Looking back on 2020: BT Works employees receive accolades from those they help

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

More than 110 kilometres of fencing on 60-plus properties was rebuilt by BT Works following the destruction caused by horrific fires across the New England region last summer.

BT Works is an employment social enterprise of the internationally renowned Armidale based BackTrack program in the northern NSW area.

It claims to have three jobs: keeping kids alive; keeping kids out of jail, and helping them chase their hopes and dreams.

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 was refreshed weekly, this response effort completed work in Nymbodia, Wongwibinda, Yarrowitch, Hernani, Torrington, Tenterfield, Nowendoc and Coffs Harbour - communities across coastal and inland NSW where fires struck.

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 1500 volunteer hours.

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

In March a group of 13 young people were employed in Torrington, between Glen Innes and Tenterfield, where they completed 905 hours of on the job training.

During that time they worked on 22 properties where they removed damaged fencing, installed 4.8km of new fencing, and repaired 6.3km of fencing. They also mowed sports and community grounds.

Armidale Express senior journalist Vanessa Arundale

Armidale Express senior journalist Vanessa Arundale

I live in Walcha, a small own at the south-eastern edge of the Northern Tablelands in New South Wales. This time last year we were surrounded by smoke, the constant noise of helicopters refilling their water buckets and huge black mushroom clouds on the horizon. It really felt like Armageddon - and for some poor folk, it was. I found this story powerful because it demonstrates that good things can come out of adversity. Since this story was written more than 135 kilometres of fencing has been done, and the boys are looking at where they will go next.

This story Youth powers into post-fire rebuild first appeared on The Armidale Express.