"We're humble, but we're not going away. We've got a dream."
The youth officer said the award gave him the chance to have a straight conversation with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about major changes that need to be made if the nation was to help its youth get back on track.
"How else do you ever get one-on-one with the Prime Minister and have him genuinely listen?" Mr Shakeshaft said.
He said Mr Morrison had asked, "Why haven't I heard about this program?"
"We're hoping he'll come up here [to Armidale where the program is based]. We'll push. He seems genuinely committed," Mr Shakeshaft said.
- FROM THE ARCHIVES: Local youngsters to perform with Paws Up
"Let's start at the top - if you want to talk about this, if you're serious about changing the way you do business, let's sit down and chat.
"We want to work in partnership with the government, but we can ill afford to change what it is that we do - because what we do, it is working.
"This is not rocket science, this is really simple, down-to-earth stuff when this comes from the place of right intention - not to win elections but to help our kids.
"Kids are our future, our most valuable asset. Let's stop messing around with this stuff."
A number of Dubbo youth have participated in the program, with youngsters from around the region performing with the award-winning Paws Up team during the visit to Dubbo by Prince Harry and Meghan.
Mr Shakeshaft said "we're not putting our hand out to government" but the government did need to be on board if change was to happen on a nation-wide scale.
"We've got a growing band of youth not motivated to stay in school ... we need to get those programs going," he said.
"We need a change in structure. We've got a solution that will save the government millions ... we've got the private foundations and businesses that want to walk alongside us, so we need to find better ways of doing it.
"These things take time. It's not an instant fix and it won't be done within one election cycle."
Kids are our future, our most valuable asset. Let's stop messing around with this stuff.Bernie Shakeshaft
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A focus of BackTrack this year is to establish programs in schools, and get organisations to work hand-in-hand, to help youth with alcohol and drug addiction, trauma and grief, homelessness, mental health, and law and order, to name a few.
"Half our kids, if there were good prevention programs in school, they wouldn't have been kicked out, they'd still be in school," Mr Shakeshaft said.
"When we just focus on cleaning up the mess, it just gets messier .. we need to work together - not in isolation ... you've got to have everyone pulling in the same direction."
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