The Walk of Life Program: A Crime Prevention and Child Protection Initiative

Mr Mark Cartner1, Dr Emma Antrobus2

1Bundaberg Patrol Group, Wide Bay Burnett District, Queensland Police Service, Bundaberg, Australia
2School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, Australia


Youth anti-social behaviour (including criminal behaviour) and victimisation are significant issues for police, schools, and society in general. The Walk of Life is an outdoor bush adventure program that aims to engage at-risk young people to develop resilience and life skills through experiential learning in a wilderness-based expedition while connecting with police, school staff, and pro-social peers. Our research aims to investigate whether this program, that links in with the school based police officer program with minimal additional costs, can benefit students in a holistic way and provide positive outcomes in terms of improved student behaviour, personal, and social development, and increased positive relationships between students, police, and teachers. The research uses a mixed methods approach to examine the Walk of Life program on a range of student outcomes relating to aspects like student development, school, and police contact. This presentation will discuss some of the findings from surveys of students before and immediately after the Walk of Life program conducted in 2019, as well as interviews with a variety of professionals involved with the Walk of Life program in some way (e.g., teachers, school leaders, support staff, police). Findings provide some indication that the Walk of Life program has a positive impact on the young people involved, particularly those at-risk of disengagement and anti-social behaviour, though some challenges are also identified.


Senior Constable Mark Cartner has been a Queensland police officer for 22 years, working in the Child Protection and Investigation Unit from 2003 to present. He spent almost 10 years leading a child abuse team responsible for child protection matters in remote aboriginal communities in the Cape York region. In 2015, desiring a change to a more proactive method of policing he took a position as a school-based police officer and started the Walk of Life program to test out his theories on child protection and youth development. He is the Deputy Chair of the Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy.

Dr Emma Antrobus a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland. Dr Antrobus has a background in social psychology and has interests in the legitimacy of social agencies and youth involvement in the criminal justice system. Some of her recent research focuses on examining the impact of police behaviour and legitimacy, and developing and evaluating evidence-based interventions to tackle issues for young people at risk.