Working with At-Risk Youth through Outback Intervention Programs

Mrs Linda White1
1Operation Flinders, Edwardstown, Australia


This presentation aims to equip those working in a wilderness, outback or outdoor therapy context with intentional practice frameworks and tools. Focusing on outcomes prior, during and post the wilderness experience are an essential part of intentional practice. A key component of this is developing a growth mindset throughout the journey. Leadership that role-models a growth mindset and acts intentionally through coaching, validation, and affirmation empowers youth at risk to build key skills as individuals as well as a team. This presentation addresses the understanding of behavior and responses of youth at risk, where these come from and the needs they have, including identification of trauma and trauma responses, mental illness and responding to psychological concern in the field, which are key focuses of intentional practice. Leaders are able to modify their practice to best suit individuals and team in order to grow in participant’s short, medium- and long-term goals. Operation Flinders has been engaged in Wilderness Therapy for twenty five years; using experiential learning as a pedagogy of learning, Operation Flinders through wilderness therapy walks, called ‘exercises’, takes five hundred youth at risk per year on a rugged one hundred kilometer journey through the Flinders Ranges for eight days. This includes activities such as bush-camping, abseil, cultural and survival activities all focused on developing a learning outcome in the individual and team. Operation Flinders program logic is based on clinical outcomes and endeavors to transform the lives of youth at risk through the wilderness experience and further leadership development. As an organisation Operation Flinders aims to have a growth mindset as a framework for all programs, people and culture.

Linda White is currently the General Manager for Operation Flinders, a not for profit organization, specializing in Wilderness Therapy and Outback Interventions for at risk adolescents. Linda has worked with children, youth, young adults and families for twenty years. In this time she has been an Executive Director/manager industrial counselor/psychologist, school/agency social service manager, youth worker, corporate trainer and lecturer. She has specialized in the management of mental health and wellbeing, holistic care, outdoor interventions and Educational support.

As a qualified trainer, Linda has written various resources, papers and manuals and provides training programs in Vocational Education and Higher Education through Social Science faculties across Australia.

Linda has been married to her husband Chris for 14 years and has three gorgeous girls, Mykah who is 8 years old, Eliana who is 7 years old and Neiva who is 3 years old. For recreation Linda loves fishing, the outdoors, reading and writing and ultimately has a heart to see communities, families and individuals grow in resilience, positive affect and connectedness.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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