Over the past year, Resilient Youth Australia has surveyed 18,156 young Australian females in years 3 to 12 to gain a picture of their resilience.

This paper is written to help you think about ways to build upon the strengths of girls and young women as well as addressing their areas of risk and vulnerability. Our aim is to help them to live safe, happy and fulfilling lives.

The strengths of Australian young women 

46% of girls and young women have excellent or good levels of resilience. We have a solid core of girls and young women who have resilience and who can be called upon to help raise the resilience of others.

The areas of strength for young girls are their connectedness to the adults in their lives and their understanding of boundaries and expectations. This is also confirmed by their strong sense of belonging to their families and to school.

Girls are less strongly connected to their friendship groups and to their community. We know that the most powerful antidote to suicide, violence and drug abuse is the sense of belonging people have in their lives.

Feeling empowered enough to right wrongs and injustices is also a relative strength. Involving girls in projects that make a difference in the world alongside positive adults is a powerful way of lifting resilience and to strengthen their sense of agency and identity.

The challenge for girls is in building a strong sense of personal identity where they score lower than boys. We want young Australian women to feel they can make positive, meaningful changes to the world.

School is important to girls with 85% reporting they are highly engaged at school and 84% valuing success for themselves.

Hope is a key predictor of well-being. The loss of hope is associated with despair, depression and low motivation. Hope is the feeling that you can set goals and find ways to achieve those goals. 64% report that they are very hopeful about their lives. 40% of girls feel they are doing pretty well most or all of the time.

Persistence is also an area of relative strength with 34% reporting that they solve problems when others would give up trying.

The majority of girls feel confident (65%), able to make decisions (82%) and able to confront problems they face in their lives (78%).

76% of young women do not see violence as a useful way of solving interpersonal problems. 80% are not at risk of alcohol problems and 95% are not at risk of illegal drug problems. 88 % of young women do not gamble online.

67% of girls feel that have an adult in their lives who cares for them and 65% believe adults listen to their points of view.

In essence we have a large group of capable young women who are well linked to their families, engaged and encouraged by their schools and are positive about their future. They do not see violence and bullying as appropriate and are not inclined to experiment overly with alcohol or illegal drugs.

What our least resilient girls look like 

Compared to the capabilities and strengths of most girls, life for the 18% of girls with low levels of resilience looks very different.

For these least resilient girls, school is not welcoming, home is not a place of connection, and friendships when they occur don’t come easily. In short they feel disconnected, unsupported, alienated and without hope of change.

Copyright Resilient Youth Australia, 2015. www.resilientyouth.org.au 

Only 21% of our least resilient girls feel they have an adult that cares for them and only 24% have an adult who listens to them or acts as a positive role model for them.

These girls hold more positive views towards alcohol, drug use and the use of violence in solving relationship issues. 21% of have felt it is necessary to carry a weapon at school.

How to increase the resilience of girls. 

Our nation and our communities need to develop strategies to impact on our least resilient girls if we are to increase overall well-being. It is not an easy challenge. They are not always well linked into their families, are not active participants in their communities and they are relatively impervious to classroom based interventions. They are not without strengths but they are at-risk and are difficult to reach.

To impact positively on our least resilient girls we need to engage the girls with good levels of resilience. These are the young women who could show leadership and act as role models to less resilient girls but do not feel they are able to.

We need to activate the hero and the leader within this group of girls as a matter of priority.

The 46% of girls with good levels of resilience show strengths in links to adults, empower- ment and boundaries and expectations. They also have positive levels of hope and the capacity to solve the problems.

This is in contrast to the 18% of girls with low levels of resilience who have few positive values, lack many social skills and have a low sense of their ability to make a positive contribution.

Our research indicates that the following steps are effective in increasing resilience in girls.

1. Complete the on-line Resilience Survey. To date this shows the distribution of resilience is

  • High resilience 9% of girls
  • Good resilience 37% of girls
  • Fair resilience 36% of girls
  • Low resilience 18% of girls

2. Share local results with local councils, youth leaders, school staff and the local community members to develop strategic priorities.

3. Convene focus groups of young people of different resilience levels where they will endorse some findings and refute others.

4. Increasing resilience involves engaging girls at different levels of resilience to devise projects that will be seen as worthwhile by everyone. These projects draw upon the strengths of the more resilient girls and engage and lift the low areas of the less resilient girls.

To date “ Students create the future projects” have been created by students to:

  • Donate shoes to Africa
  • Friendship Days
  • Amazing Race activities
  • Pledge academic success
  • Encourage tolerance and diversity
  • Increase compassion in schools
  • Community arts and literacy projects Develop circus and drumming Skills.

5. Interested adults meet regularly with student teams to guide the projects.

6. Local adults look at the results and discuss what interventions or changes are needed in addition to student–led projects.

7. The survey is then repeated annually to evaluate successes to date and to further refine future interventions.

– Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller can be contacted at www.andrewfuller.com.au 

If you are interested in enquiring about the survey, please contact: Dr. Andrew Wicking, General Manager Phone: +61 400113945 Email:[email protected] 

If you would like to download free materials related to these topics go either to the Resilient Youth Australia website or www.andrewfuller.com.au or on facebook like “Resilient Youth Australia”. We would like to thank the schools, communities and young people who have participated in the survey to date.