Elders praise progress

ABORIGINAL elders from Armidale and Uralla called into the BackTrack headquarters for morning tea and to check the progress of grandchildren and relatives participating in the youth programs.
Founder Bernie Shakeshaft said BackTrack encouraged the involvement of families, particularly as the young people were so proud of their achievements.
“Many of them have not been successful at school or in mainstream society but here they shine with their expertise in dog jumping and learning new skills such as welding and agricultural work,” he said.
“They are also making great progress in the classroom and demonstrating all that to the respected elders of their community was a great buzz for us all.”
During the visit, the 22 elders took part in circle work, toured the welding shed and classroom and met the BackTrack dogs. Swapping stories from the new and old days was a highlight of the day.
“They were very impressed that the kids were getting all these opportunities and by the great atmosphere at the BackTrack shed,” said Kostane Strong, co-ordinator of the Elders Social Group.
“Many of them are aware that a number of their young people don’t do well at school but seeing them developing life skills, training for work and catching up with their education was very impressive.”
Ms Strong said the Tablelands Community Support Options organised trips for the social group every three months.
“This was certainly one of the highlights,” she said.
BackTrack which has been operating in Armidale for the past seven years works with young people aged from 14 years to their early twenties who for a variety of reasons are having a hard time.
BackTrack has been successful in placing more than 87 per cent of its participants in work, apprenticeships and continuing with their education and training.
Early data from research being conducted by a consortium of four universities has shown that the youth crime rate in the Armidale Dumaresq Local Government Area has dropped 77 per cent over the seven years since BackTrack began its operations.
This is the largest reduction in any LGA in NSW.

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