The Film

Backtrack Boys had its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2018 and was released nationally in Oct 2018.

Winner of 5 prestigious Audience Awards at Sydney Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival and the Stronger than Fiction Film Festival in Canberra & Byron Bay Film Festival

Backtrack Boys is currently screening in hosted community screenings – find out where to watch…


A group of troubled boys are on a perilous course towards jail until they meet up with the free-wheeling jackaroo, Bernie Shakeshaft, and hit the road with his legendary dog jumping team.

This observational documentary, filmed over two years, follows boys in a youth program that Bernie runs from a shed on the outskirts of Armidale, a rural town in Australia. On the road, the boys find their voice, make great friendships and the dogs become national champions. But as the boy’s sleep under the stars at night the trauma is never too far away.

With their survival and futures at stake they must constantly step up, push themselves, support each other and some days can be hard. This inspiring coming of age story reveals the challenges and triumphs these boys face as they try to find their place in the world, and the dogs that help tame their wild ways.

“Keep the kid alive, keep them out of jail and chase their hopes and dreams”.

Bernie Shakeshaft 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.


Backtrack Boys follows the story of the boys and their dogs. BackTrack Youth Works Paws Up program centres around animal behavioural therapy which promotes self-moderating behaviours, leadership and self-confidence.

“My favourite dog is Robin. I saw her and fell in love with her straight away.”

– Zac

“This is a game of inches.
We stick by the kids every inch of the way. We do whatever it takes, we’re in it for the long haul”

– Bernie Shakeshaft Founder and CEO


In the last ten years over 1000 kids have walked through the BackTrack Youth Work’s doors and in that same time the local crime rate has dropped by more than 50%. The BackTrack model helps kids find a way back. It’s an alternative to detention and succeeds where others have failed.

Following the release of the film, BackTrack are continuing to develop a strategy to sustainably support communities who are seeking to start up their own BackTrack style programs in rural and regional Australia. BackTrack have kicked off support work with the communities of Broken Hill, Moree and Grafton and are continuing to provide support to their long-term friends Dubbo, Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin and Bourke.