Keeping the Faith

The Case for Resilience

Australian psychologist Andrew Fuller describes resilience as “the happy knack of being able to bungy jump through the pitfalls of life”.

I know that feeling.

One summer on a family holiday in Cairns I took the jump and felt that heady mix of trepidation and exhilaration, followed by the joy of accomplishment. I’ve known the same muddle of emotions when life has heaved with difficulty, when circumstance has greyed the horizon.

Resilience is an imperative ingredient in life, but the social landscape of Australia is such that children are becoming adults without the ability to deal with the hardship that inevitably comes. Girls cop it worst. Like a flower amongst weeds they must navigate past issues of body image, the sexualised media, relationship breakdown, identity and so on. Learn resilience, or choke.

167463_10150929656412170_1767956460_nIt was while holding a clothes stall at a local market last weekend that I got talking to some women about resilience. Launcestonians Michelle Dingemanse and Kylea Aldred have a business called Little Bird that runs two programs for primary and high school-aged girls designed to “build resilience in women, one girl at a time”.

“We see that lack of resilience is a by-product of generational struggle. Life is hard and each generation wrestles with something different, whether it is war, sexual liberation or cyber explosion,” Michelle and Kylea explained.

“We have worked with young girls for seven years and have noticed that, locally, young girls are craving affection and struggling with self-respect. As girls get older they are battling mental health issues and struggling with identity.”

Michelle and Kylea were selling clothes to raise money for these programs, because they believe that each and every young woman has a unique talent and reason for being alive.

Michelle Dingemanse and Kylea Aldred

Michelle Dingemanse and Kylea Aldred

“The girls are taught how to work through mental health issues, identify their personal relationship boundaries and values and explore their own purpose in life. Our heart for the girls of Launceston (and indeed the world) is that every girl understands her unique worth.”

That’s where our own stories of resilience, of overcoming difficulty, come in mighty handy. People somehow draw strength from knowing that someone else, another imperfect human being, has survived cancer, grief, depression or abuse. It’s soul food.

The Bible is big on resilience – I could give you many verses that attest to the beauty that comes from the deepest, darkest trials. Here’s a favourite:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5:3-4)

We should never underestimate the grit of humanity, our ability to overcome, nor the importance of sharing that capacity, with others. What a blessing it is to have people like Michelle and Kylea working in our community, giving practical lessons on resilience to schoolgirls.

As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday July 8, 2013.

– Andrew Fuller has some great material on his website for teaching kids resilience. Check it out here.
– Little Bird’s Michelle and Kylea have noticed “a huge chasm between a grade six girl in primary school and the same girl a year later in grade 7”.  Due to this need they will be producing a transition program in the next six months, additional to the ‘Flutter’ (grades 3-6) and Resilient Girl (grades 7-10) programs they already offer.  Programs are eight weeks long and cost $800 each to facilitate – they would love some sponsors.  If you think you can help, visit them on Facebook, or contact:
Michelle / 0429 302 009
Kylea / 0407 980 822




  1. asfadszcxv says

    This is a great article. Based on what I’ve seen, it is not only girls who are faced with modern challenges of sexualisation, identity, etc. Boys have also become challenged by pornography, gambling, addictions, etc.

  2. As a society, we seem to have reached a place where we resolve our children’s problems by either removing or insulating them from the challenges that cause those problems.

    We put softfall around playground equipment. We work to eliminate bullying. We soften the onerous aspects of education.

    I’m not saying we should encourage these things instead, but is it any surprise that children fail to learn the skills of resilience when they have fewer hardships to recover from?

    In the larger context of society, this is reflected in changing expectations regarding ‘offense’ – that rather than it being our responsibility to have the capacity to process offense, it is our responsibility not to cause offense.

    Good on Kylea and Michelle for doing what they can to help.

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