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April Shepherd

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As Australia’s cosmetic surgery rates surpass America’s, our obsession with social media and the current COVID-19 pandemic creates a minefield for those who struggle with disordered eating and body image issues.

 So far, 2020 has been a lot to process. In what will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime historical event, the world has been totally affected by COVID-19 – a virus which has so far killed more than 264,000 people.

As Australia combats this, most of us have found ourselves on leave, unemployed or working from home. As the lockdowns have progressed many businesses have shut down and the nation’s gyms have not been immune.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of content online focused on exercising from home, especially on Instagram, which has become flooded with posts about ‘body goals’, losing weight and becoming ‘healthier’ in quarantine.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers numerous triggers for those who are struggling with an eating disorder or those with distorted body image and low self-esteem.

“We understand that the prevalent discussions around stock-piling food, increased hygiene measures, food shortages and lock-ins can be incredibly distressing and triggering for people experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder,” states The Butterfly Foundation in relation to COVID-19. 

When you combine these triggers with an increase in spare time to spend scrolling social media, such as Instagram, this can create the Perfect Storm.

Instagram and its tribe of entrepreneurs and models is no stranger to criticism from body positivity advocates, largely because the app is focused on images, a majority of which are highly edited. The concept of Instagram is the ideal social media app- share images and see images of your family and friends – plus your favourite celebrities, bridging the gap between fan and friend.

Instagram launched in 2010 and had 1 million users within two months, it has since been purchased by Facebook and become one of the largest social media platforms in the world.

The New Yorker journalist Jia Tolentino has talked extensively concerning the phenomenon of Instagram models, and their strikingly similar looks in ‘The Age of the Instagram Face’. 

She writes, “The gradual emergence, among professionally beautiful women, of a single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with pore-less skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips.”

The commodification of women was once selling the products to make us beautiful, but as ‘Instagram Face’ rises and social media continues to excel, cosmetic surgery becomes more commonplace than it ever has been before.

Presently Australia’s cosmetic surgery numbers have surpassed America’s; in 2017 Australian’s spent more than 1 billion dollars on plastic surgery, surpassing America’s procedures per capita numbers, a feat considering America is often considered the ground zero for enhanced beauty.

Since when did this new prototype of a woman, a mish-mashed version, a high light reel built to bend over; a tiny waist, big lips, no blemishes- become the new standard of beauty, and how achievable is this?

Claire Finkelstein has been a clinical psychologist for fifteen years and is co-founder and co-director at Nourish.Nurture.Thrive, a multidisciplinary practise based in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula that specialises in helping young people who struggle with eating disorders and body image.

Claire and fellow clinical psychologist, Ainsley Hudgson, started Nourish.Nurture.Thrive after years working in the public health system and seeing how overwhelmed it had become with a “growing population with eating disorder concerns,” says Claire.

Isolation, quarantine and an increase in social media can be very triggering for not only those who struggle with eating disorders but anyone who finds themselves feeling out of control in this stressful time.

“Everybody is showing their exercise routines at the moment, everybody is making those jokes about putting on weight during lockdown and I think it’s just incredibly triggering even for people with a fairly robust sense of self-confidence and body image but particularly for people who are in the eating disorder space,” says Claire.

The showing of exercise routines is found on Instagram amongst other social media, promoting diet culture.

Diet culture is defined as a system of beliefs that worship thinness and oppress people who don’t meet this beauty standard and idea of health. The one underlying fact for nearly all diets and wellbeing programs is that thin is best, demonizing certain food groups and body types, all while promoting the most important idea of them all; if you weren’t so lazy you’d have the body of your dreams.

“It feels like you can control your weight, so in a time when you feel out of control you try and control your weight and what we know is that your weight is biologically determined within a set point and that’s one of the difficulties – all these messages around ‘this is something we can do’ and if you’re not doing it successfully you’re inadequate and that is such a damaging, damaging story that is part of diet culture,” says Claire.

The infamous ‘beauty is pain’ mantra handed down to young girls from their mothers has a whole new meaning, the pain having grown from a waxing strip full of pubic hair to a surgery scar or a vigorous training regime.

Earlier this year glamour magazine Girls Girls Girls collaborated with Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon to create a video titled ‘Be a Lady they said’. The piece included various clips from movies, news, and glamour shots to tell the story of the myriad of requests and expectations women are meant to be adhering to, ironically the women featured in the video are beautiful, thin and passive.

One of the most impactful lines reads,

‘Be a size zero, be a double zero, be nothing, be less than nothing.’

Cynthia Nixon spits these words at the screen as it turns dark and the sound of someone’s heart flatlining takes up the darkness. It is powerful commentary on the notions behind our desires for female perfection and the gruesome control it creates.

As Naomi Wolf states in her classic, The Beauty Myth, published in 1990, obsession with beauty and thinness is a form of control and oppression.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one,” says Wolf.

The US health and weight loss industry is worth an estimated $72 billion and Australians are estimated to spend $452.5 million on weight-loss counselling services (and the low-calorie foods and dietary supplements that go with it) in 2019-2020.

These figures show what has been in the shadows all along – this business is big money built off the back of diet culture. A truth hid underneath the bright lights of Instagram, the ‘life updates’ and the relatable posts – the influencers who make you feel like a family, like you could look like them if you had the grit – when you’re just a customer.

 Resources and coping mechanisms

For those who are spending a lot of time online and feel triggered by the change in routine, there are ways to seek help, guidance and support.

The Butterfly Foundation suggests that stretching, light exercise, talking to a loved one, drawing, being creative and mindfulness techniques can help you support your health and wellbeing during this crisis and stop negative body thoughts.

Their Helpline is also open on webchat, email or phone from 8am-midnight, 7 days a week.

Claire Finkelstein from Nourish.Nurture.Thrive admits boycotting social media is unrealistic, especially as it is one of our main sources for communicating with the outside world, however, she does recommend an ‘audit’ of who you follow.

“Use social media to connect rather than compare, use it to engage with people who are important to you, who you feel supported by, who give you a laugh who make you smile, who make you more connected and less alone and try to engage less with social media that leaves you feeling terrible afterwards,” says Claire.

Unfollowing accounts that make you feel inadequate or leave you feeling unhappy and starting to follow body positive accounts instead can stop that downward spiral of self-loathing many of us find triggered by social media.

“Research shows if you have a diverse imagery, diverse bodies, diverse beauty, or other images like architecture, animals or whatever makes you feel good – that that can really dilute the impact, the negative impact of imagery that doesn’t make you feel good,” says Claire.

Below are resources for those who need help.

The Butterfly Foundation:

T: 1800 33 4673

W: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

Beyond Blue:

T: 1300 22 4636

W: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites

Last week talk show host Ellen DeGeneres found herself in hot water after describing her time in quarantine as akin to being in jail. The comments have been labelled as insensitive as DeGeneres has a net worth of $490 million and is currently isolating in a mansion worth $27 million.

Although not many of us are lucky enough to be isolating in a million-dollar home like DeGeneres, a large portion of Australians have access to housing, internet access, electricity and food. However 3 million Australians, (13.2 per cent of the population), live below the poverty line.

Australia’s 13.2 per cent is a comparatively low poverty rate when compared to developing nations, such as the African country of Sudan that has a 47 per cent poverty rate, and it’s neighbouring country South Sudan, which sits at a poverty percentage of 82.3 per cent.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc worldwide, with much of the Western world in some level of lockdown, facing months of isolation in their homes and risking hefty fines for leaving the house unnecessarily.

These strict isolation measures have been brought in to stop the spread of the virus and ‘flatten the curve’, a now well-known term in the Western world for slowing the rate of infection.

Italy, one of the worst hit countries in the world, has reached a death toll of 20,000 people after their infection rate rose at an unprecedented rate, leaving thousands of their citizens to perish and pushing their health system beyond breaking point.

As with many world-wide disasters, developed and Western nations monopolise the media and reporting, whilst it is often less developed countries (LDC) that suffer beyond repair.

A developing nation is a country that has a low or middle economy with the UN classifying countries into three broad categories, ‘developed economies, economies in transition and developing economies’, further stating that to be listed as a LDC that the ‘basic criteria for inclusion require that certain thresholds be met with regard to per capita GNI, a human assets index and an economic vulnerability index’.

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens in developed nations, the situation in LDC’s is threatening to back-pedal the work these countries have made in the last two decades and collapse their economies, with estimates that income losses may exceed $220 billion.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated in a recent report that without help from the international community, many countries could lose an entire generation to the virus; ‘an entire generation lost, if not in lives then in rights, opportunities and dignity’, states Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UNDP.

One of the major identifiers of a LDC and/or a developing country is lack of hygiene measures and sanitation, which is exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis. The UNDP in association with WHO is working to provide aid to countries at high risk, with both appealing for help from the international community.

The situation is made even more dire in these LDC communities as there is minimal testing for the virus and a lack of ventilators, combined with populations that are already struggling, it is the formula for a perfect storm.

The testing situation is slowly improving as emergency aids and Health ministries focus on stopping the spike in demand for testing kits, sourcing more kits and training staff in affected areas.

WHO confirmed last week that Africa has over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 500 deaths, with many of the affected countries trade-dependent, leaving their economies at breaking point.

The messenger app WhatsApp announced in March that it will work in conjunction with WHO (World Health Organisation) and UNDP to find credible information on the COVID-19 and distribute this to countries in need, including South Africa and Indonesia.

The UNDP, WHO and the World Food Programme (WFP) continue to work together to aid the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Africa. Zimbabwe, situated in the south of Africa has a poverty percentage of 70 per cent and was struggling through a famine before the outbreak of COVID-19.

The WFP is now attempting to raise $130 million to help Zimbabwe from slipping further into poverty, along with efforts across a further 82 countries, helping approximately 87 million people through the outbreak and beyond.

We can get through COVID-19 together, as a global community, share this article and the resources in it, spread awareness, donate if you can. It is up to our leaders and us to act as a global community and help those in need, they need to hear our voices.

If you would like to donate or find out more about the COVID-19 response in developing nations, resources are linked below.

Donate:

https://www.wfp.org/support-us

https://www.unicef.org.au/donate/donate-once?appeal-gid=486e25ac-d0c8-4bc1-b798-27b7abb1626f

Further information (or any of the links in article):

https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000114205/download/?_ga=2.98097631.1751240341.1586847305-288421665.1586847305

This week Australians all took a deep breath in unison and read the news no one was prepared to see, a decision that is more fitting for a Hollywood drama then for real life, a decision that has left survivors reeling and parents holding their children a bit tighter than usual.

The seven judges of the high court have handed down what might be one of the most controversial decisions Australia has ever witnessed. Their decision, convicted and jailed child molester George Pell is to be released and all convictions dismissed, finishing off a series of events that started fifty years ago.

It is every parent’s worst nightmare, a predator walking the streets ready to prey on your child, made even worse by the fact that the alleged perpetrator is a Cardinal, a high-ranking priest in the Catholic Church, elected by the Pope himself.

The Cardinal in question is the soon to be infamous Cardinal George Pell, aged 78, who was accused of molesting two choir boys in 1996 whilst he was appointed as Archbishop of Melbourne.

The crime allegedly took place as Pell found the boys drinking wine in the church, innocently playing around after mass. The account of the Cardinal looming over them before he attacked the boys and forced them to perform oral sex on him is nothing short of an act of evil and that of nightmares.
The rapes and molestation allegedly occurred in the St Patrick’s Cathedral, located in East Melbourne, and is one accusation amongst many made against Pell, numerous of which stem from his time as a younger priest in the small Victorian town of Ballarat in the 1970s.
Of the two choir boys involved in the accusations from 1996, only one survives, one dying of a heroin overdose in 2014 and refusing the abuse allegations up until his death. In the same year the Victorian Government created a task force dedicated to investigating the handling of child abuse cases by ‘Religious And Other Non-Government Organisations’.

In 2015 the surviving choir boy broke his silence, letting go of the secret he had carried for nearly two decades. One can only imagine the weight this man had carried into adulthood, scared of judgement and sharing his secret with the world, all to not be believed.

Three years later in December of 2018 Pell, who had pled not guilty, was found to be guilty of the accusations against him in the Melbourne case of the choir boys, charged with five sex abuse convictions in total.

Since then the Cardinal’s lawyers have faced the high court, arguing that the court failed to adequately take evidence supporting Pell’s innocence into consideration.

On April 7th 2020, after spending just a mere 400 days in prison, Pell has been set free, just in time to spend Easter in the free world.

Amongst the turmoil the world is facing at the moment, yesterday’s news from the high court has left Australia in shock, with the question on everybody lips the same; how?

If a high-profile case can have the ending that Pell’s has, then what chance do the everyday equivalents have. The George Pell’s who hide in our local shadows, in our schools, our churches, our family trees.

The #Metoo movement has given survivors of sexual assault worldwide a group consciousness, hope that if we just stand up we must be believed, that the reason why these monsters have been allowed to walk our streets is a mistake, that if their crimes had been reported they would be locked away.The man who killed Sunshine coast boy Daniel Morcombe in 2003, Brett Peter Cowan, had viciously assaulted seven year old boy Timothy Nicholls in 1987. Cowan served a little over half of his sentence of two years for the brutal rape of Timothy, before being released and eventually finding his way to that bus stop next to Daniel in 2003.

Daniel’s parents must stare at their ceiling at night wondering what if, what if he had served his full sentence, what if he had been sentenced to life, what if, what if, what if.

The pain of all survivors, of the choir boy, Timothy Nicholls, of all people who have been affected by child abuse, who have been brave enough to speak up, for their abuser to be able to walk free is a pain that is immeasurable, leaving a community once hopeful for change and justice, vulnerable and disappointed.

If we didn’t believe the choir boy, then who has a chance?

 

 

 

 

 

The novel virus known as COVID-19 started as a collection of similar cases emerging from Wuhan, China-  a city with a population of over 11 million.  

Australia was in the process of healing from a devastating fire season when the Coronavirus (soon to be titled COVID-19) became national news, with the World Health Organization (WHO) having heard the first reports of COVID-19 on the 31st of December 2019.

In the months that have followed the pandemic has spread across the globe, encompassing Australia and leaving millions without work, or at the very least financially affected by the virus and the subsequent lockdowns it has caused.

These are uncertain times, and as many of us wait for news of government aid, job opportunities or when our old lives will get back to normal, many are left without an income.

Below are some practical ways to lessen the financial stress during the disaster movie scenario we have found ourselves in.

Monitor what comes in and out of your bank- and eliminate the non-essential items

For many of us, we have multiple cards and multiple entertainment platforms, programs and everyday expenses that are direct debited.

This is convenient usually, but if you are now left with no income, that outcome needs to be cut down. Have a look on your outgoings on your banking app and make a list of what you pay every month- do you really need to be spending $25 a month on a live sport platform when all sport is postponed? Or could you be using that $25 on food and utilities? Unfortunately, the time for luxuries is not right now, so cut your expenses accordingly.

Call and ask for extensions/account freezes/pause in payments

Do not be ashamed to ask for help, we are all in this together. Many corporations and businesses are being very understanding in this time and providing extensions and pauses for payments.

Afterpay for example can give extensions/pauses in payments if you contact them and discuss your situation, the same could go for various other payments you may have coming up, so don’t be scared to ask! The following link discusses electricity companies that will be providing extra help for their customers during this crisis. https://www.finder.com.au/financial-hardship-programs-utilities

Live that vegetarian lifestyle

Meat is expensive and perishable, and with supermarkets losing the battle against panic buying shoppers, meat and other basics are hard to find. Do not panic or bulk buy– it is unfair on everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

Buy beans, lentils, grains- these are cheap, filling and last a long time- check out this lentil dahl recipe that is perfect for meal prepping and super tasty! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4pDLh11nmA

Keep up to date with the government’s response to the pandemic and if you are eligible for Centrelink payments

There is a lot of information regarding the COVID-19 in the media that is constantly updated, and the same goes for details of government assistance and how to access Centrelink payments if you now find yourself out of work. The below article by ABC shows a step by step guide to applying for Centrelink if you’ve never used the system before and is updated regularly as the situation progresses. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-24/coronavirus-how-to-apply-for-centrelink-jobseeker-newstart/12083948

Think of others and act accordingly – stay inside! 

Stay inside and practise social distancing, this won’t last forever, but it is important we all do the right thing and act with everyone in mind. We will all get through this by acting as a community, spreading kindness and thinking of our most vulnerable.

What’s wrong with a father concerned about his daughter’s virginity? 

Rapper T.I has been in the news recently for comments involving his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah Harris.

T.I, aged 39 and born Clifford Joseph Harris, has been a rapper and actor for decades, cementing his position as a R&B superstar in the early 2000’s.

The scandal gained traction in early November after T.I was a guest on the podcast  Ladies Like Us with Nazanin and Nadia for their episode titled ‘Life Hacks’.

In the episode, T.I discusses his daughter and how every birthday he takes her to the gynaecologist to check if her hymen is intact. Throughout the podcast hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham laugh as T.I describes his obsession with Deyjah’s virginity.

The hymen is a thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina, with the tearing of the hymen typically associated with the loss of virginity. In reality there are many ways a hymen can break that has nothing to do with sex (such as horse riding and tampon use).

“Look, doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports, man. Just check the hymen please and give me back my results, expeditiously” said T.I. in the now infamous interview.

Since the worldwide discussion of her virginity, Deyjah Harris has deleted all her social media, including her Instagram @princess_of_da_south that boasts a following of 1.5 million.

T.I’s daughter rose to fame through his family’s long time running reality television program T.I & Tiny: Family Hustle that followed the rapper and his family’s life after T.I’s prison sentence ended.

T.I’s comments sparked worldwide discussion over the construct of virginity, which is the idea that virginity is a construct created by society and the patriarchy, with patriarchal ideals as the foundation. The construct placing a large focus on commoditising women’s bodies and women losing their purity after sex.

T.I’s comments are problematic for multiple reasons, one of the most unsettling being how the rapper seems to believe he owns his daughter’s virginity.

This is still a common practice, with the concept of virginity stemmed in the idea that women’s bodies are not their own, they belong to their fathers and then are passed to their husbands.

The loss of virginity has also always been associated with heterosexual sex, with the loss of virginity for members of the LGBTI community having always been blurry.

As a society, sex, sexuality and virginity need to be discussed openly and regularly with young people. It is a pivotal part of a child’s growth and teaching children how to respect sexual partners and how to understand consent from an early age is crucial.

In Australia our sex education is heterosexual orientated and starts when children are aged 11 or 12 (depending on the state). The Victorian Government’s health advice and services focused website, Better Channel health offers advice for parents of young children for discussing sex and sexuality.

Parents should aim to be approachable to their children so they don’t seek sex education from other sources, such as their peers or the internet, states Better Channel Health.

In the Netherlands children as young as four are taught about sexuality, a sexual education program that is recognised worldwide.

The Netherlands has some of the best results of sex education, low teen pregnancy rates, high rates of contraception use and high rates of young people losing their virginity in a safe, fun and wanted way.

The T.I scandal raises many issues that in society we seem scared to raise and discuss, is it that over- protective fathers are a symptom of the patriarchy, or some would argue is this just feminism gone too far.

Deciding on a school for your little ones can be daunting! With so many options, all with their own pros and cons, it can be overwhelming. So how can you weigh up which is the best option for your child?

Choosing the most suitable school for your child can be a big decision. In addition to finding an education style that fits our child, as parents, we also want to ensure our kids’ learning environment is safe, fun, stimulating and nurturing.
Offspring explores some of the benefits of the education options available in Australia.

GOVERNMENT/PUBLIC:

For many parents, the local public school is their go-to, close to public transport, in their local community and often where past family members have attended. Government/public schools are a popular option in Australia.
Government schools have a guaranteed place for a child if the school is in their local catchment.
However, if you would like to send your child to a public school outside of your area, there is not a guaranteed spot. For your child to attend a Government school they must attend an interview with the principal and there is a voluntary small fee.
Most public school’s fees cost between $50-300 and payment plans are sometimes available for low-socioeconomic areas and families.

INDEPENDENT/PRIVATE:

Independent and private schooling is an umbrella term that covers all independent and private schools, such as Catholic, Steiner and Montessori schools.
For many parents, private education is a great way to find a school that can tailor to your child’s spiritual and learning needs.
If parents decide to choose a private school for their child, they must allow considerable time to apply for various schools as no places are guaranteed, also extra fees and tuition prices must be considered also.

RELIGIOUS:

Religious schooling is a popular option in Australia, with Catholic schooling being the second most popular choice by Australian parents after Government and public schooling.
Religious schools require a meeting with the principal, with all students accepted at the discretion of the school.
In religious schooling, it is most likely families of the church that are accepted first, however many schools do not require your family to be a part of their religion.

There are many different religious schools in Australia, such as Catholic, Jewish and Baptist, providing more options for parents who want their child to be schooled in a religious environment.

STEINER:

Steiner schooling or Waldorf schooling follows a curriculum based upon the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and social reformer. Steiner schools have been operating in Australia for 60 years and are growing in popularity, with statistics from Steiner Education Australia showing that 87 per cent of parents are happy they chose to send their children to a Steiner school.
Steiner schooling is a holistic approach to learning where the children are discouraged from using modern technology whilst at school.
At Steiner schools the teachers stay with the same class not just for one year, but for the student’s entire time in primary school.
Steiner schools base their learning largely on communication and forming strong bonds between child, family and teacher.
Steiner education focuses on moral growth and aims to let their students learn artistically, spiritually and practically, cherishing childhood. As with many private schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and fees apply.
For more information about Steiner schooling go to: www.steinereducation.edu.au

TIP: Have a budget for your child’s schooling fees, uniform and other related costs and try to stick to it!

MONTESSORI:

Montessori is an education program that focuses on developing the ‘full human being’ and providing education that is an aid to life, based on the teachings of Dr Maria Montessori, a physician, anthropologist and teacher.
The Montessori schooling program focuses on children taking their time to complete their schoolwork and having their own independence to work at their own pace.
The Montessori schooling program is growing in Australia, with over 300 schools and centres nationwide.
There are many programs available, starting from as young as 18 months old to adulthood, with the aim of providing a whole life of support for their students.
As with most independent schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and extra fees apply.
For more information about Montessori schooling go to:

COMMUNITY/ALTERNATIVE/OPEN LEARNING:

Community/Open learning education programs and schooling is often referred to as alternative schooling, where the school commonly creates its own curriculum.
These schools are very small, independent and often hold a close- knit community, sometimes running out of community houses.
These learning facilities are targeted at all ages but are especially valuable for children who have different interests or a learning style that doesn’t fit into mainstream curriculums.

HOME SCHOOLING:

Home Schooling is now a viable schooling option used by many, not just families living in remote areas. Home Schooling allows parents to spend more time with their kids and tailor their learning to suit their child’s needs.
Lots of families choose to home school for various reasons such as bullying, disabilities or even their child being gifted.
Each state has its own registration processes, with Home Schooling open to any child aged 6-17 years Australia wide. To register, one must have their child’s birth certificate and have made a learning plan or rough lesson plans to include.
Home education is different to distance education, which follows the national curriculum and is supplied to parents, primarily used by families in remote locations who can’t access their nearest school easily.
For more information about home education go to your state’s registration and qualifications authority.

The Resilience Project holds speaking events and is a curriculum that is aimed at using gratitude, empathy and mindfulness to fight mental illness, with the program implemented in hundreds of schools Australia wide.

“If this book wasn’t written, my sister and I would have never actually sat down and had a conversation about our relationship,” says Hugh Van Cuylenburg, creator of The Resilience Project.

At three years of age, Georgia Van Cuylenburg had been playing alongside her brother, Hugh, when a man picked her up, took her out of sight, and sexually assaulted her.
Her innocence of childhood taken in one fell swoop, and a wound that bleed into many facets of her life for decades, was brought to life. This trauma explaining why the darkness of anorexia had chosen her as it’s host, stripping her down to skin and bones.
“I remembered it happening and when my sister told us as a family I went ‘oh right really’ I didn’t even say I remembered it, she continued to feel alone through that trauma, we never talked about it,” says her brother, Hugh.
Hugh was inspired to create The Resilience Project and write The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness.   
During his time researching his book, Hugh read a lot about vulnerability and shame. “Shame is what locks us up, and really makes it hard for us to be happy and feel well.”
“My shame lied in my relationship with my sister,” said Hugh.
As Hugh showed his family the first copies of his book, he eagerly awaited their opinions and critiques. Georgia was devastated at what her brother had written about her. “She said, ‘when am I going to get that vulnerable side of you?.'”

For Hugh, his book became much more than helping millions of Australians who struggle with mental illness, it became a tool for healing his broken relationship with his sister, a shame he had carried for many years.

Hugh changed his book last minute and worked on his relationship with his sister, deciding that his novel was to focus on human connection and the people that have moved him.
Today mental illness has become an epidemic, taking our youth one by one – an insidious disease that has crept into our society and been given the freedom to flourish, due to stigma, lack of resources and communication. Even today mental illness is not treated the same way that other life threatening illnesses are.
Mental illness is very common in Australia, with one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in a year, meaning that 20 per cent of the population is battling a disease that their family, partner and employer cannot see and might not even believe.

Further statistics show indicates that 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage in their life.

In 2008, educator Hugh had been teaching young teens in Melbourne when his then girlfriend asked him to accompany her on a trip to India. In India, Hugh taught at an under-privileged school in the Himalayan desert area and with approximately 150 children enrolled, his job was to teach English.
As he began to know his students better, many of whom were living in extreme poverty, Hugh became inspired by his student’s happiness, gratitude and lack of mental health issues that had become so prevalent in the Australian schools where Hugh taught. Returning to Australia, Hugh took with him the local children’s insights, practices and wisdom, and he slowly created The Resilience Project.
The Resilience Project began as a talk that outlined Hugh’s research and experiences with mental illness. Today, it is a school program and curriculum that reaches schools, sporting clubs and workplaces all over Australia and now New Zealand.
In The Resilience Project curriculum and speaking events, Hugh explains how incorporating gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (shortened to GEM in his book) can prevent mental illness and provide happiness.
As many parents know, the most influential years of a person’s life is their childhood,with studies showing that 50 per cent of all mental health conditions a person experiences in their life will have started by age 14.

During his time in India, Hugh noticed how the children were very grateful to be at school and practiced mindfulness every morning before their classes began, incorporating all this into his program for schools and youth, with the feedback having been phenomenally positive so far.
After years of implementing this program, Hugh wrote The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness,releasing the book in November 2019.
Since the book’s release Hugh has had an influx of positive feedback, and is still as humble as ever; with a warm energy and healing nature, it is easy to see why thousands flock to hear him speak and line up afterwards, telling Hugh their troubles and how his words have helped them to heal.
“We have had incredible feedback, I just saw this morning that it is Number One on audio books, which I can’t believe.”
“I’ve had a few really beautiful personal messages from people.”
Hugh recalls one recent message he’d received from a reader who had been feeling suicidal and after reading the book felt so grateful and positive about his life, telling Hugh how his words had saved his life.

“Honestly if he is the only person that reads this book and that’s the only feedback I get, that’s a worthwhile six months writing,” Hugh says.

On a mission to promote gratitude, empathy and mindfulness, Hugh tackles the tricky topic of social media and parenting in his book, describing the rise of social media as only showing ‘the greatest hits’ of life, and how damaging this can be for young minds.
The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness includes a lot of tips and ideas for parents, who have found themselves with children inundated with technology and social media that teaches them validation is found through a screen.

“The best way to help your kids is to start modelling better behaviour, you can’t say to your kids ‘stop being on your phone all the time’ then turn around and check your emails,” he says.

The book is full of strategies to help parents put their phone down with one of the easiest to grasp, yet hardest to implement, simply being to leave their phone at home.
Hugh states that this simple task can leave us more focused on others around us, increasing feelings of connection and togetherness, which are two big ways to fight loneliness and mental illness in this increasingly busy and digital world.
Hugh believes that the less a child is on a device the more aware they are to their surroundings and community, leaving more time to be grateful for the society we are lucky enough to have in Australia.
As for fostering GEM into daily life, Hugh says it’s all down to practice and implementing these small practises into your families every day.
For mindfulness, Hugh suggests going for a walk around the block and focusing on what you can hear, an exercise parents can easily make into family time. Hugh also suggests at the dinner table to reflect on the good in each family member’s day and to share what they are grateful for and looking forward to.
“Look out for opportunities to be kind to people, you watch how happy that makes you and if you do it in front of your kids, that’s the most powerful thing of all,” says Hugh.
“You will have an enormous impact on them because they’ll start to copy you, they will start to be someone who is kind to other people.”