Intimate and raw, a powerful documentary about a program which helps troubled youth find their path is coming to Inverell this month.
BackTrack Boys by acclaimed Australian filmmaker Catherine Scott, follows two years in the lives of kids in danger of jail or falling through the cracks, as they get back on track by travelling with Armidale jackaroo Bernie Shakeshaft and his dog jumping team.
The BackTrack Youth Works program has helped over 1000 youths at risk, and boasts an impressive 87 per cent success rate of participants leaving with full time education, training or employment.
“I hope this film will give greater insight into youth doing it tough in rural Australia and foster a more in-depth understanding of the issues so desperately need to develop successful, long-lasting social reforms,” Catherine said in a release.
“The film focuses on the challenging issues these young people must grapple with every day. And asks – why is Bernie’s program working when so many others fail? What do these kids need from the rest of us in society so they can successfully launch into the world and escape the poverty-prison cycle?”
Local couple Jane and Rowan O’Brien have joined with Gwymac Landcare to bring the film to Inverell because they’ve seen first hand through their son Paddy, the effectiveness of BackTrack Youth Works.
“The program’s really dear to our hearts because it’s been an alternative education program for our son. It’s really given him a pathway to do what he’s good at and what he loves doing,” Jane said.
Flexible and individualised, the program has a strong focus on helping participants achieve their dreams.
“Patrick’s long term dream is to go up north and work on a cattle station, so certainly the skills and knowledge he’s been able to obtain through the BackTrack program (have) put him in good stead to be able to achieve that dream. Even down to things like work ethic,” Rowan added.
The film’s tagline is ‘Wild boys and the dogs that tame them’, and that has proven true for Paddy, who’s developed a special bond with Snoop, one of the BackTrack Dogs. The pair can be spotted throughout the documentary, which was filmed during Paddy’s time in the program.
Thrilled with his progress, Paddy’s parents are keen to give back to the program through the screening, and hope to encourage locals to think about how the town treats troubled teens and youth crime.
“I guess it’s to show our appreciation for what the organisation has done for our family, and to start a conversation in the community itself in regards to building resilience in kids and showing what can be achieved when kids have a sense of community and sense of belonging in a community,” Rowan said.
“Yes (BackTrack) it could be a good fit for Inverell, who knows? But at least if we start talking about giving youth a sense of self and a sense of community, there’s no losers in regards to that.”
Chief Inspector with the Inverell Police, Rowan understands all too well the challenges of tackling youth crime.
“The program has runs on the board in terms of being a crime prevention strategy for the Armidale area,” he said.
“One of the best things to help drive down crime, and especially that crime being committed by young people in the community is to give young people a sense of worth, a sense of belonging to a community. And employment and education are the two main factors in regards to that, and certainly that’s what the Backtrack program’s been able to achieve for thousands of young men throughout its existence.”
BackTrack Boys will be screened at the Inverell Racecourse (courtesy of the Inverell Jockey Club) on Saturday, February 23. Gates open at 6.30pm, food and drink available. The cost is $15 adult, $10 concessional student and $40 family (two adults, two kids), with all funds going towards the BackTrack Youth program. Tickets are available from www.stickytickets.com.au or by calling Gwymac Landcare on 67 211 241.
“I’m proud to be bringing this screening to Inverell. It’s amazing and it’s something we certainly believe in,” Jane said.
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