Armidale’s Backtrack Youth Works has once again picked up the top gong at the Youth Action Awards for its invaluable work in turning the lives around of hundreds of troubled teens.
The Bernie Shakeshaft founded program lifted the NSW Youth Service of the Year award at a ceremony in Wooloomooloo last month for the second time in three years, after gracing the same stage in 2015.
The award is another feather in the cap for the program that has had a huge year of exposure after recently being the focus of award winning critically acclaimed documentary Backtrack Boys, by director Catherine Scott.
Mr Shakeshaft’s idea for the life changing program was borne out of experience and frustration in the system, initially taking seven boys in to a part time program being run out of an empty council shed in 2006, and soon after incorporated the use of sheep dogs as a dynamic support tool.
Feature: the incredible program behind the Backtrack Boys documentary
Since then the program has helped over 1000 youths at risk, boasting an incredible 87 per cent success rate of the youths entering into either full time employment or education.
“This award is a tribute to the many supporters and young people who continually prove our effectiveness,” Mr Shakeshaft said.
“We are forever grateful to the support received from the Armidale Council which enabled us to get started with a shed.”
While BackTrack remains “focused on growing opportunities in Armidale” the organisation has also been supporting other regional communities to develop similar programs.
Mr Shakeshaft has also launched BT Works, an employment social enterprise that is helps youths transition into employment in the agriculture and trade sectors.
“We are proud of the recognition for the hard work and the difference we are making, and have started working with other communities as they begin their own journeys,” Mr Shakeshaft said.