By Bev Jordan

RufftrackFarmer Dave Graham from Riverstone has spent his life with dogs and farm animals and he knows the power they have to trigger change in people.

“Animals create doorways that don’t exist and allow us to be able to break down barriers and increase kindness, compassion and healthy communication,” he told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News.

As Founder of the youth program RuffTrack he and his team are working with disengaged youngsters aged between 13 and 17 to give them skills, a sense of worth and reconnect them with their community.

RufftrackHe had been involved in the BackTrack program set up by Armidale by Bernie Shakeshaft in Tamworth when he was approached to run a local program in the Hawkesbury.

“I have been involved in (BackTrack) for about ten years and I have seen how much the program’s works.”

When he was approached by Hawkesbury Youth Liaison Officer Constable Belinda Flynn to set up something similar in the Hawkesbury where he has lived and worked for 13 years he said yes.

Rufftrack“The need for this program in the Hawkesbury area was so evident,” said Dave. “This type of program is all about the future and how to make change happen.”

The pilot program started in September last year and has been so successful that the fourth program is due to start on October 11.

The “heart” of the program are the dogs which each participant is paired with, says Dave. “It is through that dog they can understand about healthy relationships, kindness, compassion and compatibility.

Rufftrack“They understand that there is no place for violence in a relationship. They do sheep herding with their dogs to understand that if you work alongside your mate you can achieve things.

 “Like modern day Jackeroos… they learn a bit of everything. They leave this program as Jack of all trades.”

His RuffTrack crew have been giving their time at Hawkesbury Helping Hands at Windsor and also The Secret Garden at North Richmond where they have just laid new pavers. They did bushfire recovery volunteering, erecting fences, clearing roads and rebuilding fire damaged yards for farmers.

RufftrackHe says participants stay connected by moving on to the Round Yard Project

The results have shown, increased school attendance, a decrease in police contact, a reduction in family violence and attendance at events.

It costs just over $2000 per child to lead them through the program.

The program takes in 6 to 7 young people at a time and there 100 on the waiting list.

“We need community funding but we also need support from tradies,” he said.

“We desperately need tradesmen to give up a day or a weekend to build up these kids’ skills. It doesn’t matter what trade but if they could volunteer a day it would make a difference.”

Anyone who can help is asked to email [email protected]

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