Independent studies have revealed that, compared to a control group, Operation Flinders participants showed evident trends toward improved behavioural characteristics in areas of reduced short term offending behaviour, increased self-control (or reduction in aggression), improved attitudes to authority figures, enhanced wellbeing or confidence (self-esteem, self-efficacy), improved educational engagement, increased motivation to change, and reduced unexplained absences from school.
In 2014 a comprehensive evaluation of the Operation Flinders program was undertaken. It involved 59 schools and referral agencies, and approximately 600 young people and 100 school teachers. Data were collected on a range of forensic, social, wellbeing, resilience and educational outcomes.
The evaluation employed a pretest-postest control group design with a 6-8 week follow-up. Longer- term outcome trends were also assessed through educational data. The selection of the control group, drawn from the same population, enabled the measurement of change, by comparing Operation Flinders and control group participants on key outcome measures. To complement this report, a further set of more stringent statistical analyses were performed, including additional objective outcome measures. Importantly, consistent patterns were observed across both sets of analyses. Compared to a control group, Operation Flinders participants showed trends toward:
- Reduced short-term offending behaviour
- Increased self-control (or reduction in aggression)
- Improved attitudes to authority figures
- Enhanced wellbeing or confidence (self-esteem, self-efficacy)
- Improved educational engagement
- Increased motivation to change
- Reduced unexplained absences from school
The program had the greatest impact for young people presenting with elevated risk profiles, related to recent offending and truancy behaviour, and focusing most strongly on behavioural outcomes. Given the program’s sensitivity with this cohort, strong evidence is provided that Operation Flinders is meeting its funded objective as a crime prevention program. Together these findings indicate that Operation Flinders is an intervention of change that can impact attitudinal, value and behavioural outcomes which translate to reduced criminogenic risk and positive educational engagement, at least within the short term.
The current evaluation was designed to build upon and extend the evaluation of the Operation Flinders program conducted by Mohr et al. (2001), which concluded that there are “grounds for optimism about the effectiveness of the program in achieving its aims”. The current evaluation provides further grounds for optimism that Operation Flinders is achieving its aims and is delivering meaningful crime prevention outcomes. There is also evidence to suggest that increased program impact can be achieved. As a result of this evaluation, a number of recommendations were made, that have and continue to be incorporated in Operation Flinders program development:
- The articulation of a clearly conceptualised program logic model (informed by evidence), with a strong focus on skill-development;
- The implementation of more targeted participant selection processes (targeting higher risk participants); as well as
- Systematically reviewing program integrity.
While some limitations of the evaluation methodology are noted, taken together, this represents a valid and reliable assessment of Operation Flinders program effectiveness at the current time.
Operation Flinders is committed to continuous improvement of our program, and as such, we are starting an ongoing evaluation to monitor program effectiveness, as well as benchmark against other interventions targeted toward youth at risk.