From: Lieutenant Colonel Moose Dunlop OAM (Retd)
Mobile 0408 088 886 email@example.com
1. This report covers the Qld and SA treks. The Qld trek was conducted from 9 to 14 August and was the first run in that state. It was conducted as a pilot program to ascertain the viability of future treks. In SA, the male and female treks ran from 20 to 25 September. A number of staff from SA travelled to Qld to assist with the initial trek conduct. The longer term intention is to train and employ staff from Qld to make that operation self-supporting.
2. For the second year, the SA treks included a female version which was conducted concurrently but separately to the male. This year reinforced our earlier experience with the female team, confirming that females are not as flexible in terms of overnight stays, preferring strongly to have access to showers and flushing toilets. This can be managed but does cause issues with staff movement from the male to the female team to present. This aspect will be covered later in this report.
3. The bush in SA was looking good having had about 70 mm of rain in the preceding month. Surface water was present in some creeks. The bush in Qld was dry although normal for that time of year.
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.
5. 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,
– 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.
7. In order to justify the program’s claims to successful outcomes, four standard psychosocial instruments were again used to measure outcomes.
– 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.
9. A total of thirty participants attended the treks. The breakdown was as follows:
10. The number attending the male trek in Qld was fewer than expected, the target figure being 12. Better response is predicted for future treks.
11. Four serving members from 7 RAR attended the male SA trek as well as one ex NSW police officer. This is the third police officer who has attended a trek. His inclusion was due to a personal approach from his sister. Initial feedback has indicated that he benefitted significantly.
12. All services were represented among the female attendees. For the second year, HMAS Albatross at Nowra nominated a past trekker to attend. Realising the benefits which result from trek attendance, the navy paid for travel from Nowra. Her contribution was valuable and appreciated.
13. Qld. Providing sufficient competent staff for the Qld trek proved to be challenging. To resolve this Dogs Kearney and Moose Dunlop flew from SA to take part in the trek. As well, two members, who were camp and kitchen staff, travelled by road from SA carrying the swags and some additional cooking gear.
14. SA. The SA trek is more difficult to staff. There are two teams which operate some distance apart and two of the male facilitators are used to present material to both. This is problematic as travelling times are slow and teams are denied some of their staff for varying periods. This problem is being addressed by embarking on a program to train female facilitators to enable them to present sessions which the males have presented to date. This will occur early in the New Year.
15. The weather during both treks was as anticipated and predicted. The Millmerran area was subjected to below zero morning temperatures.
16. The funds for the 2015 treks were raised in both SA and Qld and devoted to activities in the respective states.
a. SA. The SA treks were funded from a number of sources. Each year the foundation conducts a major fund raiser with the Veterans’ Support Walk in October. These funds were complimented by a number of other organisations and corporations as well as individuals. This year a $10K gant was secured from SA Health to support the initiative.
b. Qld. The Qld trek was funded by RSL Care and RSL Qld who have been aware for 3 years of the successful outcomes achieved by the program. Their financial support has been secured into the future.
17. 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.
b. 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.
c. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Brisbane in the 4 WD vehicles.
d. SA. Two 22 seat buses to carry the two teams and one staff supervisor per bus to Moolooloo HS.
e. Eleven 4 WD vehicles; two towing a covered and an enclosed trailer, and one towing an uncovered trailer. These were also used to transport the staff to Moolooloo HS.
f. At the conclusion of the trek, staff and participants returned to Adelaide in the 4WD vehicles.
18. 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).
19. 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 with 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.
20. 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.
21. A press release prior to each trek was issued through the RSL. The ABC SE Qld attended the Qld trek and a sensitive TV report went to air. In SA the Sunday show on ABC 891 carried an interview with the Project Director.
22. 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 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 and are not always strictly in accord with the quantitative measurements gained via the psychosocial instruments listed at paragraph 7.
23. The messages which are conveyed during the trek are related to relationships and behavior management. Simple subjects; but the style and method of delivery combined with the surroundings make the messages much more powerful. 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.
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 1.2 hours away. First line medical support was provided by a Victorian Ambulance Para-medic. He 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.
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. Additionally a number of female centric topics were presented to the female team by the two female facilitators, Connie Jongeneel and Anna Sutcliffe. These treks again utilized the opportunity to provide further training for other past trekkers who are part of the succession plan. A female RAN member who previously attended as a trekker attended 2015 as a mentor. It is hoped her involvement will continue.
26. In the opinion of the participants, the lessons and program outcomes appear to be more effective when 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 oversight of the tribal elders. This approach has been adopted over many thousands of years by other civilizations.
27. 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 the experience run along military lines. This is the antithesis of the practice.
28. The inclusion of two civilian experts provides a balance to the 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.
29. Telephone. Mobile telephones do not operate north of Hawker and are patchy in the Captain’s Mountain area. 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.
30. 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.
31. There is no doubt that the isolation and the live-in nature of the trek are powerful catalysts in conveying opinions and promoting disarming honest comment from all concerned. Sustained by the opinion of strong anecdotal evidence, the trek was an outstanding success; this comment applies to both male and female versions. However, the realization that behavior affects relationships and behavior modification may offer an answer to an unsatisfactory personal life is just the start. In the opinions of the participants, they have universally achieved a number of goals and leave 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 some 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. This internal bonding is proving most valuable in their respective journeys.
34. Both 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 may not suit every veteran but it is a valuable and effective adjunct to other treatment.
35. Further information about the Foundation and trek is available on the web site at www.trojanstrek.com.
Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) OAM
20 October 2015
Distribution: TT Board Members
Minister for Veterans’ SA
CEO, RSL SA
Director VVCS Adelaide
President RAR Assoc SA
Secretary RARC Ted Chitham MC