Friday, 7 July 2017

Boot camp for bad teens

is something I was reminded of yesterday - in an email from a regular reader of my witterings. He said, "Don't forget they can send them off  into the bush with Operation Flinders."
One of the men who ran Operation Flinders excursions a while back lived at the corner. He was a retired army officer. His own children behaved. There was, I suspect, always the threat that he would take them on one of those eight day stints in the bush.
The idea is to take groups of up to 100 (in much smaller groups) at risk of offending teens into the north Flinders Ranges and, over the eight days, get them to hike about 100km, abseil, cook, and care for themselves in the open. There are no tents provided but "hutchies" - one person shelters - are provided in case it rains. 
The participants get the basics of a sleeping bag, food (which they have to prepare themselves), the hutchie and a means of putting it up, and an implement for digging their latrines at the end of the day. They can take basic personal items but they don't have access to the outside world.
It's generally "tough". Our neighbour at the corner told us how on one occasion one of the boys participating fooled around and lost his box of matches. He tried to get more from the group leader who told him, "No, sorry. The matches were your responsibility. If you can't cook your food too bad."
And it stayed that way. The group leader did not give in. The kid tried bullying the rest of the group but group leaders are very aware of that sort of thing and he didn't get away with that either. I don't know what happened in the end but I have heard similar stories of group leaders not giving in - and individuals learning harsh lessons about what is expected of them.
Our neighbour at the corner has also taken several very small groups on extended trips. They have always been boys, boys who have already offended, sometimes seriously, but still boys those responsible for their welfare have some hope for in the future. They have done month long trips - the hard way. It is hard for the adults who go with them too. 
Does it work? For some, yes it probably does. Long before Operation Flinders started there was the wise magistrate who looked at a group of teens in trouble and told them they had a choice. They could go into youth detention or they could go on the trip of a lifetime to Africa. If they went to Africa it was going to be really tough but they might learn some useful skills.
They went to Africa. It was tough, very tough. They were homesick at first. They pleaded to be allowed home. They had to stay. In the end they built a hospital and then a school and then put in a water system for someone the magistrate knew. Since then they have been to Indonesia and the Philippines and done disaster relief work. In between they work as skilled builders who can turn their hands to almost anything.
As one of them said to me before they set off for the Philippines,
     "Someone believed in us even though we didn't believe in ourselves."


1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...

Even a good teen who lived in the Flinders Ranges for the rest of her/their/his natural life would find it tough.

And it is much tougher to be in the Flinders Ranges on your own, as a woman on a bicycle was when she was taking pictures of ruins.

Even getting into the Pound - which I did this May - has some mixed blessings.

Hope everyone benefits from the Flinders Leadership in their own way and in ways which benefit their trusted ones and their communities which they may be part of.