Background Children living in socioeconomic disadvantage are at risk of poor mental health outcomes. In order to focus and evaluate population health programs to facilitate children’s resilience, it is important to accurately assess baseline levels of functioning. With this end in mind, the aim of this study was to test the utility of 1) a voluntary random sampling method and 2) quantitative measures of adaptation (with national normative data) for assessing the resilience of children in an identified community. Method This cross-sectional study utilized a sample of participants (N = 309), including parents (n = 169), teachers (n = 20) and children (n = 170; age range = 5-16 years), recruited from the schools in Tenterfield; a socioeconomically disadvantaged community in New South Wales, Australia. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; including parent, teacher and youth versions) was used to measure psychological well-being and pro-social functioning, and NAPLAN results (individual children’s and whole school’s performance in literacy and numeracy) were used to measure level of academic achievement. Results The community’s disadvantage was evident in the whole school NAPLAN performance but not in the sample’s NAPLAN or SDQ results. The teacher SDQ ratings appeared to be more reliable than parent’s ratings. The voluntary random sampling method (requiring parental consent) led to sampling bias. Conclusions The key indicators of resilience - psychological well-being, pro-social functioning and academic achievement – can be measured in whole communities using the teacher version of the SDQ and whole school results on a national test of literacy and numeracy (e.g., Australia’s NAPLAN). A voluntary random sample (dependent upon parental consent) appears to have limited value due to the likelihood of sampling bias.