OPERATIONS DIRECTOR ANNUAL REPORT 2020
- 2020 was a difficult year because of bush fires in the eastern states and SA combined with COVID 19 restrictions. This prohibited running treks in QLD but because the situation had improved by September, a trek was conducted in SA. QLD has planned to go ahead with the postponed trek on Morton Island in Feb and following that, hopefully, will revert to the normal program.
- Because the foundation has no significant overheads like wages, shop front, vehicles, or running costs, the lack of activity did not result in pressure on the bottom line which many businesses and not-for-profits felt. However, I do believe that the community is experiencing donor fatigue due to the wonderful response to the fires from the end of 2019 to Feb 2020 which may affect our future fundraising.
- The QLD Chapter continues to maintain excellent corporation support through QLD RSL and Bolton Clarke both of which contribute significant financial support. In SA, our support base is much more diverse, the major fundraiser being the Charity Walk which could not be held in its normal form this year because of COVID 19. Consequently, donations were well down on previous years despite a good effort by Reuben through Adelaide Exercise Physiology (AEP) to conduct a virtual walk. However, this was offset to a degree by donations from the 9 and 4 RAR Associations, the Country Fire Service Volunteer Association, Kensington RSL, and the Northern Chapter Veterans Motorcycle Club, and several individuals and small businesses.
- This year as mentioned, a trek was able to be conducted in SA in September because of easing COVID restrictions. Those attending were a different mix to the standard in that the participation of first responders, particularly firefighters and others affected by fire, were invited. This initiative originally planned for March was not held because of COVID lockdowns but interest was then shown and retained. Support for the concept was strong with HE, The Governor, SAFECOM, and the CFS Volunteer Association assisting with advertising and funding among them $5,000 was provided by the CFS Volunteer Association. The final attendance figures were five firefighters, one paramedic, one police officer, and five ex-military. The average trekker age was reduced significantly with five firefighters being under 30. The very good outcomes certainly confirmed my opinion about old dogs and new tricks.
- Because of COVID isolation requirements, all staff was from SA with one exception. They performed well despite some having to deliver new material. Although I am not yet in possession of the independent evaluation figures from Flinders University staff, reading the journals provides a forecast of a very successful six days. Although the Foundation has always included first responders, the Board will discuss the potential of this new market as it impacts our stated objective.
- Moolooloo is on the market. I hope the new owners yet to be identified, will continue with the current arrangements.
- As mentioned, no treks were conducted in QLD in 2020.
- As indicated in last year’s report v last year, the demand for the type of intervention provided by the Foundation has not decreased despite lower exposure to traumatic operational events overseas. This certainly appears to be the case in QLD where a greater number of ex-military personnel reside. This trend will continue to be monitored.
- In October I received an email approach from a social worker who works for a support organisation called Newcastle Beacon which supports first responders and veterans. She asked if the Foundation was interested in establishing a presence as part of her organisation. I asked her a number of questions related to the level of interest, local support and funding opportunities. I have not received a response to date and it remains in the pending box.
- Efforts to have the value of the program publicly recognised by the Department of Veterans Affairs have continued throughout the year. The federal member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie MP, in July, wrote to the Minister, expressing her support and encouraging the Department to do likewise. To date, no measurable outcome has been achieved. Sadly, an appointment with the Repatriation Commissioner Mr. Don Spinks AM which was scheduled for 16 Nov in Adelaide had to be cancelled because of new COVID infections in SA.
- Individuals wishing to attend treks are self-nominating. This system works with the added benefit that most who follow this practice have recognised a need and come prepared to take action to correct unhelpful behaviour. Occasionally, trekkers attend because the program is recommended by their clinician or counsellor and as an adjunct to their treatment. This process makes sense and is preferred to the sometimes laborious alternative of individuals dealing with the various POC. It also appears to be beneficial according to the trekkers themselves who have added the trek to their treatment regime.
- The Foundation will continue to run what has been termed annual accreditation training. This is now possible with open borders with all states. Next year it will be run in SA with the support of the 4th Military District, which to date has been most supportive with accommodation before and following treks. However, I am conscious that this may change over-night.
Operations Director Role
- As part of the succession, I am in the process of handing over the SA Operations Director role to Eric Ford. I will remain on as the Operations Director, reporting to the board as a member. I publicly thank Eric for his enthusiasm and interest in veteran matters.
- Finally, to our staff. To Margaret who diligently maintains the Foundation books and minutes to the standard required for the annual audit, thanks. To our staff in both states, I thank and congratulate them for their input and achievements. To the three points of contact, whose continual attention to detail ensures our profile in the market is viewed with efficiency, thanks. To the webmaster, Rachael located in the US, also a big thank you. The website is busy but contains a lot of information which simplifies client understanding of what we are about. It is our window to the world. To Dave and Jono who have contributed two years as board members and strong supporters, thanks. We appreciate the time we have been given by two busy consultants.
- After 12 years I am constantly amazed at the positive behavioural changes I have witnessed in the client group over this time. I credit these improvements to the diligence and credibility of the staff together with their dedication and professional performance. The beneficiaries from these interventions extend far beyond the individuals directly affected. I refer of course to the families, partners, and children who are suddenly blessed with having a father or mother back. And not to overlook the communities which also gain in the broadest sense.
Moose Dunlop OAM
19 Nov 2019