This program area will be closed until Round 2, 2025

The early years are a critical period for brain development.  Learning patterns are established at a young age and many students who start school behind, stay behind. 

Each year one in five Australian children start school developmentally vulnerable. For children who do not receive early childhood education and care it’s two in five.

The Early Childhood Development program seeks to improve learning and development outcomes for children through innovative programs and sector initiatives in early childhood (0–8 years old), in particular, programs that recognise and foster parental engagement in their children’s learning and development.  

Early Childhood Development closed in 2024

This program area will next open in Round 2, 2025

The Early Childhood Development program will be closed to Expressions of Interest until Round 2, 2025. due to existing financial commitments across several large multi-year grants over the past 1-3 years.

In the meantime, we encourage grantseekers to watch the previous Info Session to learn more about this program's funding objectives.


Four young children sitting next to each other gesturing with their hands
Image: Pexels (CC0)

Funding Guidelines

The early years are a critical period for brain development. During that time children learn social, interpersonal, and cognitive skills that help them lead healthy, happy lives and participate in learning and work (Centre for the Developing Child, 2010).  

Each year one in five Australian children start school developmentally vulnerable. For children who do not receive early childhood education and care (ECEC) it’s two in five. (Productivity Commission, 2021). Once children start school behind it is difficult for them to catch up. 

Early interventions are both cost-effective in that they reduce long-term costs to society, have the benefit of early mitigation of problems that can cause significant lifelong anguish and enhance the chances of children thriving throughout their lives. 

The Foundation’s Early Childhood Development program seeks to improve learning and development outcomes for Australian children (aged 0-8 years) by supporting targeted and universal programs.  


  • To support innovative projects that target vulnerable communities that seek to improve child development outcomes and have potential for scale. 
  • To scale and consolidate successful evidence programs to a point of sustainability. 
  • To support initiatives that seek to better integrate fractured services/systems in early childhood, improve access to and quality of ECEC and/or strengthen the ECEC workforce.  
  • To develop shared measurement tools and or resources for the early childhood sector.    
  • To evaluate large scale interventions (particularly randomised control trials) that contribute to enhancing the evidence base for early years intervention.  

We have a particular interest in programs that recognise and foster parental engagement in their children’s learning and development and prioritise support for programs that engage with or target parents.   

Center on the Developing Child (2010), The Foundations of Lifelong Health (InBrief)
Productivity Commission (2021), Report on government services 2021, Part B, section 3. 


Important to Know

  • Applicants must speak with the Program Manager before preparing an Expression of Interest (EOI). Calls can be booked several months prior to the Expressions of Interest closing.
  • University applicants should contact their Advancement/Research Office prior to submitting an EOI or Application. See specific instructions for applications from universities or research institutes.
  • Please note that existing projects may not be eligible. Occasionally, the Foundation will support a development or innovation to an existing project but please contact the relevant program manager before proceeding.
  • Applications for each program area are open once a year for consideration by the Board of Governors.
  • In general, the recommended minimum grant amount for institutions and organisations is $100,000 per year and grants are usually multi-year.
  • We encourage all organisations to apply regardless of their size; in the case of smaller organisations, the award can be for smaller amounts over multiple years.
  • Proposals that are collaborative and/or share knowledge with the broader sector are encouraged.
  • The Foundation rarely awards the full amount of any project.  Please ensure that you have alternative providers of funding and that your application clearly considers any possible grant from the Foundation in this context.  
  • Please also refer to our Funding Principles for further information.

Specific Exclusions

We are not interested in supporting: 

  • Service providers to simply continue or add new programs, locations or staffing to their existing service offering
  • Advocacy unless it relates directly to a program we are already supporting
  • Pure research projects. 

The Foundation is not able to directly fund schools or early childhood service providers.

General Exclusions

Projects that fall into any of the following categories will not be considered for funding:
  • Retrospective funding – projects which are already underway, or which will commence prior to the date indicated in our online application information are not eligible for consideration.
  • Recurrent expenditure for which there is no future provision.
  • Capital or endowment funds established to fund a chair or to provide a corpus for institutions.
  • Research for undergraduate, masters or doctoral students
  • Auspicing* is not permitted – the organisation applying must be the one that will run the program or project.
  • Applications for public charitable purposes outside the Commonwealth of Australia**
  • Applications for projects that have previously been declined by the Foundation cannot be resubmitted.
  • Applications will not be accepted from organisations that have not successfully acquitted previous grants from the Foundation.
  • We do not directly support schools.

Auspicing refers to the practice of an ineligible organisation (one that does not have DGR and TCC status) applying to the Foundation via an eligible organisation. Auspicing arrangements are excluded under the Foundation's guidelines. The organisation applying to the Foundation must be the organisation that will run the project or program for which a grant is being sought.

The Foundation is limited to providing money, property or benefits for public charitable purposes in the Commonwealth of Australia. However, the Foundation is able to provide a grant for activities outside the Commonwealth if the grant is made for a public charitable purpose in the Commonwealth. For example, a grant might be made to an Australian university to enable it to fund an overseas study tour by an Australian researcher engaged by the university.

Application Process (2-stage)

Grant requests for this program area are considered via a two-stage Expression of Interest process.  

Please note there are specific instructions you need to follow if you are from a research institution.

  1. Check your organisation’s Eligibility 
  2. Read ALL the information on this program area page to ensure your project meets the program area objectives and to see when applications are open.
  3. Attend the Information Session held prior to the funding round.
  4. Speak with the relevant Program Manager before preparing an Expression of Interest (EOI).
  5. If your proposal meets the Foundation's criteria, you will be sent a link to complete an Expression of Interest form. 
  6. You then need to log in to our grant management system by either entering your username and password (if you have applied for a grant previously) or creating a new account.
  7. Complete the Expression of Interest online form (Stage 1). After you save and close the online form, you can re-access your Expression of Interest via the Login link (see header or footer) using your username and password. 
  8. If your Expression of Interest is approved, you will be invited to submit a full application. Complete your full application (Stage 2) online. We require all supporting documents to be submitted as part of the online application by 5:00 pm AEST on the closing date. 

What happens next?

All grant applications are considered by the Board of Governors at the Foundation’s board meetings, which are held three times a year in line with the Funding Rounds.

You will be advised of the outcome of your application by phone or email.

Prepare to Apply

Tips & Hints FAQs Standard Grant Conditions

To assist your organisation with the application process, we have provided Word templates of the EOI and full application online forms below. 

Expression of Interest stage

Full application stage

Please note these are NOT the live application forms. All EOIs and full applications MUST be completed online via our grant management portal. A link will be sent to you to access the appropriate forms if your proposal meets the Foundation's criteria after you've spoken to the Program Manager.