Resilience: An Update

By Andrew Fuller and Andrew Wicking

Over the past year, Resilient Youth Australia has surveyed 16,439 young Australians in year levels 4 – 12 to gain a picture of their resilience.

The information collected is used across Australia by schools and communities to prioritise resilience interventions that build upon the strengths of young people as well as addressing areas of risk and vulnerability.

The strengths of Australian young people

40% of young people have excellent or good levels of resilience.

Girls have higher levels of resilient than boys.

The areas of strength for young Australians are boundaries and expectations and a sense of connectedness to the adults in their lives including parents and teachers. A sense of feeling empowered enough to right wrongs and injustice is also a relative strength.

We know that the most powerful antidote to suicide, violence and drug abuse is the sense of belonging people have in their lives. Girls and boys have good levels of belonging to their families. Girls also have good levels of belonging to their school and friendship group while boys score in the fair range in these two areas.

83% report being highly engaged at school and 79% value success for themselves.

67% report that they are very hopeful about the future. 64% of young people are feel they are doing pretty well most or all of the time. Persistence is also an area of strength with 58% reporting that they can find ways to solve problems when others would give up trying.

62% of young people do not see violence as a way of solving interpersonal problems. 75% are not at risk of alcohol problems and 91.5% are not at risk of illegal drug problems. 86% do not gamble.

In essence we have a large group of capable young people who are well linked to their families, engaged in school 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.

Areas of concern

While 25% report having been cyber-bullied in the past year, an alarming 48% report having been bullied at school in the same time period. 13% of young people report that they have been bullied in school at least 5 times in the last 12 months.

28% of boys and 38% of girls say that they have lost too much sleep.

33.4% of all young people tell us they text at least once every night between the hours of 10pm and 6am and 24.3% text many times throughout the night.

79% of girls say that they are able to face up to their problems, but 34% report that they are losing confidence and feeling unhappy and depressed.

82% of boys say that they feel reasonably happy, but 29% report that they are constantly under strain, and 24% report losing confidence.

24% of young people say they do not feel they would be able to say no to sexual approaches they do not want.

Mental health remains a concern with 19.5% of girls and 12% of boys reporting an acute level of symptoms.

The major issues reported are:


  • Sleep disturbance
  • Feeling under strain
  • Unhappy & depressed
  • Losing confidence
  • Unable to overcome difficulties


  • Feeling under strain
  • Unable to overcome difficulties
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Unhappy & depressed
  • Losing confidence

The areas where young Australians rated most poorly were positive identity, positive values and social skills.

The process of increasing resilience

We will publish evidence in subsequent papers that indicates that the following process powerfully increases resilience in schools and communities:

  1. Complete the on-line Resilience Survey;
  2. Share results with students, school staff and the local community;
  3. Convene focus groups of young people to discuss the results where they will endorse some findings and explain or refute others;
  4. Consider resilience building options that capitalise on the strengths of the local young people to lift the areas of vulnerability;
  5. Discuss opportunities with students, school staff, parents and community members. Resilient Youth Australia has developed an e-book for all clients, full of low cost ideas to kick start your planning;
  6. Implement your resilience building initiatives;
  7. Repeat the survey annually to evaluate successes to date and to further refine future interventions.

Areas we need to act on with urgency

The quality of relationships in our schools and communities is a matter of priority. Only 65.5% of all young people tell us that they have adults in their life who care about them. Even less, 62% report that they have adults in their lives who listen to them.

While 74% of young people report having two or more groups of friends, the high levels of bullying leave too many of young people feeling alone and frightened.

While the majority of the young people are engaged in school and feel connected to adults, imagine what results we could achieve if we prioritised the creation of positive relationships where young people can thrive and excel in a supportive learning environment.

What’s the next step?

Over 70 schools have completed the survey. Increasingly local councils are using the survey to sharpen the focus of their processes of supporting their young people.

If you are interested in enquiring about completing the survey, please contact:

Dr. Andrew Wicking, Research Manager

PO Box 32, Black Rock, 3193 Australia

Phone: +61 400 113 945

If you would like further information, please contact:

Email: [email protected] Website:

If you would like to download free materials related to these topics go either to the Resilient Youth Australia website or Andrew Fuller’s Free Resources section.

If would like to contribute to the conversation about resilience:

About the implications this research has for learning and brains:

Or about the prevention of bullying:

Finally we would like to thank the schools, communities and young people who have participated in the survey to date.