BackTrack Programs

Community Solutions to Community Issues

Our Mission:  To offer young people who have lost their way an opportunity to reconnect with their education and training, to become work ready, find jobs, lead happy and productive lives and participate fully in the community.

BackTrack Youthworks, a not for profit organisation, is based in Armidale NSW and operates within Jobs Australia. BackTrack currently runs a range of programs for disadvantaged youth

BackTrack acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which BackTrack is situated and we pay respect to their elders past and present.

circle work at BackTrack

“In over 25 years of youth work, my unrelenting desire has been to educate the community that those young people they consider most marginalised or difficult have skills and aspirations and want a sense of belonging just like us all.

Since 2006, BackTrack has been delivering life changing outcomes for young people. BackTrack pushes the boundaries of how to work along side young people in this generation and redefines what is possible for them to achieve using a unique process of engagement and connection.

When you change the life outcomes for these youth you improve the overall quality of community life.”

~Bernie Shakeshaft

The Programs

Paws Up

Paws Up is one of BackTrack’s best known and loved programs. These amazing dogs work with our young people, who spend time with them, care for them, train them and take them out to perform and bring joy where ever they go. The team of dogs and their young handlers give public demonstrations of dog jumping and dog handling, attend dog jumping competitions and cattle trials, visit people in aged care facilities and hospitals, and participate in community events. The dogs also provide support to vulnerable young people in court and even lend company and a furry non-judgemental ear for primary school children learning to read.

Ag Lads

The AgLads program was designed from the outset to not only give opportunities to young people but also to address the skills shortage amongst rural industries in our region. Aglads provides practical skills, training and experience on farm and offers a pathway to locally relevant employment opportunities. The Aglads team do lamb marking, fencing, drenching, weed control, wood cutting, tree planting and many other on farm jobs. This builds connections with the local industry and agricultural community at the same time.

Ironman Welders

IronMan Welders are famous for making everything from sculptures to farm gates. With supervised support and training in welding and carpentry, our young people not only get introduced to these trades, but also get to express their creativity in a safe and supportive environment. This is real life learning and was one of the first programs established at BackTrack. By working on welding and other hands on projects, the young people involved learn concentration and discipline, and gain pride in their achievements. They also learn associated workplace health and safety requirements as they go.


BackTrack’s classroom, originally called “The Paddock”, is a foundational program which supports and integrates with the learning that occurs in all other settings. From the early days of a few mis-matched chairs pulled into a circle in the welding shed, the program has grown to a fully-fledged classroom. The program focusses on literacy and numeracy aligned to the development of skills for life and potential future employment opportunities.

“Warrah” Residential

“Warrah” is BackTrack’s residential facility 10 km out of Armidale on the edge of Dumaresq Dam in a beautiful rural setting. One of our newest programs, it was developed to address the fact that some of the young people involved in our programs had nowhere safe to stay. 

This program has been developed to provide a family style home with 6 long-term and 2 emergency accommodation beds for boys facing homelessness or geographical barriers to obtaining program support.

Running Strong

BackTrack’s Running Strong program is specifically tailored for girls. The program focusses on skills for life, staying connected with education, and engaging with the local community. Through Running Strong, the girls are supported to navigate life’s significant challenges as they present, and to gain the skills and confidence to engage fully in education and employment opportunities. The program focusses on positive community interactions. 

School Based Youth Work

The school based youth work program is aimed towards primary and secondary school students who are disengaged with any area of their school life (socially, emotionally, physically or academically). Weekly sessions delivered on site at schools combine practical and theoretical components and are founded on youth work and student welfare. Participating students are supported to find balance and meaning in all areas of their life and to apply this to their schooling also.