Students embrace life-altering journey

INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE: Ella Cresp, Katie Shaw and Montana McKay celebrate a day of trekking with an incredible view of the Flinders Ranges.

By Raquel Mustillo

A GROUP of Millicent youth are celebrating the successful completion of an eight-day, 100km trek through the northern Flinders Ranges and say it was worth every step. 

Millicent Community Learning Centre students Ella Cresp, Madi Golding, Ashlynn Golding, Brianna Andreae, Katie Shaw, Montana McKay and Laylah McCallum participated in the Operation Flinders program, an initiative which aims to increase resilience and build confidence in self-esteem in ‘at-risk’ young people. 

Staged in the northern Flinders Ranges, the group was joined by case managers Thea Clough and Heidi Muhovics and qualified Operation Flinders personnel in the wilderness adventure program. 

With 20kg backpacks filled with nothing more than camping and cooking equipment, the Tango 8 trekked 100km in eight days, while navigating, learning bush survival techniques and gaining invaluable life skills in the process. 

Participant Ella Cresp was inspired to undertake the challenge to further her education prospects and mental health, but said the initiative helped her discover an inner strength.

“I signed up because I thought it would be a good way to get some experience as I want to do the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and my Certificate II in Outdoor Recreation,” she said.

“But I also wanted to improve my mental health, because I had a lot of self-esteem issues.

“It definitely made me belief in myself and find confidence I didn’t know I had.

“Before Operation Flinders, I didn’t do anything but go to school and go home – I didn’t play sport and wasn’t active. 

“To be able to have walked 10km a day with 20kgs of my back is something I am really proud of and it has been so rewarding.”

Ella said the challenges faced during the trek forced participants to work together to solve problems and facilitated strong bonds among the group. 

“The centre is different to school because we don’t really hang out at recess and lunch,” she said.

“But in the outback, there’s nothing but you and bush – there’s no phones, no social media, no nothing.

“When you are around people 24 hours a day in a situation like that, you learn so much about them and they learn so much about you.

“The bonds we formed are really important and we will never lose the connection we have. 

“We didn’t really know each other before we left, but we have come home as sisters.”

Millicent Community Learning Centre case manager Thea Clough heralded the experience as life-changing and taught valuable lessons to both students and teachers. 

“It was an amazing experience and I cannot believe the strength, leadership and caring the girls showed through the entire thing,” she said.

“We all needed to lean on each other through this journey together and that is what we did. 

“I think this was an amazing opportunity and I hope us as a school can continue to do this.

“The parents should be so proud of the children, they are absolutely strong, marvelous and beautiful young women who have a very bright future ahead of them.”