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Early Learning Fund provides a boost for families

Government and sector

When Sharryn was told her son Blake would no longer be able to attend his early learning centre because of his behavioural problems, she was devastated.

She was struggling at home with Blake, who has been diagnosed with autism, and knew she needed help but didn’t know who to turn to. She had a two-year-old daughter Skylar, and was pregnant.

“The last straw was when the centre called to tell me there had been an incident and that I needed to pick Blake up and he couldn’t come back,” Sharryn said.

“I was pretty upset because I knew Blake needed help but they just kept telling me to take him to a doctor and I knew that wasn’t the answer. I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”

Fast forward 10 months and five-year-old Blake is happy and settled in his new early learning centre, Goodstart Taree, which was recommended to Sharryn by a friend.

As a recipient of the Early Learning Fund (ELF), Blake and Skylar are both able to attend the centre two days a week while Sharryn looks after her newborn Blair at home. 

The Early Learning Fund was set up by Goodstart Early Learning and The Benevolent Society to ensure children who need a little more help get access to quality early learning.

Parents of ELF recipients can pay as little as $5 per week to attend Goodstart two days a week, and the Taree centre also has a bus which picks Blake up on Thursdays and Fridays.

“We wouldn’t have been able to afford to send Skylar to early learning without the ELF and as soon as we got there, they helped me get some support for Blake with a speech therapist which we do twice a week,” Sharryn said.

“The change in Blake has been amazing. They have been so supportive to him and he’s really happy to go.”

Taree centre director Andrea Tisdell said Blake had turned a corner since he had arrived at Goodstart at the beginning of the year, and that under a well-being plan, he was showing a lot of improvement.

“He’s now able to respond to attachment theory and the circle of security and he has a longer period of concentration as well. We’ve seen a real change and he’s now a lot more prepared to go to school next year,” Andrea said.

“He’s also showing better understanding and his language skills have noticeably improved.

“The Early Learning Fund means some of the nation’s most disadvantaged children can attend two years of quality early learning to help them develop the same skills as their peers in preparation for school and life.”

Sharryn, who is now hoping to begin studying business administration in the future, said she feels listened to and supported.

“All of the educators at Taree have been just amazing for Blake and there’s been a 100 per cent change in his behaviour. It’s amazing.”

Families eligible for ELF include those who are in danger of missing out on access to early learning and meet one of the following criteria:
  • Families in hardship
  • Indigenous children
  • Refugee and humanitarian entrants
  • Children at risk
While there are Government programs to help children in the short-term, many thousands miss out on the opportunity to continue with early learning when the support ends.

For more on the ELF program visit
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