Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:18 :54 ): I rise today to speak about an absolutely outstanding program that operates in my electorate of Stuart, Operation Flinders, and to share with the house very concerning media reports this morning that the government is considering cutting its funding support to Operation Flinders in the upcoming budget. I urge the government not to do this. This will be an extremely small cost to the budget, but an incredibly important contribution to Operation Flinders.
Many members of parliament, from both sides of this house, are very familiar with Operation Flinders. Many members of Parliament have visited Operation Flinders at Yankaninna station. I believe this is a program that receives very genuine and broad bipartisan support and I think it would be a dreadful shame if this program were not to receive ongoing funding.
Yankaninna Station is in the Flinders Ranges, as you might know, in the electorate of Stuart. Many of the at-risk youth who participate in the Operation Flinders programs are from my electorate, but many of them are from Adelaide and many of them are from other places all around the state. I understand that Operation Flinders has received $400,000 in the last four years from the government, so $100,000 per year, on average. It actually costs $100,000 per year, on average—
One hundred thousand dollars per year is also what it costs, on average, to keep a prisoner in prisons in South Australia. So, for exactly the same price that the government has been contributing to—and is considering taking away from—Operation Flinders, that is exactly the same cost to house one prisoner in our correctional services system for one year.
Last year, 400 people participated in Operation Flinders programs—400 at-risk youths participated in these programs. So, for the cost required to keep one person in prison for one year, the government contributes the same amount of money to help 400 young at-risk people participate in this very successful program—this program which helps keep people out of prison, with a proven track record, which gets people back onto the straight and narrow, and helps people turn their lives around in very important ways. It helps to keep them out of prison. If only one person out of the 400 who participated in that program last year was kept out of prison—and I am sure it was many more—it was a break even for the government. So, this really cannot be justified even on a cost-cutting exercise, even if the government was so heartless to do so.
I will share a few aspects of this program with the house. The exercises typically last eight days in duration at Yankaninna Station. The exercise route is spread over a 100 kilometre circuit around Yankaninna Station and teams walk an average of 100 kilometres over those eight days. They participate in a range of activities which are deliberately there to test them. It is not meant to be easy. It is meant to be difficult. It is meant to make them confront themselves in difficult situations, such as abseiling down a 30-metre high cliff.
Cultural activities are very important in this part of the world. With two people from the local Adnyamathanha community, the traditional owners of this part of the northern Flinders, participants are exposed to Aboriginal culture and learn from Adnyamathanha dreaming. That is a very important part of the program, keeping in mind that many of the participants are Aboriginal people themselves.
Team challenges: one of them involves using ropes and equipment to transport themselves and their equipment safely over a designated ‘poisoned’ waterhole. Another challenge is to build a bridge across a designated ‘flooded’ creek. These are the sorts of challenges that people participate in. These are the sorts of activities that make them confront themselves. These are the sorts of activities which bring youths to face difficulties, to face themselves, to join together in teamwork successfully and to go on to better lives.