further develop our programme then please read on.

We recognise that women have different needs and combined with the all-inclusive roles which they now fulfil it is obvious that they will suffer similar illnesses to the men. There are however differences both psychological and physiological which will predicate against a one size fits all program for both.

So we need help. Can you assist with the content and development of a female version of Trojan’s Trek ?

It is to this end that we seek input from women with military experience who can contribute to the development of a program for females.

When:
Trek dates are 21 to 26 September, 2014.
Attendance is free ex-Adelaide although assistance is available in some cases.
The trek aim and objectives are contained in the 2013 Report.

If you have suggestions, know someone who should attend  or know someone who would contribute, please contact

Mark Keynes   0487 453 488 or mark@rslsa.org.au

Please note: The trek is more a journey in the head than on the ground.

Please see our FAQ for more information or do not hesitate to call Moose

Is outdoor peer support valuable? Measuring the success of Trojan’s Trek

Ms Kendall Bird recently presented the findings of her Masters project looking at the efficacy of Trojan’s Trek as an intervention method. Her thesis, entitled ‘Contemporary Veterans’ Experience of a Peer Outdoor Support Therapy (POST) Program’ was presented at the Australiasian Military Medicine Association National Conference in Adelaide on Nov 2nd 2013.

Her abstract will be published in the Proceedings from the conference in the next edition of the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health (JMVH). The full research article and results are due to be published in a Special Edition on Australian Mental Health early in 2014, with a review of POST programs approved to be published in the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health. Kendall is a Provisional Psychologist currently completing her Masters of Psychology (Clinical) at the University of South Australia. Here she tells us about her findings

There’s something to be said for a program which attracts contemporary veterans and leaves a lasting impression on its participants. Even more so, when many other alternatives discover that attracting participants to any form of therapy is an uphill battle.

In embarking on my Masters’ thesis; an evaluation of Trojan’s Trek, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when looking beyond the positive verbal testimonies. I have been reminded that effecting change to one’s life when you’re suffering; is deeper, more meaningful and more complex than just receiving one type of quick therapy.

The fundamental question was: “Is outdoor, remote, peer support a valuable adjunct to therapy for veterans?
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If the majority of services offered in Australia are either one-to-one (professional to individual) or in a group setting (professional to many); what can a peer-to-peer approach add? It appears, quite a lot.

Studies in the USA have found that veterans mentoring veterans is more meaningful and carries more weight than mentoring among non-veterans. In addition, this form of mentoring maintains veteran engagement and increases their access to other mental health services (Travis et al, 2010; Greden et al, 2010). The USA, Canada and the UK all have peer-based services for veterans in some form, and in Canada this approach is integrated into the Veterans’ National Health Services.

Having completed my thesis using results from the men who participated in South Australia’s Trojan’s Trek, I found there was a substantial shift and sustained improvement in their self-reported mental health and wellbeing (depression, anxiety, stress, life satisfaction, self-efficacy) maintained even two months after completing the Trek. In general, the veterans commenced the trek with extremely low wellbeing and left with their satisfaction with life and anxiety the same as non-military people. In fact, they maintained a sense of self-ability above that of non-military, with reduced depression and stress. Now that’s impressive, this is very significant, I thought

I was also privileged to access the participant’s journals which were completed while they were on the trek. On reading these, it became clear to me that change happened for these men because they were ‘immersed’ for six days with their peers. In addition, informal outdoor activities added to formal peer mentoring sessions strengthened the outcomes. What is vital was the shared opportunities to apply skills and self-reflection and feel understood by others in not only what was experienced in the past, but in looking forward to how they viewed the future.

While there will be criticisms and pitfalls to peer support, when well-managed and structured there’s something very promising about this approach; something real, something meaningful. And if it means one more veteran taking that step to seek more help, one less suicide, one more veteran who bridges that transition into finding ways to have a meaningful life post-military with a little less mental pain and panic, then it’s an approach to watch evolve and spread as an adjunct to other therapies.
As one participant quoted: ‘Really, what some of us have done is put into practice a lot of concepts our medical practitioners have been talking to us about.’

By Ms. Kendall Bird

SUCCESSFUL VETERANS’ SUPPORT WALK

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It was a beautiful day for a walk as more than 200 supporters gathered on the banks of the Torrens Lake opposite the Torrens Parade Ground for the third Veterans’ Support Walk. With 20 sponsor logos emblazoned on their shirts they set off on the word of Graham Cornes.

Among the anxious dogs and striding mob was Liz Scarce, Ian Kelly and friends I had not seen for some considerable time. Peter Goers provided encouragement to the walkers and the sausage sizzle team from 9 RAR.

At the completion of the walk the raffle was drawn; the BIG TV going to John O’Shannesy with its smaller cousin won by Greg Hallam, the trek paramedic who had joined us from Stawell in Victoria. The Dulux voucher was won by another lucky punter who remains nameless.

After coffee and a yarn the group wandered over to the parade ground for the DVA Health Expo.

I extend my sincere thanks to you all for your support of the program.

Moose Dunlop OAM

Veteran’s Support Walk 2013

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Supported by :

logos

INVITATION. Veterans and friends, here is an opportunity to directly support an initiative which assists younger veterans while enjoying a stroll around the beautiful River Torrens.

WHY. Not only will the event provide funds to ensure the continuation of this worthwhile project, it encourages regular exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.

WHAT. A choice of 5km or 3km routes, either of which may be completed by walking, running or rolling. Families, prams, and pets on leash are welcomed.

WHERE. River Torrens, directly north of the Torrens Parade Ground.

NOTE : Parking WILL be available on the Torrens Parade Ground.

WHEN. Sunday 20 October, starting at 0930 hrs. Cornsey will MC the event.

AFTER. BBQ, coffee and amazing prize draws. Also visit the DVA expo on the parade ground.

Registration: there are THREE ways to registers.

1) Snail mail. Download this form as a pdf fill it out and mail it.

2) Email. Download a word file, fill it out online online and email it

3) Register online. Use our online form to register and pay online using either credit card or PayPal

 

 

 

TROJAN’S TREK 2012 : ARE OLD BLOKES OF ANY USE?

This trek was the fourth in the current series to support contemporary veterans. By that I mean post Vietnam. A number of individuals have asked me why the focus has changed to target veterans post Vietnam. The answer is simple. The first concerns the impact of age as it relates to the ability of the participants to change their behaviour and life style. Many of the veterans we help, live a life style which does not generally conform to community norms. Many appear to live for today only; and many exhibit choices which are not conducive to a healthy life-style. To convince these veterans that there are other more productive life styles is one of our objectives. It is not easy and it is even harder with older veterans.

Briefing before going bush

Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks? The answer is probably not often, so we try to avoid non productive, rusted on clients. However, in the past few years we have taken a number of Vietnam vets away with their younger successors. The experience has been both educational and enlightening. In some cases, the older veteran did not contribute but in some they have acted as a catalyst to facilitate a depth of group discussion much earlier than normally expected. In the case of the 2012 trek this was a standout. It was because the older veteran had come to grips with his condition and life’s foibles and was prepared to speak frankly about the challenges which face individuals in the same position as he was some 45 years ago.

What is the impact of such honesty and the stripping back of the confidentiality which normally accompanies this condition or circumstance? In a word; startling. The response from the other trekkers was un-mistakably supportive. Often it is helpful to compare what doing it tough is about. Whether is it listening to the station owners relate their personal experiences about the difficulties of living in the bush or to one of the group relate their own story. The other benefit of the sharing experience is simply a halving of the problem. As a consequence it is common for relationships which commence in the bush to blossom in the city. And that results in veteran to veteran support during tough times. That is a winner. Trojan’s Trek is not a cure all; we have never advanced that theory. However, as Dogs rightly preaches, “we are farmers, we simply sow the seeds to a better life.” Furthermore we are patently aware that most will face further ups and downs as time passes. The difference is that the veteran is no longer alone and he has the toolbox from which he can extract a solution.

Moose Dunlop OAM

The story of the logo

The logo which we have adopted at Trojan’s Trek depicts the Flinders Ranges. The Flinders is where the program is conducted. It is the place of choice to which we withdraw to gain the tranquillity so necessary for our program. The sharp brown lines are a reminder of the many billions of years of ageing which have resulted in the ancient forms peculiar to that part of the world. The background to its design is worthy of note.

When Operation Flinders, a youth at risk program, was started in 1992, the partner of one of the wonderfully dedicated supporters, offered to come up a design for a logo. John, a very talented and artistic fellow produced the logo above. The staff all agreed that it was beautifully appropriate. We appreciated its horizontal perspective which conveyed distance, the big red gums, the creek lines and the sharp brown edges, the old hills. For many years it featured on the T shirts we presented to the participants and was also used as a masthead and as a letterhead.

In about 1996, the program was recognised for the great work it was achieving with youth and it was decided to incorporate. A board was elected and a CEO appointed. However, with the introduction of new management and different ideas there were moves to change some aspects of the project. The logo was one of the first to be changed. The field staff were not consulted nor impressed, but like many decisions made in these circumstances, it was a done deal. The new logo is fine and comparisons are pointless. However, John’s original logo was benched.

In 2009, when Trojans Trek was resurrected to cater for our contemporary veterans, that is those who served in combat roles post Vietnam; it seemed totally appropriate that the Operation Flinders old logo was given a new life. John was consulted and willingly agreed to our adoption of it. So the logo has been given new life and role. The logo has returned to the Flinders and is now part of a new venture which is managed by many of the individuals who commenced Operation Flinders so many years ago.

Feed Back Trojan’s Trek 2011

Day 1. I have discovered that there is more to my therapy than clinical avenues.  I need to grab my life and steer it myself and get rid of the poison in my life.  C

Day 1.  After talking to Dogs in the car I realise that I have to work out the triggers in my life and start changing the thought process, asking myself, “does this really matter?” H

Day 2.  Then longer the week goes the more I can see that there is a light at the end of what I thought was a dark tunnel. G

Day 3.  “Coasting, the information I have gained is irreplaceable.”  D

Day 3.  “..I am now thinking f… I don’t want this to end.  I have to love and leave these blokes in three days.  My feelings I can’t explain but it’s for the better not the end.’  S

Day 3. ” I found myself in my swag unable to sleep,…..I suddenly realised the full effect of my anger and how it has been directed at them in the past.   Mentally very exhausted today but I feel good.  Decided to describe last night as a productive night of thinking rather than a  …. of a night” .  A

Day 4.  This Trojans Trek is a must do for veterans past and present. S

Day 4.  Over the course of the week I have had a huge amount of ideas of how in the future I can communicate effectively with others.  D

Day 4.  I have got to stop drinking for no reason and going to dark places.  I’m almost there but with more work and commitment I can stay in this good place.  D

Day 5.  Realising it is just now a never ending journey of self prompts and putting my hand up for help … S

Day 5.  Great kinetic energy in the group, I feel myself to be coming out of my shell more and more every day.  L
 
 

A letter from a listener

Recently I received this feedback from a listener who heard a replay of my interview on ABCs Conversations with Richard Fidler. I’ve decided to publish it here (with permission) because I was humbled by it and also because I have received several messages like this which I want to share with other service personnel. Thank you to Maryann for taking the time to write. Moose.

Hi Moose,
 
My husband and I listened to your conversation with Richard Fidler the other day. Can’t tell you how much we were impressed by you and your story and how simply you told it.
 
Couldn’t believe the details in the jungle. Hair raising stuff.  
 
We were in the car listening to you. I tell you we were so riveted with what you were saying that we don’t remember much of the drive other than your conversation.
 
Congratulations to you and your battalion on making it through the 12 months in Vietnam. Our sincere thanks.
 
Congratulations also to your wife and family for sticking by you through thick and thin.
 
Keep doing what you are doing, because it is very special – a calling if you like.
 
Our gratitude and kind regards,
 
Maryann 

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