BackTrack Rural Fire Service (RFS) Cadets discuss the next step in their airbase operations training this morning. Pictured from left are Zac Craig, RFS New England Zone Manager Superintendent Stephen Mephem, Trey Weribone, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and BackTrack founder and manager Bernie Shakeshaft.
A NEW local program developed between the successful BackTrack Armidale organisation and the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has attracted almost $50,000 in State Government funding, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall announced today.
Mr Marshall said BackTrack would continue its strong partnership with the RFS to have 20 young people, who are disengaged or at risk of becoming disengaged from school or employment, trained to become skilled Airbase Operators.
The local MP was joined by BackTrack founder and manager Bernie Shakeshaft and RFS New England Zone Manager Superintendent Steve Mepham at the Armidale Airport RFS base to announce the$49,980 grant from the NSW Government’s Youth Opportunities program.
“This project will not only provide a positive and supportive environment for local at-risk young people but will also develop a highly skilled team of 20 young people who will assist our RFS Aviation Unit in times of bushfires,” Mr Marshall said.
“The group will undertake and attain nationally accredited aviation and airbase operator training modules, delivered by the RFS.
“I am absolutely delighted that this program will now proceed. It’ll be hugely beneficially to the young people involved but also to the RFS, which is always looking for more volunteers, particularly in the busy bushfire season at the airbase.”
Mr Marshall said the Youth Opportunities program was all about supporting projects which empower at-risk young people to develop leadership skills, self-confidence and to participate more fully in their communities.
He said that as part of this project BackTrack students would also construct some firefighting training props for the New England RFS Training Centre in Armidale.
“BackTrack students have become renowned for their welding skills with the impressive art work produced from scrap metal and now they’ll be turning their skills to building a mounted aircraft fuselage and a steel framed replica of a car for the RFS,” Mr Marshall said.
“Once built, BackTrack will donate the props to the RFS training centre which will in turn be used by the students to receive their RFS Nationally Accredited Aviation and Airbase Operator training.
“This project is about the students giving back to their community, and then benefiting from their own personal input, certainly a win-win situation for both groups.”
Mr Marshall said the New England Zone RFS had developed a close relationship with BackTrack, with 19 students recently graduating from a five-week training course in basic firefighting.
Superintendent Mepham said the RFS would greatly benefit from the new firefighting training props and were delighted BackTrack had chosen this particular project.
“Training plays an important role in properly preparing our 1,300 volunteers for the work they may encounter and having various props for simulated fire control activities is vital,” Superintendent Mepham said.
“Over the past four years we have slowly built up the Armidale training centre with various village props so a plane fuselage and steel-framed car shell will certainly add value to the facility which results in better trained volunteers.”
Mr Shakeshaft said it was a fantastic new project for BackTrack students and a great way to start the New Year.
“This project is about the boys building on top of skills they already have and giving something back to the community – it’s an excellent project and we certainly appreciate the funding from the NSW Government,” Mr Shakeshaft said.