If there’s one thing young people like, it’s an excuse to get away with their peers on an adventure. And if you’re from South Australia, there’s no better place for an adventure than the Flinders Ranges.

Located about 500km north of Adelaide, the Flinders Ranges are in the rugged Australian outback, with towering ancient cliffs, deep gorges, and sheltered creeks to explore. 

Operation Flinders is a program that exists to transform the lives of young people with adventures through the Flinders Ranges. Created for people aged 13 - 18, the program has a range of different adventures taking place over 7 nights and 8 days with participants coming from all over South Australia. 

During the 8 days, participants will experience the wilderness by sleeping in hootchies, cooking on the campfire, and trekking across vast open country. They’ll usually trek a total of 100kms over the 8 days, with little more than they can carry on their back. 

And once a young person has done the gruelling exercise, they have the opportunity to join the Next Step program, where the young people can provide further mentoring support to their peers.

The Next Step Program continues the sense of adventure and growth by providing opportunities in self-development, self-confidence and learning. They can then pass on what they’ve learnt to others by sharing their expertise and experience to those coming after them.

Peer Group Mentor Zoe says that ‘the program is important to me because it gets me out of my comfort zone and it pushes me further than I thought I could go.’

Standing next to her is Jack, who has been involved with Operation Flinders for six months and reckons the program leads to more gratitude for daily life, as well as giving him time out to find himself.

‘…after being on the walk and not even having a phone, I’m feeling more grateful for simple stuff like a bed. When I’m out in nature, it lets me be free from distractions and take a break from what might be going on in my world.’ 

BHP supports the attendance of four teams from across the Upper Spencer Gulf, as well as transport and accommodation support for Peer Group Mentors who are trained by Operation Flinders. 

Should someone want to pursue their training even further, the programs and training available include a Certificate II in Outdoor Recreation, employment pathways and other vocational opportunities. The Duke of Edinburgh Award is also available. 

Since beginning in 1991, Operation Flinders has seen over 9,000 participants in the program, including Liam. Liam learned about the program at school, where his teacher presented it as a good challenge. He pushed through the 8-day exercise and is now part of the Next Step Program.  

As Liam says while taking a break from rock climbing at the Adelaide warehouse, it’s big to him because it ‘gives everyone new opportunities and helps people’.