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Backtrack Boys National Cinema Release - October 25

Backtrack Founder Bernie Shakeshaft leans on a large tree surrounded by some of the dogs
Award-winning documentary "Backtrack Boys" will be screening in cinemas nationally from October 25.

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

This inspiring coming of age story follows the boys as they strive to turn their lives around - and the dogs that help tame their wild ways.

“I hope this film will foster a greater understanding of the issues these kids face and inspire communities to develop real alternatives that will help keep them out of jail”.
- Catherine Scott, Director

Film Synopsis

Poster for Backtrack Boys film directed by Catherine Scott
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.

Bernie Shakeshaft

Backtrack Founder and CEO, Bernie was known as one of the best white trackers in the Northern Territory. On his final job Bernie worked on a dingo tracking research project which inspired some of the very work he does today at BackTrack that he started in 2006. 

A couple of old Aboriginal bushmen taught him how to track dingoes. “I use the same principles they taught me about wild dogs with these wild kids,” he says. You can’t chase ’em, you go out in front and calmly draw them in.” The elders would get the wild dingoes come right up to them in the bush and they would lay them down quiet in the shade like a farm dog. 
Bernie Shakeshaft with dogs and young men featured in the Backtrack Boys movie Years later when Bernie started his youth program this would all come back. Introducing dogs into Backtrack would be a huge turning point and become the cornerstone of the program. All the kids look up to Bernie and his calm, “take no shit” approach seems to work wonders with them. You can never get kicked out of BackTrack and the kids stay as long as they need to. One of the reasons why Bernie is so successful is that he used to be just like them.

The BackTrack program is now over 12 years old and despite their great accomplishments and the dramatic drop in the local juvenile crime rate they receive no government support. Bernie is under great pressure to keep his program funded while more and more kids are walking through their gates. It costs around $250,000 to incarcerate a young person in juvenile detention per year. Bernie spends a fraction of that cost but with much greater outcomes. 

One of the youth in the Backtrack juvenile program smiles holding a puppy
Bernie’s caring, unconventional style has won over the entire town and there is enormous pride and support. BackTrack has the backing of the council, local businesses, police, magistrates, schools and farmers. 

Parents of children in the program get to see their kids in the papers for good reasons: winning dog-jumping competitions, meeting the Prime Minister, helping flood-ravaged farmers. The kids get a chance to give back to the community and develop a real connection and respect.

Quick Summary

World Premiere at the Sydney Film Festival and winner of the audience award for Best Documentary. 

• Observational film about the extraordinary impact one determined man, with the backing of the community, can have on the lives of young people doing it tough in the bush.

• Funded philanthropically through Documentary Australia Foundation and government film agencies Screen Australia and Create NSW

• Currently screening on the Australian Festival Circuit 

• 2019 summer tour with a travelling pop up drive-in to rural and regional Australia. 

• Hosted screenings coordinated in conjunction with community groups. 

• Communities can use this film to bring together senior decision makers, police, local government, education and service providers, youth organisations and young people to explore alternatives to locking up kids up in juvenile detention and focus on prevention programs. 

When: National cinema release October 25 

Where: 40 selected cinemas nationwide, with more to come. For the full list, visit
Backtrack Boys film - a dog smiles lying down next to a stainless steel bucket


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