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Operation Flinders

Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (15:07): I rise today to speak about a trip I was very fortunate to be able to take in recent weeks to Yankaninna Station in the Far North Flinders Ranges to see firsthand the outstanding work of the Operation Flinders Foundation.

Operation Flinders is a leading provider of quality wilderness programs for young people at risk, and I commend the team headed by CEO, John van Ruth, on the outstanding work they do. I was lucky enough to travel up with Jonathan Robran who, again, does some wonderful work for Operation Flinders. I will talk more about how he got there but I was fortunate enough to fly to Leigh Creek and get the bus out to the station where we went out to meet lots of wonderful volunteers and wonderful young people as well.

CEO John Van Ruth and his team of staff, which consists of an incredibly important volunteer network, not only transform the lives of kids who participate but provide a service where the outcomes will benefit the whole of society. As I said, we met some of these young people from different areas of Adelaide and across South Australia and it is amazing what happens. These young people are bussed up there and they are dropped literally in the middle of nowhere. There is a base there.

The young people do not get to see the base, but obviously the base is set up to give them protection and make sure that they have the services and emergency requirements if any are needed. They are dropped out in the middle of nowhere and they pick up a 15-kilogram backpack. They put their own gear into that backpack and off they go, with a couple of support officers and a team leader.

Teams of seven, eight or nine young people go off with these three guides, and these young people often get the experience to clear their head, is probably a nice way to put it, in the wilderness. People volunteer to take these young people out on this trek, which lasts about 10 days from when they are first dropped off and off they go. They get to the different campsites at night-time and have to prepare their own food. As I said, they carry all their goods with them. Food is dropped off so, wherever they end up each night, the food is there for them. It is just a marvellous experience.

We were lucky enough to go out and see a couple of the campsites and chat to a couple of the young people. To see their leadership really come to life before our very eyes as they were out there trekking around and surviving, if you like, in the Flinders Ranges was absolutely outstanding. I cannot name everyone who was involved with this operation because there were so many wonderful volunteers. Some come from a military background.

There were some STAR Force officers, police, teachers, principals and many from other professions who give up their time to go and be a part of this throughout the course of the year. What it gives back to these young people is quite outstanding. Some of them are having troubles in society and having troubles in their local community.

The responsibility they are given and the learnings they obtain from being out in the wilderness, trekking around, getting themselves from station to station and campsite to campsite, and fending for themselves during this time really does fulfil them.

It is amazing to see these young people grow.

There was a group from Brighton Secondary School supported by Perks. It is great to have corporates involved in this as well. There are a lot of corporate sponsors who get heavily involved, which is exceptionally good. I was lucky while I was there as well. I mentioned Jonathon Robran. I flew up. My wife came as well, along with the CEO from Marion council and his wife. Didi and Joan were also on our trip, and it was great to have them all there.

Jonathon Robran was part of a 17-person Epic Impact Bike Riders group that arrived just before we did, and they rode their pushbikes, if you can believe it, 700 kilometres from Port Adelaide to Yankaninna raising funds along the way. A couple of people I know, Dr Chris Barnett and Bomber Whelan, were part of the group, and there was a number of people there I know.

This crew did a marvellous job to raise funds to keep this Operation Flinders going. To date, the ride has raised $115,000 to support the important work of Operation Flinders, and I commend everyone who participated in the gruelling project. Back home, I have endeavoured to raise funds to establish a local chapter in our community, and that has been fantastic, and so far we have raised almost $3,000.

The Lions Club of Marion have been good supporters of Operation Flinders as well, and we are hoping to work with other local chapters, service groups and businesses in our area to help contribute to this. The student leaders at Seaview High School, Jake Beaumont and Rachel Rattus, have also contributed to what we are doing, and Marion council is discussing getting involved with our chapter and getting on board and supporting this. We hope that will happen, and I commend Operation Flinders to the house.

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