Providing a foundation for the future…

While over 60,000 children access kindergarten programs across Victoria each year, many of these children miss out on the opportunity to attend a quality kindergarten program in the year before they commence school because their parents are unable to afford the fees.

The importance of early childhood education

Early childhood education is critical to a child’s development with long term ramifications extending well into the mid-teens and beyond. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found students who had not attended pre-primary school, or attended for less than a year, scored lower in reading at the age of 15 than students who had attended for between one and three years.

In Australia, research has found a significant positive association between attendance at preschool programs and year 3 NAPLAN results. Research suggests early education can boost children’s cognitive development and wellbeing, later academic achievement and even adult earnings.

Simply put, ‘if kids start school behind, they never really catch up and the distance between the ones who do have the pre-primary education and the ones who don’t actually gets bigger as the years go by [1]’.

Addressing the need

In August 1997, the Early Childhood Education Foundation (ECEF) was established by Dr Terry Nienhuys with the sole purpose of providing funding to enable disadvantaged children to attend a kindergarten in their local area. Some 17 years ago the Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) was appointed as the Trustee. Under ELAA’s management, the ECEF has provided kindergarten fee support to over 220 families. This has only been possible through the generosity of individual donors, philanthropic funds and businesses.

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.

The ECEF strives 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 by providing funds that contribute to attendance fees.
  • develop a program where contributions from donors such as the community, kindergarten services, other organisations and the corporate sector support its mission.
  • the ECEF contributes approximately $380 per term to a recipient’s kindergarten fees allowing a child to attend at little or no cost.


The Early Childhood Education Foundation cannot continue its crucial work assisting young children without the ongoing support of donors.

The ECEF’s capacity to help is limited by the funds it has available to disperse each year. The situation in Australia is not improving and the current economic environment suggests that more families are likely to find childcare inaccessible. That means more children are at risk of slipping through the system.

The Foundation is rigorous in its consideration of applications and to be eligible to access support from the Early Childhood Education Fund, the following criteria must be met:

  • The child must have a place in a funded kindergarten program.
  • The family must be experiencing genuine financial hardship.
  • There must be clear evidence of physical, emotional, cognitive and social risks for the child if he/she does not attend the program.
  • The family must demonstrate a commitment to ensure the child will regularly attend the program.
  • The service provider must demonstrate the financial and/or practical support that is being provided to ensure the child attends the program.

And the service provider must fully acquit the funds provided.

You can contribute by any of the following means:

All donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible.

For further information about the work of the ECEF and how you can help, please email

To apply for assistance, review the guidelines and complete the application forms

Download the application guidelines and eligibility criteria

Download the Application form

Download the Report & Claim form (for approved applications only)

Giving to the ECEF is not just about a child’s education, it is about their future.


[1] Sue Thomson, Deputy CEO (Research) at the Australian Council for Educational Research