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From shed to success

In the heart of Armidale in 2006, Bernie Shakeshaft witnessed a harsh reality that stirred something deep within him

The challenges faced by vulnerable young people seemed insurmountable—disconnect from their community, struggles in education, and an uphill battle to find employment. School dropouts, troubled encounters with the law, and a system unable to meet their complex needs created a cycle of homelessness, substance use, psychological distress, and disengagement.

Bernie, fueled by a vision and supported by a dedicated community, took a bold step. In a modest shed, he gathered a group of young individuals alongside a few four-legged companions, the now-famous working dogs. This marked the inception of BackTrack, an initiative that aimed to break the cycle of despair and offer these young souls a chance at a brighter future.

The heart of BackTrack

The journey from that humble shed to today’s BackTrack has been transformative, yet the essence of that initial experience remains at its core. The resilience and spirit of those young people in that shed on day one continue to shape the organization’s approach to making a lasting impact.

Recently, BackTrack received a significant boost—a $20,000 grant as part of the 2023 Community Support Fund from ETC Ltd. This generous contribution is earmarked for crucial facility upgrades and the acquisition of a new welding bay to enhance apprenticeship training. It stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work of the BackTrack team in their commitment to bringing positive change to the community.

ETC Ltd, a stalwart supporter of worthy causes, has donated over $2 million over the past 12 years and in the last two years alone, $1 million has been contributed to organisations like BackTrack, which are actively changing the trajectory of young lives and their families.

Rod McKelvey, ETC Board Chair, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “This is the first time we have granted money to Armidale, and I cannot think of a better way of introducing ourselves to this region and Armidale than by supporting BackTrack.”

Marcus Watson of BackTrack sees a beautiful synergy between ETC and BackTrack. “I think there is a really nice synergy between ETC and BackTrack in the way that they go into communities and see what they need and connect with that, and that’s our heart.”

As BackTrack continues to evolve and expand its reach, their unique model is garnering attention. Other organisations are taking note, inspired by the success and impact of BackTrack’s approach. The ripple effect is palpable, as communities beyond Armidale are adopting similar strategies to empower their young individuals.

For those eager to delve deeper into the BackTrack story and learn more about their life-changing programs, a visit to their website at backtrack.org.au is highly recommended. The organisation is always on the lookout for volunteers and supporters to join their mission, ensuring that no young person falls through the cracks but, instead, finds a path to a brighter future. Get involved and be a part of the incredible journey that is BackTrack, a journey that is not only transforming lives but inspiring a movement for change across communities far and wide.

Watch Our BackTrack Story

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