The Operation Flinders Experience
I’ve known about the great work that Operation Flinders do for a few years now, taking teams of youth at risk on long treks at their expansive Yankaninna property in the stunning Flinders Ranges in outback SA.
The program is based on wilderness therapy, and research shows that young people respond positively to the experience of being totally disconnected from their current environment and the internet for the 8 days that these treks are over.
Teams of 10, which can be all boys, all girls, or mixed groups, come together through this experience in ways which wouldn’t happen without the isolation and long walks that this experience provides. It also provides an opportunity for the kids to think about who they are, what and who are important in their lives, and what changes they want to make moving forward. The program builds their outdoor skills, goal setting, confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem.
My experience was over 4 days with 7 men and women from diverse backgrounds coming together for their Assistance Team Leader (ATL) training which is required before taking part in one of their exercises.
I should disclose upfront that have I no experience in bush walking, camping, orientation or understanding of the issues you need to know about when working with youth – but that would all change in just a few days.
Our team spent two days and one night trekking around their property, up and down hills, along dry creek beds, following trails and through scrub. We walked in the rain and set up our campsite where we built a fire and huddled close in the cold enjoying each other’s company and a hot meal cooked in a camp oven.
We slept on swags, it was a freezing cold night and most were in their sleeping bags early wearing multiple layers to keep the cold out. Despite lying out in the open, under the stars, hearing a variety of noises I couldn’t explain and didn’t want to think too much about, I managed to have a reasonable sleep and be ready for another big day in the outback.
The landscape was stunning, there were plenty of kangaroos, emu’s (including one which wandered right through our campsite), a variety of birds and other animals – but it’s the people at Operation Flinders and the ATL team that I will remember most fondly.
Our trip was meant to provide us with the skills and experience we’d all need to assist on an exercise, it certainly did that, but it also provided great insight into why this program works. You couldn’t help but think about the people and issues in your own life, in just a few days it felt like there was new perspective and clarity about what is most important.
Operation Flinders are looking for volunteers, do yourself a favour and give some serious thought to getting involved. I’ll be back up at their property soon – and I’d love to see you there.
Operation Flinders Challenge 7-8 October 2017
Operation Flinders Challenge is a community event with a focus on increasing the physical activity levels of South Australians. Beyond Bank is supporting this event with volunteers providing support at check points and having a large marquee that will support the participants with physiotherapy and sustenance for the challenge. Once you have conquered the challenge, go beyond the mountain, switch your banking and be rewarded.