BackTrack Youth Works is based in Armidale NSW and has been working with young people since 2006 to help them turn their lives around. BackTrack started as a group of volunteers with one goal in mind - to help seven teenage boys who had run out of options move forward with their lives. All were in trouble with the law, not one had a positive educational experience, most had drug and alcohol issues, few had safe affordable accommodation and none of them had a dream or a way out of the mess they called their lives.

BackTrack boys at a Rotary event

This group of 7 boys were to pave the way for young people slipping through a gap in the system. They were able to show just what is possible when people believe and create opportunities and, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “never ever give up”. The result – not one went to jail or relied on Centrelink benefits, all completed further accredited training, all went into full-time jobs and most now have families of their own. 

Using the distinctive strategies developed by founder Bernie Shakeshaft, BackTrack aims to fill gaps in our society. BackTrack’s distinctive programs target alternatives to help young people chase their hopes and dreams, the programs allow young people to “get back on track” to overcome disadvantage, participate fully within the community and lead happy and productive lives. 

One feature which distinguishes BackTrack from other youth organisations is that young people have the time to develop at their own pace in programs that are holistic and have no time constraints.

An evaluation of BackTrack by four universities

BackTrack obtains funding from multiple funding sources with the majority coming from the philanthropic sector. Other sources of funding include council and government support, self-generated income through programs, individual private donations and fundraising.

How Third Link is helping
Third Link is supporting BackTrack to the tune of $160,000 per year for the next three years, to help this unique organisation save lives of some of the most disadvantaged young people in our society. Funding is being put to use in BackTrack’s residential program, putting a roof over the heads of kids that have nowhere else to go as well as being used for training and skill development for young people already totally disengaged from mainstream education and excitedly, helping to develop a method of replicating the BackTrack model in other communities. The trials to date have had extraordinary outcomes and look likely to be sustained in the future, meaning future of hopes and dreams are being fulfilled by communities helping the kids that have fallen through the cracks.  

BackTrack girls with their dogs