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Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

After almost 18 years of creating, building, and steering BackTrack, Bernie Shakeshaft is handing over the reins to fellow colleague, Marcus Watson.

While he is vacating the top CEO seat, Bernie says he won’t be far away.

“It has been 18 years of doing it, so I am finding my way,” said Bernie, Founder of BackTrack.

“I will still be very involved, and I am on the Board so I will still be working on fundraising and event stuff, and spreading the word, but we are at that stage from where we started with seven kids and the shed, and now we have over 80 people on the payroll just in Armidale.”

Having worked with Marcus coming on two decades, Bernie has every confidence it is being left in good hands and heading in the right direction.

“Like all no-for-profits, we need to look at the succession planning and Marcus has been around for a long time, and we get along really well,” said Bernie.

“We have the same values and the same vision; he is just a bit younger with a bit more enthusiasm.”

Savouring memories and looking ahead

Taking a trip down memory lane, there are too many memorable moments to compare.

“We have Cathy Scott up at the moment, she is the lady who made the documentary, and we are doing a 25-minute update on what BackTrack looks like down the track and I have just watched some of the clips that are going to be in the highlights and holy smokes,” said Bernie.

“When I look at these young kids talking and how they are as dad and people of importance in their own families, that’s more powerful than the documentary.”

“When I see that and the number of kids we have employed, there is too many memorable moments to pick.”

“When we talk about breaking the cycle, this is where it is.”

When asked what’s next, for Bernie its the life he has been living, and one is he very proud to continue.

“People often ask what your job, and I say its actually a life that I love, and I am lucky enough to get paid to do it.” said Bernie.

“I really want to focus on the farm and growing that 100-year vision and making sure the hard work of the last 18 years doesn’t fall over, insuring this is going to be around.”

“My love of dogs has always been there, so I’d love to do some more dog trialing, I just love working with the young fellas as well.”

“This is my life.”

What does BackTrack have to show for 18 years?

82 staff spread from Victoria to Queensland, predominately Armidale, and countless lives changed for the better. Not a bad lead for incoming Chief Executive Officer to work with.

“Its something I am very energised and excited to take on, and I feel a sense of responsibility to pick up something that is Bernie’s baby and something that is much loved by the community.” said Marcus Watson, CEO BackTrack.

“I’m relieved to have Bernie still a part of it, he will play a big role and I think we can continue to work really well going forward.”

It might be the end of Bernie’s era at the top, but it’s only another chapter in BackTrack story.

“We are really looking at growing our impact,” said Marcus.

“We have 100 communities on the waiting list asking for us to give them a hand, and how it can be replicated to solve similar challenges with young people, and its really get it running smoothly in Armidale and making sure we are always trying to support our local young people and that we scale up across NSW.”

“The Board and Bernie have been extremely supportive through this process, and I feel the Board are a big part in the strategic plan of BackTrack and they have their heads right where we need to go.”

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