ABIF and Fairfax Agricultural Media support BackTrack program.

ABIF is pleased to announce that it has awarded the two Fairfax Agricultural Media Scholarships to the 2012 Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Course to Bernie Shakeshaft the founder and manager of the BackTrack program and Trevor Fenn who is also involved with the program.

“The BackTrack program approach to training for employment opportunities and careers in agriculture is entirely consistent with the philosophy and mission of ABIF” Chairman Frank Archer said when announcing the awards.

“The very effective BackTrack program operates with the mission to offer young people who have lost their way the opportunity to re-connect with their education and training, to become work ready, find jobs, lead happy and productive lives and participate fully in the community.” Mr Archer said.

The program incorporates a set of philosophies that seek to improve the wellbeing of young people, especially young people who are having a hard time. The program works extensively with indigenous youth.

In rural communities there are always young people who have greater disadvantage than the mainstream. This may be due to drug and alcohol issues, race, homelessness or socioeconomic circumstance.  The BackTrack philosophy is that through alternative engagement and education techniques, many of these young people can achieve full employment, training or education outcomes and thus improve the overall quality of community life.

BackTrack utilise a number of programs to achieve its objectives including a very innovative program called Paws Up that engages young people, the majority of whom are Aboriginal, in working dog training on the principal that the boys learn self discipline while disciplining the dogs. This program leads to AgLads  that was developed when a saleyards agent asked some of the Paws Up boys to help out with their dogs on a sale day and their performance impressed the other local agents present who also asked for help on the day. This built on the interest of farmers at local shows looking for contract labour for intensive jobs such as fencing, harvesting, haymaking, mustering, drenching etc. The boys have already begun work experience and on the job training on local farms as well as undertaking a Rural Skills certificate course at Armidale TAFE.  The intention, once they have completed their training, is for the graduates to form teams with a supervisor to undertake this work on farms in the area.

In addition ABIF was very pleased to be able to facilitate a substantial grant to BackTrack from the Thyne Reid Foundation to be used to further the programs mission.

Pictured: Bernie Shakeshaft (far right) and a group of BackTrack participants.