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Publications and projects

Investing resources to help improve Australia’s evidence base for early childhood practice.

Since 2010, we have invested resources to help improve Australia’s evidence base for early childhood education and care. Our investments are designed to ensure all children have the learning, development and wellbeing outcomes they need for school and life.  

Links to our recent collaborative projects are featured here: 

In 2022, Goodstart embarked on a project to consider the question: How might we address disproportionate developmental vulnerability for remote children by codesigning sustainable, scalable, high-quality education and care offerings that advance education within Australia? 

This report provides detailed insights gained through our research and codesign activities with two remote communities. We share what we learned with them about their histories, cultures, strengths, and unmet needs. We thank the Paul Ramsey Foundation for the support of this project.  

Report Two: Codesigning with remote communities in response to complex social challenges

This report provides a detailed analysis and critical reflection of two different codesign approaches we employed to engage with two remote communities. 

  • Wong, S. (May, 2023). Supporting early childhood Centre Directors in times of natural disasters using clinical supervision: A case study. Goodstart Early Learning: Brisbane, Australia  

    This research was conducted by Goodstart’s Industry FellowProfessor Sandie Wong (Macquarie University, NSW) and reports on a case study of clinical supervision provided by Goodstart for five Directors working in long day care services in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, and their Manager, following catastrophic flooding in the region. This report’s contribution is the ‘telling of the story’ of the impact of this catastrophic event and the emotional and professional burdens experienced by the participants. The study extends on the previous work by demonstrating how clinical supervision contributed to supporting the Centre Directors and their Manager through this difficult time, by facilitating their emotional coping and contributing to post-traumatic professional growth.  


  • Wong, S., with Geddes, M., Millar, K., & Shenke, G. (2023). Fees to free and back again: what we learned. Evidence & Insights Series. Goodstart Early Learning  

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact both globally and locally, with effects continuing over several years. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the period of free early learning and care has provided a unique opportunity to examine what happens to children’s participation in ECEC when cost and non-cost barriers are removed. As a national provider with over 650 services that stayed open throughout the pandemic, and as we continued to collect attendance and dosage data through the pandemic, Goodstart is in a unique position to consider these impacts and share our findings.

  • Wong, S., Schenke, G., Liley, K., Millar, K., & Geddes, M., (2020, November), ‘It changed our lives” A case study on the Impact of Additional Child Care Subsidy’. (Goodstart Evidence and Insights Working Paper No. 1). Goodstart Early Learning.  

    Little is known about (i) the experience of families accessing Australian Government Temporary Financial Hardship (TFH) and Transition to Work (TTW) funding; (ii)the circumstances of families who receive these subsidies; and / or whether and / or how TFH and TTW funding (iii) supports children’s access to ECEC and/or (iv) benefits families. To address this gap in knowledge, develop intelligence so as to better support families through the COVID-19 crisis, and provide insights to inform our work, Governments and the ECEC sector, we conducted a case study of families in receipt of TFH and TTW funds within Goodstart Early LearningThe case study draws on Goodstart data from five sources: Child attendance figures, three organisational family surveys, and interviews with families. 

  • Wong, S., Mengesha, Z., Worley, A., Cooke, M., Leete, D., Reid, Z., & McClean, T. (2022). Early Learning Fund evaluation: Final report. Goodstart Early Learning & Uniting.

    The Early Learning Fund (ELF) is funded by The Paul Ramsay Foundation, workplace giving and other philanthropy, and delivered jointly by Goodstart Early Learning (Goodstart) and Uniting NSW (Uniting). The ELF is designed to address the cost and non-cost barriers to early learning in the two years before formal schooling, of children and families experiencing vulnerability, marginalisation and disadvantage. This ELF evaluation aims to establish how the ELF has been realised, and the outcomes achieved for children and their families. The evaluation is to inform both the implementation and improvement of the program and contribute to public policy advocacy.

  • Cherry, J. (2024), Quebec’s $10 a day childcare vs New South Wales ECEC subsidies: Which one is better? Goodstart Early Learning, Brisbane

    Policy discussion over reform of Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) system has seen some commentators cite the Canadian province of Quebec’s $10 a day child care as a model for Australia. Since 1997, Quebec has capped the fee that parents pay for child care, initially at $5 a day now at $9.10 (AU $10.281). This is maintained by a complex supply side funding system where the provincial government provides an operational grant to participating providers based on estimated costs of provision, with parents paying the remainder through a fixed contribution. This system, some suggest, is preferable to the Australian demand-based subsidy system where families can claim up to 90% of a provider’s fee from the Commonwealth Government’s Child Care Subsidy. This paper compares ECEC outcomes – across the domains of workforce participation, accessibility, quality and affordability – in Quebec and New South Wales.

Current University Partnerships

We partner with universities on research projects that will add to the early learning body of evidence, benefiting Goodstart, our families, children and staff and the wider early learning sector. 

Current research programs and partnerships that Goodstart supports are here:  

ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child | Queensland University of Technology (in Progress) 

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child has a vision is for Australian children to be healthy, educated and connected. This Centre integrates child health, education, and digital and social connectedness, innovating across disciplines to meet Australia’s ongoing challenges of supporting young children growing up in a rapidly changing digital age. The Centre’s world-leading team investigates children’s digital practices through three interconnected research programs supported by a longitudinal family cohort study and children’s technology laboratories. The Centre will address tensions in a contested field to inform government and non-government policy, technology innovation, and develop programs and guidelines for children, families, educators and technology developers. 

ARC Centre of Excellence for the Life Course | University of Queensland (in progress) 

The 2020 ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (LCC2020) aims to deliver transformative research and translation to break the cycle of deep and persistent disadvantage for Australians. Critically, LCC2020 will tackle disadvantage in specific context to understand how people negotiate it daily in real places, and how best to design policies and programs that support improved life pathways. By understanding life course contexts much more finely and using new methods and better data to personalise responses to disadvantage, LCC2020 will deliver the evidence, infrastructure, capacity and partnerships to reduce disadvantage and better equip Australian children and families for emerging challenges.  

Observe, Reflect, Improve: a tool to enrich Childrens Learning (ORICL) | Macquarie University (in progress) 

This project aims to address long-standing concerns about the quality of education and care for children during their critical first two years. It will introduce a promising, future-focused digital tool, co-designed with practitioners and providers of early childhood services, to support infant-toddler educators planning and practice. Building on ground-breaking pilot work, we will undertake a national implementation and evaluation of the Observe, Reflect and Improve Childrens Learning (ORICL) tool. Expected outcomes include: enhanced pedagogical practices; enriched learning experiences for children birth-two; effective communication with families; and improved resourcing for providers of early childhood education and care services.  

Engagement in early childhood education in the context of disadvantage | University of New South Wales (in progress) 

This research responds to enduring inequalities in children’s participation in high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC). Contemporary families face precarious labour markets and a childcare system with stringent workforce participation requirements.  This project will illuminate the affordances of everyday life for families most challenged by these emergent conditions and develop understandings of how to calibrate services accordingly. Findings will support universal ECEC access through knowledge translation about contemporary disadvantage to policy and practice forums.  A strong Indigenous component contributes to researcher training and knowledge about effective practice for Indigenous children and their families.  

Identifying effective strategies to grow and sustain a professional years workforce | Queensland University of Technology (2014-2017) 

This Australian Research Council Linkage project was led by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and identified the factors underlying positive and sustained engagement in the early learning and care sector workforce from the perspective of sector workers. The project aimed to assess the strategies that would best meet the goals of the sector and the national interest in building and sustaining a qualified sector workforce.  

This research features a completed Masters thesis by Goodstart Early Learning Consultant Sharon McKinlay. 

What’s best for my child? | University of Sydney (2013-2018) 

This four-year research study, led by the University of Sydney explored parents’ understanding of early learning and childcare quality, and how these understandings contribute to childcare choice. The project met the Australia Government’s policy directive of giving children the best start in life and support parents’ capacity to make choices that they consider are best for their child.  

Other Collaborative Research 

Thriving kids, active brains: A collaborative to support early child development | Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership (An ARACY Initiative) (Forthcoming) 

The outcomes of the proposed collaborative will support optimal early childhood development for children - in partnership with their families - particularly those living in developmentally vulnerable communities, identified by the Australian Early Development Index (AEDC). The opportunity to collaborate with TQKP and other partners in developing a systemic, scalable and sustainable approach to early childhood development is well aligned with Goodstart’s 2025 strategic goals. 

Australian Children of the Digital Age Longitudinal Study (ACODA)| ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child (in progress) 

centre-led promotion of the Australian Children of the Digital Age Longitudinal Study (ACODA) to Goodstart families. This longitudinal study focuses on how young children and their families use digital technology. The results will provide families and early learning professionals with evidence-based, clear, and balanced information on the best uses of digital technologies in the early years. 

Digital Technology Baseline | Edith Cowan University (in progress) 

This applied research project is led by Associate Professor Lennie Barblett from Edith Cowan University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child. This research was an outcome from Goodstart’s Thought Leader event in 2022 and aims to: 

  • Define digital literacy, providing a snapshot of Goodstart service engagement with digital technology. 

  • Review key literature in relation to early childhood education and care and digital engagement; and 

  • Describe the challenges and opportunities created by digital technologies 

South Australia Data Linkage Research Project | University of Adelaide (in progress)

Goodstart is partnering with BetterStart at the University of Adelaide for the South Australia Data Linkage Project. This partnership aims to understand how to give infants, children, young people and families the best start to life and to focus on ways to enhance health and development over the lifespan. 

In 2022, many of our South Australian families provided consent to participate in this research project acknowledging the high level of security, privacy and ethics standards applied to the care of their information and data; and, understanding that their information and data will not be identifiable. The Participant Information Sheet provides more detail about the family consent process and can be accessed here. If you consented to participate in this research and you’ve since changed your mind about participating for any reason, let us know at the following email address: 

Parents' Perspectives of Family Engagement with Early Childhood Education and Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic | University of Melbourne 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services and families, impacting family access to services and their communication and engagement with educators. This study aimed to examine parents' perspectives of family engagement with ECEC services during the pandemic. 

Goodstart Practice Guide Evaluation | University of Wollongong 

University of Wollongong evaluated change in environmental and pedagogical quality as a result of Goodstart’s implementation of the Goodstart Practice Guide (comprising evidence-informed practice to support Goodstart educators in early learning planning, delivery and evaluation). 

Professional Development in prior to school settings: technology integration through practitioner inquiry projects | Charles Sturt University 

A six-month study with CSU examining teacher’s perceptions of professional development and practitioner inquiry in developing skills to effectively use technology in prior to school contexts. 

Pathways to Excellence | Charles Sturt University 

Five NSW Exceeding Centres (ACECQA) participated in this three-year research project to further improve pedagogical practices and to document and share learnings with other services within Goodstart’s network and wider sector. It involves educators and researchers engaging in collaborative, sustained, deep and critical reflection within broad themes of interactions, space and experiences. 

Researching Effective Early Learning | University of Wollongong 

This two-year study with the University of Wollongong is focused on enhancing child development through providing sustainable and effective professional development. 

Selected Academic Journal Articles 

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Cloney, D., Degotardi, S., Ries, Y., & Wong, S. (2018). Priorities for early learning: Policy and professional directions to improve outcomes for Australian children. Paper prepared for the Commonwealth Minister of Education. Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth: Canberra. 

Boyd, W., Wong, S., Fenech, M., Mahony, L., Warren, J., Lee, I-F., & Cheeseman, S. (2020). Employers’ perspectives of how well prepared early childhood teacher graduates are to work in early childhood education and care services. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. 

Brownlee, J. L., Irvine, S., Sullivan, V., & Thorpe, K. (2020). Educators reflecting on sleep and rest time dilemmas in ECEC: where is the “critical” in reflective practices?. The Australian Educational Researcher, 1-23 

Cumming, T., & Wong, S. (2018). Towards a holistic conceptualisation of early childhood educators’ work-related well-being. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 20(3), 265–281. 

Cumming, T., Logan, H., & Wong, S. (2020). A critique of the discursive landscape: Challenging the invisibility of early childhood educators’ well-being. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 21 (2) 

Cumming, T., Wong, S., & Logan, H. (2021). Early childhood educators’ well-being, work environments and ‘quality’: Possibilities for changing policy and practice. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 46(1), 50 - 65. 

Eadie, P., Levickis, P., Murray, L., Page, J., Elek, C. & Church, A. (2021). Early Childhood Educators' 

Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic. EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION JOURNAL, 49(5), pp. 903-913. doi:10.1007/s10643-021-01203-3 

Fenech, M., Wong, S., Boyd, W., Gibson, M., Watt, H., & Richardson, P. (2021). Attracting, retaining and sustaining early childhood teachers: An ecological conceptualisation of workforce issues and future research directions. The Australian Educational Researcher. 

Logan, H., Cumming, T., & Wong, S. (2020). Sustaining the work-related of early childhood educators: Perspectives from key stakeholders in early childhood organisations. International Journal of Early Childhood. 52(1), 95-113. 10.1007/s13158-020-00264-6 

Logan, H., McFarland, L., Cumming, T., & Wong, S. (2021 on-line first August 26). Supporting educator well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A case study of leadership in early childhood education and care organisations. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. 

McFarland, L., Cumming, T., Wong, S., & Bull, R. (Accepted September 2021).“My cup was empty”: The impact of COVID-19 on early childhood educator well-being. In J. Pattnaik & M. Renck Jalongo (Eds.), Effects of COVID-19 on early childhood education and care: Educating the young child series 19th volume. Springer Nature. 

Press, F., Harrison, L., Wong, S., Gibson, M., Cumming, T., & Ryan, S. (2020). The hidden complexities of early childhood educators’ work: The Exemplary Early Childhood Educators at Work study. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 21 (2), 172-175. 

Singer, E., & Wong, S. (2021, on-line). Early childhood theories, ideals and social-political movements, an oral history study of pioneers in the second half of the 20th century. Early Child Development and Care. 

Singer, E., & Wong, S. (2019). Emotional security and day-care for babies and toddlers in social-political contexts: Reflections of early years pioneers since the 70s. Early Child Development and Care, online 

Singer, E., & Wong, S. (2018). Reflections of pioneers in early childhood education research on their collaboration with practitioners in the development of theories and innovative practices. Early Years, 26(1), 1 – 13. 

Thorpe, K., Jansen, E., Sullivan, V., Irvine, S., McDonald, P., & Early Years Workforce Study team (Karen Thorpe Sue Irvine Paula McDonald Joanne Lunn Jennifer Sumsion Angela Ferguson Mary Lincoln Kate Liley Pam Spall). (2020). Identifying predictors of retention and professional wellbeing of the early childhood education workforce in a time of change. Journal of Educational Change, 21, 623-647. 

Thorpe, K., Westwood, E., Jansen, E., Menner, R., Houen, S., & Staton, S. (2021). " Working Towards" the Australian National Quality Standard for ECEC: 

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