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When mum-of-three, Rachel Devine began to co-pilot the challenges facing her 11 year-old daughter and her friends, she was inspired to launch ‘Within The Keep’, a project that touches on the big issues that face kids that age.

The project came about by accident,” Rachel says as she explains that she’d been observing the emotional lives of primary-school-aged girls and remembering her own school years.

Rachel wondered how competition, self-doubt, defensiveness and hostility could be discouraged in favour of kindness, open-heartedness and optimism.


A fresh perspective

I feel that if we help kids develop a solid sense of empathy, they might see that being anything but kind and thoughtful is a waste of this one life,” she says.

To be a part of Within The Keep, pre-teen girls and their mums  – as well as a few supportive pals – simply  front up at Rachel’s tiny Melbourne studio to get their photo taken.

The girls are all presented in a similar way in front of Rachel’s camera – black t-shirt, hair down and looking straight at the lens.

Rachel’s years of experience photographing families means it takes no more than ten minutes to capture a great shot of each girl and it’s a positive and bonding experience for everyone involved.


Words matter

Once the camera’s packed away, the girls are asked to look at their own image and choose three words to represent themselves from a master list of character traits that Rachel’s compiled.

Next, they choose three words to describe another Within The Keep participant.

Rachel says a few basic patterns are emerging early in the game when it comes to describing themselves and other girls.

I’ve found that it’s easier for them to pick words for other people. The list of words for themselves is slower to come,” Rachel explains.

I’m looking forward to seeing whether they choose the safe, less controversial traits for themselves or others.”


The inside story

Rachel’s project encapsulates how important it is to focus on what lies beneath and provides consistent, practical strategies to encourage our kids to feel good about themselves and others.

My ultimate goal is that they will learn to stop for a second and think ‘maybe there’s something else going on with this other person that I hadn’t thought about‘. That they will learn to reframe thoughts and have a more positive outlook on things,” Rachel says.

I want to help these girls to see that they’re okay just as they are. The same and yet different to their friends.”

It’s not about being beautiful. It’s about being who they are.”

You can see all the images captured so far on Rachel’s website,


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