Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) gives eligible children 15 hours of free kindergarten per week, for two years before starting school.

Children who are age eligible for 3 year old can choose if they would like to access ESK funding through a 3 year old program (5-15 hours per week) or a 4 year old program (15 hours per week).

To be eligible, your child must be three by 30 April in the year they start kindergarten, and:

► identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or

► your family has had contact with Child Protection or Child FIRST, or

► Asylum Seeker or Refugee Children, child or parent holds:

  • - Refugee visa (subclass 200)
  • - In-country Special Humanitarian visa (subclass 201) 
  • - Global Special Humanitarian visa (subclass 202)
  • - Emergency Rescue Visa (subclass 203) 
  • - Woman at Risk visa (subclass 204)  
  • - Humanitarian Stay visa (subclass 449)
  • - Temporary Protection visa (subclass 785)
  • - Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) visa (subclass 786)
  • - Safe Haven Enterprise visa (subclass 790)
  • - Protection visa (subclass 866)
  • - Bridging visas for any of the above Refugee or Asylum Seeker visas


Children who have used Early Start Kindergarten or are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander or Asylum Seeker or Refugee Children can access free Four-Year-Old Kindergarten through the Early Start Kindergarten Extension Grant.


Early Start Kindergarten provides children access to a 15 hour per week kindergarten program for two years.

Accessing high quality early childhood education for two years has a substantial and positive impact on a child’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2018). Through play-based learning at kindergarten, your child will gain new or improved skills in a number of different areas, including:

► learning how to become an effective learner

► developing and extending their communication and language skills

► building self-confidence and social skills

► building understanding of identity and culture

► learning to be creative through arts, dance and music 

► developing skills in literacy and numeracy. 

Research shows that two years of kindergarten also has a bigger impact on children’s long term development and health compared with one year of kindergarten, which can lead to stronger academic outcomes at school (Fox and Geddes, 2016).