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Early Learning Fund: a year of impact

Government and sector

More than 1000 children experiencing significant vulnerability were supported by the Early Learning Fund (ELF) at Goodstart and Uniting centres across the nation this year.

This was highest number of children supported since the Fund began in 2015.

Each child received a minimum of two days of fee-relief for early learning and care each week in the two years before school.

Every child and their family supported by ELF is experiencing financial hardship and living below the poverty line. The Early Learning Fund is made available to eligible children when government assistance isn’t available or has been exhausted, and this includes children at risk of abuse or neglect, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and refugee and humanitarian entrants.

Children supported this year:
  • 400+ child at risk of abuse or neglect
  • 265+ Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children
  • 45+ Refugee and humanitarian children

To learn more about ‘who we supported’, download a copy of our numbers at a glance and to learn about ELF’s reach and scale since 2015, download a copy of our key milestones.

Case study: Kim’s story

The Early Learning Fund has had a big impact on the life of Kim, a 28-year-old single mum, who has two children, Kaiden (4) and Talayah (3), who received support in 2021. Kim had been through a number of personal struggles and by gaining funding support for her children to access two days of early learning each week in addition to wrap-around support provided by her Goodstart EChO centre, the whole family’s trajectory has changed for the better. Not only have the children both benefited, Kim was given more independence and gained employment, giving her greater financial security.

Case study: Lauren’s story

ELF’s fee-relief meant three-year-old Layla continued accessing two days of early learning each week after both of her parents lost their jobs due to COVID-19. In her mother's words, they 'hit rock bottom' and it became a crisis situation of whether to pay fees ‘today’ or put food on the family table ‘tomorrow’. 
Sadly, Layla's story is not a unique one. This is why ELF continues to have a very important role to play when government assistance runs out.

Evaluation of ELF – led by Associate Professor Dr Sandie Wong of Macquarie University – has affirmed its impact on children and families. Equally, through the Early Learning Fund, we are learning more about the financial and non-cost barriers preventing children and families experiencing vulnerability from accessing and participating in early learning and care and how we can best support them.

ELF: Where to next?

Without question, the Early Learning Fund reached new heights in 2021 and Penny Markham, National Lead – Social Inclusion said: “I couldn’t be more proud – or thankful – to all Goodstarters, corporate partners and philanthropic donations, for supporting these children and families in our centres.”

“At the same time, it’s not been a year without its challenges.

“The demand for ELF was unrelenting, with more children needing access than ever before and beyond our funding allocation this year.”

Penny said one of the key priorities for ELF over the next three years is fundraising. 


Over the next three years, we are working hard to pursue increased funding from corporate and philanthropic donations to help sustain ELF beyond 2023.

If you would be interested in supporting our fundraising endeavours, drop us a line via

Behind ELF

Behind the Early Learning Fund are three of Australia’s largest not for profits – The Benevolent Society, Goodstart Early Learning and Uniting (NSW/ACT). The Benevolent Society oversees and manages the Fund and Goodstart and Uniting are program partners who identify and offer support to eligible children. All administration and management costs are covered by Goodstart and Uniting. This means 100% of funds raised directly covers each child’s early learning expenses.

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