Back Track Works employees receive accolades from those they help

More than 110 kilometres of fencing on 60-plus properties have been rebuilt by BT Works following the destruction caused by horrific fires across the region last year.

BT Works is an employment social enterprise of the internationally renowned Armidale based BackTrack program which claims to have three jobs: keeping kids alive; keeping kids out of jail, and helping them chase their hopes and dreams.

The BT Works crew in Tenterfield in May where they worked on 10 properties

The BT Works crew in Tenterfield in May where they worked on 10 properties

Back Track's manager social enterprise Marcus Watson said BT Works provides services in agriculture, construction and fabrication to customers in the New England region and beyond.

"These services allow us to offer on-the-job training, formal traineeships and employment to young people who have progressed through BackTrack's core activities and are preparing for the world of work," he said.

"In January 2020 BT Works launched a bushfire recovery response effort, with support from the community, government and philanthropic funders."

Using a team which stays on-site, and is refreshed weekly, this response effort has completed work in Nymbodia, Wongwibinda, Yarrowitch, Hernani, Torrington, Tenterfield, Nowendoc and Coffs Harbour.

Taking a break in Wongwibinda

Taking a break in Wongwibinda

Locals are amazed at the speed and enthusiasm of the boys - most of whom are learning new skills on the job.

"Fifteen different young fellas have been employed on the job and are cycled through and we've done more than 2,500 hours with them," said Mr Watson.

"And then we have a crew coming through of six boys who have been coming out and volunteering to learn skills to become an employee - they've completed more than 1,500 volunteer hours.

"Basically, we set up this social enterprise to take on the boys ourselves before they go out and get independent employment."

On the job at Torrington in March

On the job at Torrington in March

In March a group of 13 young people were employed in Torrington where they completed 905 hours of on the job training.

During that time they worked on 22 properties where they removed damaged fencing, installed 4.8 kilometres of new fencing, and repaired 6.3 kilometres of fencing. They also installed roofing and wall sheeting on a community member's shed, mowed and cleaned up sports and community grounds.

"The community regained access to local recreation facilities and community areas are now secure from feral goats," said Mr Watson.

"Several graziers regained use of their paddocks with stock secured, preventing them from escaping into the road."

Jan Styles is president of the Torrington Hall committee and she could not speak more highly of the work done, and the young people who carried it out.

"Those kids were marvellous - honest to goodness you couldn't wish for better workers," she said.

"They did a good job and everyone speaks very highly of them. They were here for about a month and they did a lot of work in the village and worked really hard. There is still some work to be done but we ran out of money."

It's been a true example of win-win.

NSW DPI spokesperson

A spokesperson for NSW Department of Primary Industries ( one of the agencies who provided funding for the work) said the road to recovery has been a long one for many impacted by last summer's devastating fires.

"NSW DPI has worked in conjunction with several government agencies and community organisations to help people get back on their feet," they said.

"The small village of Torrington, with just 81 residents was hit hard by the fires with a dozen homes lost, outbuildings and kilometres of fencing destroyed.

"Working with the BackTrack organisation has been a rewarding exercise on many fronts - not only has it repaired fences for residents and primary producers not able to do so themselves due to age, ill-health or other circumstances, but it has kept a number of young people gainfully employed as they worked to help restore the village fences."

Louise Clarke at Red Hill Organics Farm Stay in Yarrowitch with BT Works Steve Bramley and his team and 'Farmer Dave' with his team from Sydney.

Louise Clarke at Red Hill Organics Farm Stay in Yarrowitch with BT Works Steve Bramley and his team and 'Farmer Dave' with his team from Sydney.

In Yarrowitch 14 boys did 594 hours of on-the-job training across 13 properties.

They removed 42 kilometres of damaged fencing and fallen trees, repaired 29.1 kilometres of fencing; and installed 26.2 kilometres of new fencing, 20 end assemblies and five gates.

Red Hill Organics Farmstay, a 5,500 acre organic beef cattle property surrounded by the World Heritage Werrikimbe National Park, is run by Louise Clarke and her partner Bill Croll, and it was home for the boys while they worked.

While BT Works were there they were joined by another trainee group who came up from Sydney to see how the program operates and gain experience before doing similar work in the Blue Mountains.

Putting newly acquired chainsaw skills to use to remove fallen trees in Yarrowitch.

Putting newly acquired chainsaw skills to use to remove fallen trees in Yarrowitch.

"A team of five city boys didn't want to get off the bus when they got here and didn't want to use chainsaws," said Ms Clarke.

"By the end of the afternoon they were using chainsaws and by the end of the week they didn't want to go home.

"So we had two groups of kids intermingling and learning new skills, and at night they'd sit around the campfire and tell stories."

Putting in the fence posts at Yarrowitch

Putting in the fence posts at Yarrowitch

Ms Clarke was also eager to sing the boys praises.

"The work they carried out was fast - and it was high-quality work," she said.

"They also helped us clear our boundary lines, which was a huge amount of work.

"They cut down the trees while I was on a tractor pushing the trees out of the way and then a couple of boys came along from behind fixing the fence.

"That was a significant amount of work for us because it made our property stock proof."


This story Local youth power through the post-fire rebuild: video first appeared on The Inverell Times.