SA Mines and Energy Journal : June 2009
JUNE/JULY 2009 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 28 COMMUNITY The runner slipped away from the group, with the team leader following. Exhausted, he sat down, out of sight of the team leader. The runner began to pile rocks on top of one another, in what looked like a crude grave. The team leader found the boy and, not sure of his state of mind, approached cautiously. "What are you doing, mate?" Without looking up, the runner said: "I'm burying the old me. " The Operation Flinders Foundation runs an eight-day program for at-risk young people in the Northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia. Field exercises achieve the primary objective of Operation Flinders by placing participants in a remote outdoor environment where self-discipline, teamwork, co-operation, leadership and trust are intrinsic to survival. For eight days, the young people are placed in an environment that provides only for basic needs of life. They face challenges as individuals and as part of the team, which most pass with flying colours. The project offers demanding outdoor challenges and ongoing support to help participants develop their personal attitudes and values of self-esteem, motivation, teamwork, goal setting and community responsibility so they can grow as valued people. More than 300 young people are given the opportunity to participate each year. But it is not simply a "boot camp" . Carefully selected and trained team leaders, highly professional and sophisticated medical and logistical backup staff, and experienced and dedicated base camp teams provide the safety net required to run such a complex operation. The remote location and extended periods are critical elements of the process. Removing participants from their familiar surroundings forces them to handle and adapt to new circumstances. The eight days allows for the natural process of initial rebellion, adjustment and then contribution. All participants wear bush clothing and boots, and carry their own food, shelter and sleeping gear. They walk cross-country through creeks and over mountain ranges. Most have never been asked to take on such a physically demanding challenge before -- much less complete it. The trek and the obstacles they overcome become a metaphor for their lives, which each participant applies to their own circumstances. Conquering abseiling with an instructor on the other end of the rope is a fast lesson in trusting authority and overcoming fears to achieve goals. Successfully completing the physical rigours of the trek builds strength of character and a determination to succeed. The intense physical, emotional and psychological experience offered by Operation Flinders expands the participants' view of the world to a point where they "see" other people virtually for the first time. They also realise that the world has far more to offer than they ever thought. Operation Flinders has the flexibility and expertise to run slightly modified programs to suit a specific target group. In May 2008, the foundation ran Project Artesian, a condensed version of the Operation Flinders program. This project, tailored for long-term unemployed people seeking careers in the mining industry, engaged participants in a program of self-development, including exposure to remote locations and harsh outback conditions. In 2001, the South Australian Attorney-General funded an evaluation of the Operation Flinders Foundation Wilderness Adventure Program for youth- at-risk. Conducted by the Forensic and Applied Psychology Research Group from the University of South Australia, this evaluation reviewed the literature on the use of wilderness and adventure programs with at-risk youth, conducted a study of psychological and behavioural outcomes for program participants against control groups, and developed and measured the foundation against wilderness adventure program best-practice criteria. While the research team provided recommendations to ensure continual improvement, 'I'm burying the old me' At-risk young people are being given a fresh start through an Operation Flinders program supported by the resources industry. This project, tailored for long-term unemployed people seeking careers in the mining industry, engaged participants in a program of self- development.
April May 2009