How well does the general public understand the concept of urban resilience? We address this question via an online survey of 500+ citizens living in three large Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Perth). The majority of respondents claim not to know what urban resilience means. Of the remaining respondents, understanding ranges from poor to sophisticated. To circumvent this stated lack of understanding, we cast the concept of urban resilience into a more familiar framework consisting of risk and ability to cope with threats. This allows us to assess perceptions about what may challenge the resilience of Australian cities. Two concerns clearly emerge: (1) violence and social unrest and (2) environmental threats. Analysing a number of constructs from the social psychology literature reveals that these two concerns hold different cognitive signatures, whose understanding may facilitate discussion and communication within a public engagement process.