Sisters of Charity Foundation Australia

Taking the RuffTRACK: young people make connections in the outback

From Sydney to Gunnedah, Goondiwindi, Toowoomba, Moonie and Moree – RuffTRACK’s recent trip through regional NSW and Queensland helped at-risk teenagers make meaningful changes through physical activity and new experiences.

“I love being in the bush, the freedom, the stuff we get to do, the fact that all the stuff going on at home is so far away,” said Whyatt, who was on the RuffTRACK trip. “Out here you can really get in touch with yourself and your mates, and the people are genuine.”

The RuffTRACK youth program takes on young people aged 13 to 17 who have disengaged from school and the community to give them skills, education, and a sense of self-worth. The kids learn dog training and sports, horticulture, landscaping, welding, animal husbandry, woodwork, driving, mechanics, bushcraft, domestic skills, nutrition and physical education, conflict resolution, building healthy relationships... and lots more!

Helping at-risk youth reconnect with community

The RuffTRACKers – with leader Dave Graham (front left) and Jimmy the dog – stopped by the Foundation to say thank you for the Community Grant. Here they are with Sr Cate, Sr Maureen, and Foundation staff.

Helping teenagers grow and reconnect

Nine teenagers and five support adults went on the 10-day trip, which was funded with a $15K Foundation Community Grant.

“For me this trip was about getting the lads out of their heads, out of their troubled homelife and 1000km away from what they knew to be their world,” explained RuffTRACK co-founder Dave Graham. “I wanted their minds to be expanded through the cultural experiences of the bush people, Aboriginal communities, regional townships as well as the physical doing of new things in new places, be it painting, building a fence, driving a tractor or discovering bush tucker.”

Phil was one of the support adults on the trip, and says he himself grew up in similar situations to many of the boys. “I saw them change each day as they met more people and understood there’s a big world out there – and the less drama you create, the more world you can actually see,” he said.

Helping at-risk youth reconnect with community

The boys learnt to catch and release native animals on the trip: here’s Bryson with a new scaly friend.

“It was great seeing the young people connect and show respect to the elders – not because we taught them to – but because they learned just how knowledgeable they are and how much wisdom and advice they have to impart.”

Giving the farmers a helping hand

A major focus of the trip was helping elderly or isolated farmers with difficult physical tasks, such as clearing out large grain-storage bins and repairing fences. Not only did the boys learn new skills – they were treated to a ride on one farmer’s quad bikes as thanks! “I like how when we do good things we get good activities,” grinned Joseph, another boy on the trip.

The activities were numerous: from night bushwalks, lessons in Aboriginal painting and tours of regional towns to group counselling sessions and house cleaning… the boys were kept busy day and night.

“Learning about the bush, farming, welding, the tractors and the animals was awesome,” said Whyatt. “I hate school, but I like this, and I reckon I’ll use all this stuff.”

“There was a total sense of brotherhood among the lads, with them relying on each other during both physical and mental challenges,” Dave said proudly.

Helping at-risk youth reconnect with community

The wide-open spaces, the silence, the rugged beauty – it's no surprise the boys found the trip transformational.

What the boys had to say

We received lots of wonderful, very honest feedback from the boys, who thoroughly enjoyed the trip and took advantage of every opportunity. Here’s a snippet:

“It was cool getting around the bush towns, everyone is really friendly and you don’t get looked at like you are stealing stuff,” said Ajay.

“I love this place. The farmers are really cool, they make you feel part of it, they are so generous with their land, the equipment and their time,” remarked Ashton. “I’ve also learned so much about being prepared, out here if you don’t have what you need for a job you’re in big trouble. So, just really getting it into my head to prepare well before I do anything, don’t just go, ‘yeah she'll be right’ then fail.”

“I can honestly say I love Dave and what he has done for me,” Rory enthused. “I’m not the best kid but he makes me feel like I am and makes me want to be better. It’s almost like he refuses to believe that I’ll be anything but a good person.”

While Blain was making plans for the future: “Metal fabrication is an area I want to work in, I really enjoy it… you can just do so much with metal and the job opportunities are awesome. Now all I want to do is build stuff. I can’t wait to get involved in a traineeship around this.”

Helping at-risk youth reconnect with community

Look at the size of those tyres… Everything is bigger in the outback!

About the Community Grants Program

Through its Community Grants Program the Sisters of Charity Foundation supports initiatives that benefit disadvantaged, marginalised and socially isolated people across Australia, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or ability.

The Community Grants Program has been operational since 2000, and in that time has distributed more than $8,800,000 to 900+ small charities and community organisations.

 

How We Help

Each year we’re able to make a difference to thousands of people across the country with funds generously donated by compassionate Australians. We support initiatives that focus on benefiting the disadvantaged, marginalised and socially isolated people in our community.

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