We strive to ensure that children from families experiencing financial difficulties have access to a funded kindergarten program which will enhance their opportunities to succeed in life.

The Early Childhood Education Foundation (ECEF) was established by Dr. Terry Nienhuys in 1997 with the purpose of providing funding to enable disadvantaged children to attend kindergarten for free. With Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) appointed as the trustee, supported by the generosity of donors, philanthropic funds and businesses, the ECEF has provided support to thousands of families to enable their children to attend kindergarten.

To support vulnerable children to attend kindergarten programs to help build their brains and bodies now and set them up for positive health in the future.

Our Vision
A healthier, fairer Australia where children are supported according to their needs to reach their potential.

There is an overwhelming body of Australian and International research that supports the critical importance of quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) to children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. The long-term benefits to the community and economy are also compelling. The need to access quality ECEC is even more acute for pre-school aged children deemed ‘vulnerable’. For many of these children, what happens in their preschool years sets them on a path for life.

Why we need your help

  • The ECEF helps to ensure that vulnerable children don’t miss out on kindergarten
  • Neuroscience tells us that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years of life
  • 1 in 5 Australian children start school developmentally vulnerable
  • 2 in 5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children start school developmentally vulnerable
  • With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing child vulnerability there’s a greater need to assist with alleviating the costs of kindergarten
  • The ages of 3 – 5 years old are considered ‘the sweet spot’ for reducing disadvantage in readiness for school it’s vital that a child’s kindergarten attendance is not disrupted


Partner with the ECEF

Download our Corporate Partnerships brochure

The Foundation supports children like Sian and Jack

The ECEF has supported children such as Sian*. Sian’s mother suffered from extreme illness during a subsequent pregnancy and was frequently admitted into hospital. Her father took on the carer role and reduced his hours of work which meant that the family could no longer afford Sian’s kindergarten fees. Sian was showing signs of trauma as a result of seeing her mother unwell and was a child at risk. It was critical to her social and emotional wellbeing that she attended kindergarten especially as she transitioned to school.

An application was made to the Foundation and a grant was made to pay Sian’s fees until her father could return to work.

*Name and image changed to protect child’s privacy.

Jack’s parents, John and Suzie* witnessed positive effects of attending kindergarten on their eldest child, Katie*. They wanted the same experience for Jack but a cancer diagnosis meant Suzie could not work and John had to take time off to support her during treatment which made meeting kindergarten fees difficult. Assistance from the ECEF meant Jack continued from the 3 year old program into the 4 year old program which helped to reduce stress on Jack’s family. It also meant that Jack could continue learning and avoid the potential effects on his social and emotional development that could result from being isolated from his peers.

*Names and image of child and family members changed to protect their privacy.