Operation Flinders Foundation run 8 day, 100km wilderness adventure programs for at risk participants between the age of 14 and 18 years in the far northern Flinders Ranges, providing an opportunity for participants to break away from their past and grow as valued members of the community. The aim is to develop personal attitudes of self esteem, leadership, motivation, team work and responsibility. Teams learn basic bush survival skills, are taught to abseil, discover Indigenous culture and learn of the rich history of the Flinders Ranges. Unlike other aspects of their lives, there is not an opportunity for the participants to ‘opt out’.
Arup is working with Operation Flinders on the water and energy systems at their Yankaninna Homestead which can house approximately 50 volunteers during operations to support those in the field. The homestead is completely off-grid and provides its own water and power needs. Potable water is currently available through an ageing brackish groundwater reverse osmosis unit that is too small for Yankaninna’s demand. In addition to the capacity limitations, the existing system configuration has some inherent inefficiencies. We have assessed the current water needs and infrastructure, and are developing a scheme that will provide a robust, efficient, easy to use and safe water supply. The scheme uses rainwater in preference to desalinated water and minimizes pumping requirements to reduce energy needs and operational costs.
Yankaninna’s power is currently supplied from two onsite diesel generators. Arup is developing a standalone solar photovoltaic system with battery bank to provide the majority of the sites power needs when not hosting programs for the majority of the year. The diesel generators will supplement solar power when demand is high. The scheme uses solar power in preference to diesel generation and will significantly reduce on-going diesel costs and increase workplace safety.
In optimising the onsite water and energy systems and making them safer, less expensive to operate and more robust, the program organisers can focus on the objectives of the program without having logistical issues detract from the youth’s experience. This in turn allows the program to achieve the desired outcomes to ensure that the teenagers have safe and rewarding experiences with sufficient support systems in place. Robust water and energy systems also means that volunteers can comfortably participate in the program, encouraging different people who have various skill sets to contribute to the program (indigenous participants, people with trade or agricultural skills, etc). This will diversify and enrich the experience that the teenagers have while participating in the program. Robust and efficient systems with minimal operational costs, improves the financial viability of the program to continue to change and enrich the lives of hundreds of underprivileged or challenged youths into the future. In addition, through ensuring the Operation is robust and sustainable, over time the program may reduce incidence of crime in our communities by changing the lives and attitudes of youths who may otherwise engage in crime.
Arup has provided Operation Flinders with independent and impartial advice and technical input. Designs are developed from the perspective and needs of the end-user, rather than forcing a solution onto a situation where it may not be appropriate. The designs consider the financial, technical and ongoing maintenance capacity of Operation Flinders as well as the environment in which the system operates. Ongoing operating costs will be reduced while still catering for future demands which will improve the viability of the organisation into the future. With reliable and affordable water and energy infrastructure Operation Flinders will also be in a better position to offer their unique facilities to different groups of people in need.
Staff have enjoyed working on this local scale project where the impacts are direct and personal. Two Arup staff - Hilary Pocock and Simon Schutz - were able to visit Yankaninna Station during a weekend Sponsors visit while an Operation was taking place with approximately 80 participants. Not only were Simon and Hilary able to collect information that informed the subsequent technical advice, they were also able to meet with some participants on their trek to talk with them about the challenges that they faced in their lives and to gain an understanding about how this experience was changing them. Hilary and Simon were able to observe the positive impact that Operation Flinders has on the lives of participants. Similarly, the experience enabled Simon and Hilary to meet with other Corporate Sponsors and Support Staff from a diverse range of backgrounds with an array of unique skill sets. It was an empowering experience and one that both educated Arup staff about important issues faced by the local community while highlighting how these problems can and are be addressed.
The key outcomes of the project were:
1. Consolidate water supply options. Preferential use of rainwater with supplementary groundwater. Desalination of brackish groundwater. UV disinfection.
2. Significantly reduce reliance on diesel generators for electricity. Off-grid solar photovoltaic system with generator only used during peak times.
3. Assisting Operation Flinders by minimising their on-going operating costs and system inefficiencies so that their efforts can be focused on maximising the benefit that the youths are able to get out of the program.
Through ensuring the Operation is robust and sustainable, over time the program may reduce incidence of crime in our communities by changing the lives and attitudes of youths who may otherwise engage in crime.
Hilary Pocock, Arup, Melbourne