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.

A life-affirming documentary, Backtrack Boys explores Bernie’s philosophy in action and through the journey of the kids in his care. It reveals how he helps them to navigate their relationships, deal with personal trauma, take responsibility for their own decisions and gain practical job skills so they can eventually create a sustainable future for themselves.


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.”

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

On the road the boys camp out around the fire and sleep under the stars but the trauma from the past is never too far away. The boys must constantly step up and push themselves and some days can be hard.

Filmed over 2 years, this inspiring story reveals the challenges these young people face as they try to find their place in the world – all with the help of Bernie and his trusted dogs in tow.


Original Title Backtrack Boys
Year of Production 2018, Australia
Duration 100 minutes
Genre Observational, Feature Documentary
Director Producer Writer Catherine Scott
Editor Andrea Lang
Executive Producers Dr Mitzi Goldman, Katie Barry
Consultant Producer Madeleine Hetherton
Cinematographer Catherine Scott
Composers Kristin Rule, Jonathan Zwartz
Sound Design Angus Robertson, Peter Purcell, Tara Webb
Themes Youth, Social Justice, Wellbeing, Rural
Screening Format DCP
Original Language English (with subtitles option)
Aspect 1.78:1 or 16:9
Picture Colour
Sound 5:1
Production Company Infinity Pictures
Distributor [Australia/NZ] Umbrella Entertainment
Website www.backtrackboys.com
Contacts info@backtrackboys.com