What is an Operation Flinders "EXERCISE"? 

The Exercise = the 8 day program


Each Exercise is held on Yankaninna Station, located 65kms east of Leigh Creek in the Northern Flinders Ranges. The Exercise area is some 650kms from Adelaide and is served by a bitumen road and dirt track. The terrain is rugged hilly country with some large mountains. The country is saltbush, native pine and mallee with large gum trees along creek beds. The creeks are dry but tend to flood easily with moderate rain.


The Exercise is of eight days duration. The Teams arrive with their Counsellors in mini buses or similar, at pre-determined points well away from Headquarters. They are met by their team leader who has back packs for each Participant with sleeping bag, eating utensils, ground sheet, shelter (hootchie), wet weather gear, tent pegs, rope and water bottles. They transfer essential personal gear from their own packs to the issue packs under the supervision of the Team Leader. Random searches of toilet bags etc. are done to ensure no non-prescribed or unauthorised drugs are taken. Cigarettes may be permitted. All other goods are then loaded back onto the vehicle and the Team walks off to their first night camp. The bus returns to the same point eight days later to take the participants home.


The Exercise route is spread over a 100km circuit around Yankaninna. Teams walk an average of 100km over the eight days but this is dependent upon the Team Leader, who may implement minor variations. Distances walked each day vary depending upon the activity at the campsite they have been and generally between 8 and 15kms.

Teams spend each night at designated night locations. Each stand has limited facilities to support each team, with sufficient rations for the Team's dinner that night, breakfast the following morning and lunch that they carry away with them. A supply of water, implements for cooking and digging toilet pits are also provided at these night locations. There are no tents. Each participant carries an individual 'hootchie' which they can erect to cover themselves in the event of rain.

At no time do the Teams meet or mix, although they are aware of each other's presence from evidence at campsites and from radio 'chatter'. Each Team is issued with a teddy bear as the team mascot. The bear must, at all times must be able to hear, see and smell what is going on in the Team. The Team Leader issues duties to Team members each day including the role of Team Captain. Other Team members will be responsible for cooking, digging latrines, building the fire, minding the mascot and other duties normally required in a camp and during a 'trek'. All of the Team are taught basic bush craft and navigation skills.

What activities are offered throughout the Exercise?

Staffed Stands (night locations)

At three of the night locations, Teams interact with staffers, and become involved in specific activities that support the outcomes of the Exercise. At other locations, Teams complete Team Challenges. Each of the staffed Stands and Team Challenge has a specific purpose:

1. Abseiling Stand

Staff members instruct the teams in abseiling using a 30 meter high cliff. Team members have to place their trust in the staff and other team members and are assisted to overcome their various fears. This stand is also aimed at improving the participants' self-confidence, by overcoming challenges perhaps they initially thought they would be unable to achieve.

2. Cultural Stand

This Stand is staffed by two people from the local Adnyamathanha community (the traditional owners of that part of the northern Flinders Ranges). Participants are exposed to aboriginal culture, learn from the Adnyamathanha dreaming and partake in the presentation and consumption of traditional food. (Their normal rations are also available) Through the telling of dreamtime stories and songs, participants are taught the basic values caring, sharing and respecting each other, their elders and the environment.

Team Challenges

Each Team participates in established Team Challenges. One involves using ropes and other equipment to transport themselves and their equipment safely over a 'poisoned' water hole. The other challenge, is to build a bridge across a 'flooded creek'. Headquarters staff members attend and assess Team performance. Team Leaders often introduce impromptu challenges at times during the Exercise to facilitate and reinforce team work skills.

Exercise Completion

Once the Teams have completed the Exercise and before they leave the Exercise area, they are presented (individually), with a T shirt and a set of dog tags.  The tags have a 24-hour a day 1800 telephone number that they can ring for further support. Two specific awards may also be presented.

The Pam Murray-White Award

Determined by the Exercise Commander after consultation with the Stand staff. It is presented to the Team which has shown the most significant development.

The Scott Hartmann Trophy

Awarded to the participant who demonstrates the most significant 'turnaround' i.e., improvement in behaviour and attitude over the eight days of the Exercise.

Safety Measures

Medical Support

All Team Leaders, ATL's, exercise staff have senior first aid qualifications. Further medical support is provided by S.A. Ambulance officers, at least one of whom is a qualified paramedic. Should a serious medical problem eventuate an evacuation plan is in place with support from the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Foundation also has links with the Hawker and Leigh Creek hospitals.  Ambulance officers also transport stores and water to re-supply each team.


This is a vital component of the operation. Radio technicians attend as volunteers. Each teams carries two hand-held VHF radios. Radio links are also established with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Radio communication at Headquarters is monitored 24 hours per day. Regular scheduled calls are received from each Team daily; early in the morning and at the end of the day. All Foundation vehicles operating in the area carry radios.

Team Development

Each Team undergoes a 'Storming' period early in the Exercise when they complain about the physical aspects of the camp, object to the discipline, are fractious and difficult to control. They generally take three or four days to settle to their circumstances, come to terms with their surroundings, develop relationships with other team members, and form a Team. This storming may flare again but generally the second flare is of only short duration and easily resolved.

The second phase of the Exercise is the 'Norming' phase, when Participants come to terms with their situation. The third phase is called the 'Performing' phase, occurring usually over the last two or three days when they have come together, are enjoying the experience, are in high spirits and are working well to achieve Team and Exercise outcomes.

As the Exercise draws to a close, Participants may also go through a 'Mourning' phase. They realise and begin to regret that the Exercise is coming to an end and they will have to go home and face and deal with the issues they left behind. They also generally don't want to leave their Team Leader who they have come to respect and admire.

Given the importance of the development of pro-social team dynamics, the visiting of Teams in the field by 'outsiders' is strictly controlled. Permission from the Team Leader is obtained to minimise disruption at what may be a delicate or critical time. Upon arrival at a Team location, visitors are not permitted to approach the Team until invited to do so.

What to Pack

Individuals are provided with a packing list from the agency that has selected them.

Bring a Positive attitude! – Opting out half way through is not an option


The rugged terrain demands sturdy footwear

  • Lace –up walking boots with ankle support
  • Sturdy soles (not sneakers)
  • Well worn – in, so blisters are avoided. Not borrowed from someone else!
  • No need to be expensive – Big W or Trims have reasonably priced boots
  • Several pairs of thick socks also keep feet comfortable.


  • Loose comfortable walking pants  (cargo pants ok – not jeans as too heavy). 1 pair
  • Shorts in hotter months. 1 pair
  • Undies – cotton, soft,
  • Socks – thick – 3 pairs
  • Thongs or light shoes to wear round camp
  • Warm top/jacket  - 1
  • Beanie for cold nights
  • T-shirts – 2 for walking
  • Sock protectors
  • Bring old clothes as they will get dirty, wet and possibly damaged.

Personal Items

  • Toiletries – toothbrush and paste, small soap, small hand towel, sunscreen, lip balm, hankies, wipes. Keep it small!

Operation Flinders will supply:

  • Hootchies (Small shelters)
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Eating utensils and water bottles
  • Backpacks
  • Food and water, including a packed lunch to take on the home journey.
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Roll mat

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