I see many old souls when I talk to kids off the land. In their short life, they have more life experience than people decades older.

For many, the images of drought are confronting. There is an emotional reaction to seeing animals and land not in prime condition.

If you look into the eyes of their human carers you will also see the impact of drought. The pressure is real, the weight of their worries is considerable and without hope they would be lost.

We cannot protect our children from the realities of life on the land.

But is it a testament to the people who farm the land and graze livestock to be able to speak so highly about the children of outback Australia.

The resilience of bush kids is impressive

Bush kids are practical and know how to work.

My husband has a great saying he shares with our children when they are unhappy with a school test result. “The bank manager never asks to see your report card”.

Who knows, maybe in the future they will. But the basis of what he is telling them is true. Your IQ, test results at school and the opinion of others in general does not dictate your ability to be successful.

But you must know your inner ‘why’ and what drives you. Without a passion for what you do then it would be incredibly hard to persevere in the hard times.

What does grit mean?

A great earthy term for what farmers have is ‘grit’. Words like backbone, strength of character, courage, moral fibre, resolve, commitment and determination are great words to describe the Australian farmer.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behaviour is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit”.

Bush kids have learnt from experience what grit really means.

  • A solid work ethic always stands you in good stead
  • Perseverance is an important character trait because you need to be motivated for the long-term and we aren’t talking weeks or months, but rather years. Because in life, there are often difficulties or delays in achieving success and you need to find meaning and give value to your efforts
  • The highest achievers aren’t always the smartest
  • Courage is not easy but it’s what gets the job done, because once you face your fears you know you can do it (again and again) and sometimes you will lose and even get hurt but the important thing is that you tried
  • People who are achievement-orientated get on with it, try their best and stick to the job at hand
  • A good heart is more important than a big bank balance

Life lessons on the land

The manner in which life’s experiences are handled lays the foundation for future challenges.

Children are wonderfully resilient and, with great foundations, thrive as adults. With love, truth, guidance and support, no challenge is too great.

As the drier conditions continue, the welfare of all primary producers is of concern.  No one is more concerned about rural children then their parents and community.

Mental health is flagged as an issue for bush kids, but they are not alone.  Resilient Youth Australia have profiled 300,000 youth in the past three years and their findings show 40% of secondary students in Australia suffer from a mental health issue. Just under a quarter (24.8%) of primary school students have a mental health issue.

Anxiety is currently the most common form of mental illness for young people.

Community matters in the bush

A massive strength of rural Australia is the commitment to community. The connections people make matter.

Children learn from their parents and surroundings and, while the picture may not be as pretty as we would like, the lessons are positive.

Challenges are not being ignored. The adults are getting up each day to get on with the jobs that must be done. Some moments are tough and some decisions are not easy.

There is always room for improvement but country values are strong and on display.

‘Kids don’t do what you say. They do what they see. How you live your life is their example’ (Paul Levesque)

Preparing the next generation of Australian farmers

Carol Dweck from Stanford University developed a concept called ‘growth mindset’. The underlying principle believes the ability to learn is not fixed. Your ability to learn can change with effort. The brain grows and responds to challenges. People who believe don’t quit when things get tough because they know failure is not permanent. They are much more likely to persevere when they fail.

These are our bush kids … they are the next generation of Australian farmers … forged at the coal face and ready for the challenges ahead.