School Inclusion Project

Northcott’s Early Linker worker and Social Futures’ Belonging Project worker are working together on the School Inclusion Project. It is starting in Social Inclusion Week in November 2016, visiting primary schools and talking with kids about understanding our differences, diversity and acceptance, and ways we can all be a good friend – to include others and help them feel they belong.

Kids will also receive information to take home to their parents, families and carers to talk about how we can all support belonging and inclusion.

Have a look at our fabulous new Kids Activity Book we’re taking around schools now – you can download a copy for yourself here by clicking the link below.


For more information contact Heather.

The Belonging Award

The Belonging Award is part of the Tweed Shire Council Access and Inclusion Awards. The annual awards were started in 2013 to celebrate achievement and innovation in building an accessible community. They recognise and acknowledge action by individuals, community groups, organisations and businesses that build and promote an accessible and inclusive community for everyone in the Tweed. To make a nomination or to read more, please visit Tweed Shire Council Access and Inclusion Awards.

Nominations are now open for this years Tweed Access and Inclusion Awards.

Nominations are open until Friday 29. September 2017. You can download a nomination form below in Easy English, Plain English, Large Print and General Application formats.
Easy English 2017
Plain English 2017
Large Print 2017

More information

The Belonging Award recognises businesses actively making Tweed locations inclusive for children of all abilities. Kids with additional needs want to enjoy going to the same places that their friends do – such as the shopping centres, after-school activities like karate or soccer – and parents want to know their kids will be accepted there, regardless of their ability.

The Belonging Award aims to spread awareness of what businesses and all people in the community can do to be inclusive: not judging kids’ behaviour, listening to parents’ requests and feedback, thinking about how different kids experience the world around them and just generally showing understanding and caring.

Businesses who have been nominated for the Belonging Award for their actions towards inclusion for children:

2014 Belonging Awards

Winner: Get Wet Swimming
Nominees: Terranora Childcare Centre, Tweed PCYC

2015 Belonging Awards

Winner: Possums Community Pre-School
Nominees: Pottsville Beach Neighbourhood Centre, Get Wet Swimming, Murwillumbah Collision Repair

We were so stoked to win this award, to be recognised for what we do. The staff were so impressed, it has had a really positive impact on all the staff and their morale. It was really empowering for all of us.

It did raise questions about our enrolments. Since winning the award we seem to have a large number of enrolments for children with special needs. We have had a lot of referrals from Shaping Outcomes since the award.

We don’t think we are any different to other services. I do know our staff excel at supporting the kids to be successful. Our staff take a lot of responsibility for achieving success. There is real staff leadership in our Centre.

We are really lucky to have two staff that have a big interest in supporting inclusion. We really harness our staff interests and skills. One staff member has an older daughter who has Autism – we see her as the expert. Another staff member is skilled in key signing. But most importantly everyone has a role in facilitating the sense that ‘everybody belongs.’ It’s no picnic, its hard work, but it pays off. Parents share messages of major milestones for their kids all the time. The feedback from the parents was ‘we knew how good you were, you didn’t need and awards to prove to us how great you all are’.

2016 Belonging Awards

Winner: Billabong Swim School Tweed Heads
The first thing Judy shared with me was “I feel so lucky I found my niche in life.”

Judy has a passion for teaching swimming. She’s been doing this since she was 15 years old. She trained as a P.E Teacher but felt being a swimming instructor was really her calling.

Today she runs the Billabong Swim School in Tweed Heads with her husband, John. They believe learning to swim is ‘a gift for life’. Judy is a big believer that all is possible and anyone can be taught to swim with the right assistance. She welcomes anyone to come along to two great locations at Tweed or Casuarina Beach to chat about supporting their individual needs.

Judy’s school is a leader in the area. When the opportunity arises she invites guest speakers to talk to parents about supporting ‘highly sensitive students’ and working with ‘gifted students’. Judy has a willingness and openness to work with all members of the family. “We want families to know they are not alone, we make everybody feel as though they belong. We provide a support system in the most unexpected setting” says Judy.

“As a swim teacher we see kids with different abilities and we reassure parents to focus on the abilities and the strengths of their child” shares Judy. Billabong Swim school currently run a specialised program called ‘Rainbow Fish’. The Rainbow Fish program provides one-on-one lessons offered at half the price of a regular private lesson to parents if their children find it difficult to participate in the regular classes.

Swim teachers sometimes become aware of certain differences some kids have and Judy acknowledges it is not her place to make a diagnosis, however she will suggest to parents that they seek some support through a pediatrician or other medical professional if she believes their child could use this support.

Judy is proud of the Swim Centre’s participation in research by Professor Robyn Jorgensen from Griffith University. This research identified a significant difference between children involved in the Early Years Swimming Project and their developmental milestones, compared to those who didn’t swim. Some children were up to 16-18 months ahead in some developmental areas. Though Judy had long believed that kids who swim from a young age are more advanced in many other areas, she said she was still truly amazed by the evidence from the university report.

Judy said she was delighted to be nominated and to win the Belonging Award at the Tweed Shire Access and Inclusion Awards in 2016. “We try to include everybody, but to be acknowledged for it is really special. As a Business this is what we should all be doing” says Judy.


Collaborating with CVFS in the Clarence Valley

Clarence Valley Forward Steps (CV Forward Steps)

The Belonging Project shared in some of the activities organised by Clarence Valley Forward Steps (CV Forward Steps) in 2016.

CV Forward Steps is a Facebook group that supports families who have children with additional needs in the Clarence Valley. They have over 220 members on their Facebook page and share all sorts of interesting information.

Collaborating with CV Forward Steps allowed The Belonging Project to continue to promote the message of inclusion and belonging. Joining in activities like the Jacaranda Festival Dragon Boat Race and float parade, which thousands of locals attended, allowed us to share the important messages that everybody belongs and the significance of creating welcoming communities. A place where we acknowledge difference and accept everybody.

We also worked with CV Forward Steps to aid them in their efforts to acknowledge outstanding businesses in Grafton which support kids with additional needs and their families. During the Inclusion Week Celebration, CV Forward Steps presented ‘The Jungle Gym’ with the inaugural ‘Access and Inclusion Award’ for their understanding and exceptional service to kids and their families. Over 1,000 people came along to the Social Inclusion celebration at the Grafton showground and enjoyed lots of family activities and entertainment including an outdoor cinema screening.

The Belonging Project also partnered with CV Forward Steps and Carers NSW to celebrate Carers Week. About 20 parents came along to enjoy some pampering and lunch together. A few of the parents and the Belonging Project coordinator were interviewed by Prime TV to build awareness of some of the challenges carers face in their caring roles; and ways in which the community can do small things to support children with additional needs and their families.

Tweed Connections
The Belonging Project have been partnering with a number of organisations in the Tweed Shire to share the message of inclusion.

The Murwillumbah Farmers Market
The Murwillumbah Farmers Market were keen to have a children’s space that included all kids. The Early Years Coordinator (EYC) from the Tweed Heads Family Centre and The Belonging Project collaborated with the Farmers Market and now, we’re really happy to report, that the Tweed Heads Family Centre are providing a weekly activity for kids at the markets. This is a welcoming space for all kids and their families to share. The Belonging Project offer additional activities during the school holidays. Families shared their ideas of belonging and other issues of importance through surveys and feedback. Some of the feedback we’ve had has been truly inspirational.

Kinship Festival, Murwillumbah
Community members, Elders and services came together to support a fantastic community event to celebrate Families Week. The Belonging Project was invited to be a part of the Kinship Festival Committee in 2015 and 2016. The Kinship Festival in Murwillumbah was an awesome effort in community collaboration and sharing. To see footage from the 2017, follow the link

During May and June 2017 The Belonging Project provided five free training sessions for family carers and Early Years Educators.

Monica Barnes offered a full day training on the Nurtured Hearts Approach to 18 participants in Brunswick Heads.

Jack O’Leary presented Mindfulness for Everyday Stress in Lennox Head to 17 Early Years Educators and shared this experience with a group of 14 in Grafton, both family carers and professionals.

Community training

In mid 2016 the Belonging Project provided free training for families who have a child living with a disability – The Art of Asking – delivered by Ric Thompson. The training was delivered in Brunswick Heads and Grafton and focused on understanding families’ and childrens’ needs, creating successful friendships, working with what’s available in your

The project is planning more community training in the Northern Rivers (NSW) 2017. If you would like to receive information about community training when it is available please contact Heather.

Mindfulness for everyday stress

Belonging Project hosts creative mindfulness workshops

The Belonging Project facilitated a wonderful creative workshop for Early Years Educators in Lennox Head on 21 June.

Jack O’Leary guided this workshop, exploring mindfulness though the use of expressive arts. The group followed a creative process and explored communicating in different ways, through art, movement and sound.

The experience allowed participants to reflect on the way they interact with others and especially consider how they support young children with additional needs. The creative exercises at times were slightly uncomfortable but brought it home that many people only use verbal communication and how important it is to have different tools at work to help everyone to have a sense of connection and belonging.

The Belonging Project also brought this experience to the Grafton community on 28 June, in a session for both parents and educators. We had 14 participants, a mix of family, carers and professionals.

The feedback from both sessions has been positive and participants believe the workshop gave them an opportunity to reflect on ways in which they can deal with stress in their own lives and how they can in turn support others. Most participants said they will use the expressive art techniques experienced in the workshop.

The Belonging Project continues to promote the small ways we can all support children with additional needs and their families to feel included in our community.

– Heather Tannock, Project Manager


The Belonging Project is funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, Ageing, Disability and Home Care. Please feel free to use ‘everybody belongs’ materials to promote inclusion in your community.

ATSI-flags-crossed-alphaThe Belonging Project acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where we live and work and their continuing connection to land, water, sea and community. We pay respects to Australia’s First Peoples, to their unique and diverse cultures, and to Elders past, present and future

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