Belonging – Creating space for everyone

Our underlying philosophy, that fullness in life comes when you pour yourself out for others, shapes the 12 Buckets program which is based on the Circle of Courage. The Guiding Buckets Model focuses on Belonging, Generosity, Mastery, and Independence which are universal growth needs that support the social and emotional wellbeing and development of a child. Our Term one focus is on Belonging.

What is Belonging:

Belonging is a human value that each of us discounts or forgets about until we can no longer feel it or lose our connection to it.  It is a foundational sense that, at its strongest, can stop wars in its tracks and when we lose sight of it, it can start them. So, when 12 Buckets talks about belonging what do we mean?

Dr Kelly-Ann Allen writes in her article ‘Making Sense of Belonging’ that Maslow describes belonging as ‘a fundamental human motivation that is underpinned by a compelling need to belong that we continually seek to find and maintain’. She also discusses how belonging is a deeply entrenched trait, embedded in our prehistoric history to the time when cave people felt safe in the company of others, and it increased your chances of survival. When you were alone you felt rejection and pain which ultimately led to death. Perhaps this is the reason why we feel rejection so painfully. To read more of this article click here: (

Sharing our stories and experiences is one way in which we learn about each other and helps us to connect. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Larissa Muir, the new CEO of 12 Buckets. In my 15 years in the sector, my roles have always led me to working alongside people in our community, many who experience the loss of belonging. Whilst I have many professional experiences that highlight the importance of belonging, the story I want to share is that of being a parent.

2016 my husband Dave and I welcomed our twins Jacob and Ksenia. They were born 6 weeks prematurely, spending time in the NICU before coming home. From birth, the twins have been extreme opposites of each other. To this day they have not changed and are the ultimate definition of Chalk and Cheese.

Kids Mentoring Perth

When Jacob was 3, I started noticing differences. I could never put my finger on it. There were things that he would do, that felt different to other kids. The twins loved to dance to The Wiggles, so I enrolled them in a toddler dance class. Jacob spent the whole class running in front of the mirror, flapping his hands, and not following any instructions. After 2 weeks we were asked not to come back as the class was not suitable for Jacob as he was too disruptive.

We tried Kindy. After 4 weeks the teacher told me that the Kindy group was not for kids ‘like Jacob’ and that I should consider removing him. That year felt like a year of contradictions.  Doctors and health professionals were telling me Jacob was healthy and there were no concerns, however the community we were a part of was telling me there wasn’t room for a child ‘like Jacob’.

Jacob struggled to transition to fulltime school.  We spent the year attending many doctors’ appointments, Occupational Therapy and Speech assessments. After 3 years, Jacob was finally diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. Jacob, at such a young age, had experienced significant rejection from the community.  At six years old he felt lonely, misunderstood, and rejected for being himself. He hated school that year and his only wish in his own words was “that people could see in my head and use my eyes, because it’s hard”.

On the first day of Year 1 Jacob was adamant that he didn’t want to go to school, so we made a deal. If it got too much, he could ask the office to call me and I would pick him up, no questions asked.  The twins walked into class together and I went to work. I didn’t hear from school that day.  At school pick up, Ksenia walked out of the class first, all smiles. Jacob hadn’t come out of the classroom, so I went to check on him.  He was happily talking to Mrs. D, his teacher about an army truck that he had built out of magnetic tiles. She didn’t rush him, she asked questions instead.  In that moment Jacob experienced being seen, having space made for him and a felt sense of belonging. Over two years Jacob and Mrs. D built a strong relationship, allowing him to expand his network of support to include other kids in his class and school, other teachers, and office staff.  Mrs. D. developed safety and connection with Jacob and then modelled to others how to make space for Jacob. More importantly, she modelled to Jacob how he can make space for others too. She was his ultimate cheerleader and mentor.

At the end of 2023 Jacob received a Book Award. This is what Mrs. D wrote about Jacob:

“When you achieve something, your whole face lights up and it lights up the faces of everyone in that room with it. It is a joy that we have all experienced with you many times this year. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch you come out of your shell and into your own. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for you.”

In 4 sentences Mrs. D had shown Jacob the value that he contributes to the group, just by being himself.

Kids Mentoring Perth


By now many of us are back in our daily routines. We are probably planning that next holiday, or we might be managing the school routines and getting ready for NAPLAN. I wonder though, how many of us have taken the time to make space for someone else, or acknowledged the value that people bring into our lives just by being them? If you haven’t, set yourself the challenge of doing this at least once a month. Sit back and watch what happens when you do.

As I begin my new journey with 12 Buckets as the CEO, I look forward to hearing from our mentors and staff about the space they create for our young people to be seen and supporting them to develop their sense of belonging in Term 1. For our current supporters I hope to hear about moments when you have created space for someone or had space created for you. For our future supporters I hope we can begin our conversation, finding space for each other and acknowledging the value we all bring to our communities.