Finding a way to Triumph over Trauma

Anita Jaensch 09 October 2020

In a relaxing rural environment in the Scenic Rim, military veterans and first responders can take part in a program offering a range of tools to manage PTSD.

There’s no single ‘best way’ to tackle the challenges of PTSD, no magic remedy that will work for every sufferer. Each individual needs to find the strategies and tools that will work best for them. But the process of finding that personal strategy can take its toll.

This is the challenge that inspired the establishment of 4 Aussie Heroes and its holistic 12-day Triumph over Trauma program, which RSL Queensland proudly supports.

Vietnam veteran and business leader Gerry Garard wanted to give something back to society when he retired. Having read about the challenges faced by veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, he decided to look into options for managing PTSD and mental health issues.

A holistic approach

After extensive research in both Australia and the United States, he realised most programs concentrated on specific approaches. But there was no holistic program that offered a range of educational and therapeutic strategies.

“I wanted equine-assisted therapy, I wanted canine support, exercise physiology, nutrition and healthy eating – all of those things which were then considered slightly aside from therapeutic interventions,” Gerry says.

“I also believed there’d been an underestimation of the rural environment. I believed the demographic we’re looking at would be better served if the program were delivered in a relaxed and calming rural environment.”

Assembling a crack team

With a broad outline of the program he had in mind, Gerry put his corporate skills to good use, mobilising a team of professionals to bring his ideas to life.

“I got together a team of volunteers who were mostly mental health professionals – a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, an exercise physiologist, a counsellor and an educator from QUT on mental health. We met nearly every three weeks, and everyone gave their views,” Gerry says.

“After 18 months, they came up with a 12-day live-in program. It had about 110 sessions in it, about 40-45 per cent were psychological interventions and the others were what they referred to as adjunct sessions.

“We named it Triumph over Trauma.”

A wide range of strategies and tools

As well as education sessions on cognitive behavioural therapy, resilience, post traumatic growth, mindfulness and self-care, participants have the opportunity to sample adjunct therapies such as nutrition, exercise physiology, equine therapy, canine support and trauma-sensitive yoga.

Participants also have four one-on-one sessions to help them set goals and develop personal plans to follow.

“The middle weekend is a support persons' weekend, and most of the sessions on that middle weekend are to do with relationships and empathy and understanding,” Gerry explains.

Building a community

Gerry says he’s been pleased to witness the bonds that have developed between previous participants of the course.

“After the end of the first program, unbeknown to the Foundation and myself, the participants formed their own closed Facebook page, and they started a group that has continued on to this day,” he says.

“They talk to each other nearly every day or two. Their partners meet with the kids for coffee in places like Brisbane where they're close.”

About the program

The Triumph over Trauma is free of charge, and limited to 10 participants per course. Veterans who would like to participate in the course must undergo an intake assessment and have medical clearance from their GP.

The next course begins on 2 November 2020. Find out more or register your interest at