Bernie Shakeshaft

Bernie is the founder and CEO of BackTrack Youth Works in Armidale NSW. He has spent the past 25 years working and living out his passion…. catching wild dogs and wild kids.  For many years he lived in the Northern Territory learning his trade in remote areas, learning the lessons of life in the bush and surrounded by wise and skilful Aboriginal men and old school stockmen.

In 2006 with his children growing up and forging their own paths in life, he was determined to turn his vision of working with the most disadvantaged young people in our communities into a reality. To keep them alive, out of jail and chasing their hopes and dreams. 2014 saw him travel overseas on a prestigious Churchill scholarship to learn from some extraordinary organisations that have helped develop the BackTrack model in Australia.

Under Bernie’s leadership, BackTrack has forged a new beginning for over a 1000 young people.  Bernie takes great pride in how his vision of giving young people having a hard time a new life journey and a new beginning, is now spreading across NSW with mentoring other communities to get started using the same successful tools that have had remarkable results in Armidale.

“We’ve started something special here in Armidale.  I’m proud of what has been achieved to date.  The future is what I’m interested in and how we grow and extend new tracks going forward.”

MEET THE DOGS WHO ARE IN THE FILM

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Name: Merlin
Age: 8 – Collie Kelpie X

The gymnast of the pack.

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Name: Sport
Age: 7 – Border Collie

A tough working dog, he is at his best with difficult cattle in the bush. Brave, smart and always willing to work hard – his mother “Lou”, and aunty “Girl” still tell him what to do!

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Name: Robin
Age: 8 – Collie Kelpie X

Robin is one of the quieter dogs in the team. One of the top jumping dogs on the team, she always gives 100% and will leap into your arms if invited.

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Name: Arco
Age:

Arco is our gentle giant.

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Name: Gibson
Age: 8 – Border Collie

Always popular with red heads, he enjoys pats from crowds, children reading to him at school, soaking in the water troughs on the farm and being part of the elite dog jumping team.

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Name: Striker
Age: 9 – Border Collie X

Strong and brave, this super keen jumping dog never fails to give his all. He loves to chase frisbees, balls, sticks … anything!

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Name: Girl
Age: 12 – Border Collie

Leader of the dog pack, she plays a key role in keeping all the dogs in balance. She keeps a careful eye on everyone including sister “Lou” whilst enjoying plenty of well earned TLC.

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Name: Lou
Age: 12 – Border Collie

Whilst she enjoys taking life a little easier these days, a ball or a stick will always get her going! Just like her sister “Girl” she needs and gets plenty of TLC.

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Name: Flash
Age: 11 – Border Collie

An elder of the dog pack with presence and wisdom. He is a reassuring leader and partner for young people and dogs alike. A top working dog in his day he is now more interested in taking things more gently and letting the younger dogs do more of the running around.

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Name: Bindi
Age:

Bindi is a record holder in dog jumping!

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Name: Roxy
Age: 2 – Kelpie X

BJ has trained her since she was a pup. Roxy, the noisiest dog somehow ended up with the quiet Backtrack boy. Some say Roxy is teaching BJ speak up more while he’s trying to show her the quieter side of life. Roxy is learning fast to work with livestock and jumping high!  BJ is very proud of his little dog.

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The  34 BackTrack Dogs include pups, adults and elderly dogs.

All are involved in many different activities, including Barking Books (reading in schools), Listen Up (visits to nursing homes), Canine Assisted Learning and Growth (therapy & support), agricultural (working sheep and cattle on the farm) and trialling (cattle trials).

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