BackTrack provides youth experiencing disadvantage in regional communities the support, life skills and experience to pursue positive life pathways.

BackTrack is a non-profit, educational and life skills initiative for young people aged 11-19 years old from rural and remote communities who are simply, having a hard time. The program gives vulnerable young people the practical and emotional support needed to stabilise their lives, helping develop self-esteem and skills for work. Almost 9 in 10 young people supported by BackTrack move into work, education or training. To date, BackTrack’s has worked with more than 1000 young people and generated impact within the local Armidale community in NSW.

2020 update

We extend our congratulations to Bernie Shakeshaft, founder of BackTrack, for being named Local Hero in the 2020 Australian of the Year Awards. Bernie founded BackTrack in 2006 and in the last 10 years he and his extraordinary team have helped over 1,000 kids. We are proud to have supported BackTrack as a venture partner since 2017, and are currently seeking new funding partners to help them continue to grow and mentor other communities across the country to develop their own BackTrack program.

Venture mission

Most existing services in Australia fail to effectively connect and serve the multiple needs of the most disadvantaged young people. This is often the result of government and other funding for programs being specifically linked to time-bound outcomes. BackTrack takes a different approach, allowing all individuals to develop at their own pace.

All BackTrack program activities are designed to allow participants to gain a sense of belonging, strong positive identity and the self-belief to pursue their personal aspirations. Effective wrap-around support is provided to participants, which may include accommodation, support through the justice system, mental health support and individualised mentoring.

Goal of SVA partnership

As a result of the success achieved in Armidale, BackTrack is receiving overwhelming demand from communities across Australia to support the development of BackTrack style programs in these regions. SVA is partnering with BackTrack to provide community mentoring support and develop a sustainable and modularised program that will enable efficient scale. This expansion has the potential to result in improved service delivery for young people in rural, regional and remote communities across Australia. Programs will operate with a clear line of sight to work-ready skills development, work experience, and local youth employment.

Currently BackTrack is supporting pilot programs in Bourke, Dubbo, Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo. Discussions are taking place with the communities of Orange, Kempsey, Moree and Tamworth as the next most likely sites to rollout BackTrack’s community mentoring support. The community mentoring project will enable Armidale to act as a centre of excellence which youth workers and community leaders can attend to receive targeted training on how to implement and operate a BackTrack style program.

SVA support

BackTrack joined the SVA venture philanthropy portfolio in May 2017.

Case study - a voice for youth on the wrong track

Thirteen-year-old Tyson had experienced significant hardship by the time he arrived at BackTrack in 2011. His family life had broken down and he had completely disengaged from school. He was on a path that many of the BackTrack kids are heading down including crime, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse.

Tyson’s involvement with BackTrack sparked a turning point in Tyson’s life.

His involvement with the justice system has considerably reduced and he has obtained year 10 schooling qualifications, despite never getting past year seven in the traditional school system. He’s had a transformative impact on how the justice department staff of this centre view support for juvenile detainees.

During a stint in detention, Tyson started up his own BackTrack style program and ran daily case management and mentoring support for other boys in the centre.

Since being released Tyson has maintained meaningful employment and has aspirations to be a youth worker to help people like himself who are having a hard time.