Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

BackTrack, an Armidale-based initiative helping children who are disengaged from school or community to achieve their dreams, has secured the backing of the President of the Law Society of NSW.

Coffs Harbour solicitor and UNE graduate Cassandra Banks, the current President of the Law Society, says she chose the Tracker Network as her President’s Charity for her 2023 term because of its important work in providing young people who need a chance with training for a job and preparation for life.

“When Bernie Shakeshaft established BackTrack in 2006, he could only have hoped for the positive impact it is having on children facing challenges in Armidale.

“Building on that success to form the Tracker Network, providing support young people across the state, Bernie is living the network’s philosophy, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’,” Ms Banks said.

The Tracker Network has expanded from BackTrack in Armidale to Tenterfield, Dubbo, Lake Cargelligo, Broken Hill, Moree, the Hawkesbury, Macksville and even over the Queensland border to Toowoomba.

“This group of dedicated individuals is helping vulnerable young people define what they want from life and empowering them with the skills and tools they need to build their lives.” 

Ms Banks says she was drawn to supporting the Tracker Network through many years advocating for children and families in crisis in regional NSW. Much of her legal work before taking up her duties this year as Law Society President, focused on the Children’s Care and Protection jurisdiction of the NSW Children’s Court.

“NSW has almost 16,000 children in out-of-home care and more than 100,000 children assessed at risk of significant harm every yearm,” she said.

“Close to 500,000 reports are made in relation to concerns about children’s welfare each year. These cases can be complex, the material difficult and challenging to hear and see.”

“However, working with vulnerable children and families and demonstrating that someone is listening to them can be deeply rewarding,” Ms Banks said.

As well as adopting the Tracker Network as her President’s Charity for 2023, Ms Banks identified as one of her President’s Priorities, encouraging more lawyers to help children in crisis. Mr Shakeshaft said his team at BackTrack and the whole Tracker Network welcomes the support of the Law Society of NSW and the recognition of the important work of expanding his network.

“The dream of the Tracker Network is to help as many kids having a hard time as we possibly can. This support from the Law Society can bring us closer to establishing new locations where we can help young people falling through the cracks in the mainstream system,” Mr Shakeshaft said.

Donations to BackTrack can be made here.

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