BackTrack is an organisation over east. They do what Dismantle does, only instead of bikes, they use dogs.
Based in Armidale, NSW, BackTrack supports 12-18 year olds who are having a hard time and would otherwise fall through the cracks. Maybe they’ve disengaged from the school system, or are living on the streets. Many don’t have safe homes to go to, have had rough childhoods, and are on a slippery slope into the criminal justice system.
In one program, PawsUp, kids are given a BackTrack dog and taught to take responsibility for its training, discipline and care. It’s an initiative that really works. The achievement of training up a dog gives them purpose, improves their self esteem and gives them confidence in their abilities. Meanwhile, they gain a canine friend and companion who doesn’t judge, who listens, and who accepts them for who they are.
Other initiatives include a farm training program and a welding workshop, both of which give participants real accreditations and skills and can lead into a BackTrack paid employment program, then traineeships and permanent work outside of the organisation. They run onsite school outreach programs for kids who are starting to disengage from school life, and host external literacy and numeracy programs at their centres, often with the dogs lying under the desks. They’ve also got a safe house, called Warrah, that offers kids a supportive home environment and teaches them basic life skills like cooking and cleaning.
BackTrack have been busy establishing hubs in other regional centres, expanding their operations to help more kids.
Through their huge variety of programs, the organisation has likely kept hundreds of young people out of jail and made communities safer by preventing crime. BackTrack not only helps their participants get back on track, it supports them to realise their hopes and ambitions.
A film about the organisation came out in late October. Called BackTrack Boys, it’s received heaps of attention, having been featured on Conversations with Richard Fidler, talked about on Sunrise, and won Best Documentary at Byron Bay Film Festival. There are several screening events taking place around WA, along with a community screening program with opportunities for people to host their own screening or fundraiser.