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Outreach   /  Lisa Hancock

Backtrack Boys

A group of troubled boys are on a perilous course towards jail until they meet up with a free-wheeling jackaroo.


Impact areas







  • DIRECTOR Catherine Scott

  • PRODUCER Catherine Scott



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.

Support this project

78.66% funded
  • $500,000.00

  • $393,300.00

  • 58

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Ahri Tallon $200.00
Marnie Sole $100.00
Ben Guerin $100.00
Cameron Sugden $50.00
Carol Cooper $5.00
Dione Baird $20.00
Ros Rondel $25.00
Dave Robinson $20.00
Anonymous $20.00
Christopher Daw $20.00
Darryl Coulthard $200.00
Christine Corbidge $50.00
James N Kirby Foundation $7,500.00
Kerry Thomson $250.00
The Jack Brockhoff Foundation $30,000.00
mitty williams $100.00
Haley Lambert $50.00
Jennifer Strauss $50.00
Matthew Ringrose $290.00
Anonymous $50.00
Anonymous $25.00
Prue Hughes $30.00
Anonymous $450.00
Collier Charitable Foundation $30,000.00
Wayne & Louise Whatman $100.00
Julia Mooser $200.00
Jane Ford $100.00
Wayne & Louise Whatman $0.00
Emma Cate $100.00
Anonymous $25.00
Deslyn Randall $100.00
Michael Boesen $50.00
Anonymous $500.00
Jackie Sailer $50.00
Anonymous $100.00
Andy Evans $100.00
John Postle $100.00
Sue Jorgensen $50.00
Anonymous $100.00
Anonymous $100.00
Anonymous $500.00
Nicky Nelson $40.00
Joanna Gee $100.00
Kate Endresz $100.00
debra barnard $100.00
Judith Young $100.00
David Armstrong $500.00
Anonymous $1,000.00
Anonymous $10.00
ray edwards $200.00
Jill Thompson-White $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
Natalie Hatchard $50.00
Scarlet's Fund $500.00
Jessica Steiger-Thorpe $200.00
Ralph Pliner $500.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Backtrack Boys provides a unique insight into youth at risk in rural Australia. Kids that fall between the cracks in the education system and face a range of issues from family breakdowns, to violence, suicide, drugs, and crime.

This is a story about Bernie and his unconventional youth program that is turning kids’ lives around. The film will ask - why is Bernie’s program working when so many others fail? What do these kids need from the rest of us in society so they can successfully launch into the world and escape the poverty-prison cycle?

This story presents a real model that could be rolled out in many other rural towns grappling with the same generational social crisis throughout Australia.

While this documentary explores how Bernie’s program operates it offers an alternative view to how we often approach working with kids at risk. Ultimately The Backtrack Boys is a small town, local yarn that addresses some of the most daunting social issues of our time.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

“We hope the film will inspire communities to take a different approach to working with young people at risk of social exclusion, particularly in rural and regional areas” Cathy Scott, Director

The documentary film Backtrack Boys will stimulate advocacy and action to enable communities to take on a whole-of-community approach to working with young people at risk of social exclusion, particularly in rural and regional areas.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Impact Goals

● To shine a light on the BackTrack program and ensure it continues to receive funding and support.
● To provide young people with a positive narrative about themselves and for the public to better understand their situation and the factors driving them difficult circumstances.
● For the film to become a tool that will support youth workers, juvenile detention centers and communities to broaden their understanding and practice of working with young people at risk of social exclusion.
● To change the conversation in communities about how they approach youth issues and encourage adopting whole-community approaches.
● Support advocacy organisations working in the youth space.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

BackTrack Youth Works
Smart Justice for Young People, Victoria

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Short Term
- Donate to Backtrack Youth Works
- Share the film with family and friends
- Gain a better understanding of the issues facing young people
- Find out more about Backtrack/local youth organisations
- Young people in the audience reflect on their own circumstances
- Take action: Sign a petition or write to their MP supporting alternatives to incarceration

Medium Term
- Share the film by hosting a screening
- Start a conversation in their community about issues facing young people
- Volunteer in a youth organisation
- Sign up for BackTrack training program
- Young people take steps to seek help and address their needs
Take action: advocate locally for alternatives to incarceration

Key groups can also use the film to:
Share the film to attract mentors and volunteers
Implement prevention strategies and alternatives to incarceration
Use the film as a tool for training and education
Advocate for local alternatives to incarceration
Support young people

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

- Communities can connect and address issues in their local area
- Widespread awareness and empathy for young people
- Film is a tool for education, awareness, community and capacity building
- Community participation and support for youth organisations
- Young people feel better understood and supported