By Raising Children Network
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Play preschooler drawing outside
Each Australian state and territory has a different approach to preschool. The names of preschool services also vary from state to state.

Preschool: the basics

  • Preschools offer sessional and part-time group-based programs for children aged three and four years.
  • Preschool is voluntary – you don’t have to send your child to a preschool or kindergarten program.
  • Preschool isn’t a pre-year one program (‘year one’ is called kindergarten, preparatory, reception or pre-primary across the different states, and is usually for children aged five or six years).
  • Preschool programs are sponsored by state or education departments and community organisations. They are also run as part of private or community-based child care centres.

Preschool across Australian states and territories

Australian Capital Territory

  • Known as preschool.
  • Operates close to, or on, school sites. In newer areas, often run next to child care centres.
  • No fees, with a voluntary contribution levy.

New South Wales

  • Known as preschool.
  • Mostly independent, with fees of about $60 per week.
  • Might be offered as school-based, fee-free programs run by the Department of Education.
  • Flexible hours offered for working parents at some preschools.

Northern Territory

  • Known as preschool.
  • Run by the Department of Employment, Education and Training.
  • No fees.
  • Flexibility in hours for working parents.
  • Buses to preschool provided.


  • Known as kindergarten.
  • Fees apply – set by the provider.
  • Operates as either stand-alone kindergarten services (for example, community kindergartens and services delivered by non-state schools), or as long day care centres.
  • Mostly operates close to, or on, school sites.

South Australia

  • Known as child parent centres, which operate within schools.
  • Also known as kindergartens, which operate independently.
  • No fees, but some kindergartens ask for a voluntary contribution levy.
  • Opportunity for Indigenous children to access extra hours.


  • Known as kindergarten.
  • No fees.
  • Linked to school system.


  • Known as preschool and kindergarten.
  • Mostly run as stand-alone centres.
  • Fees charged.
  • Managed by parent committees.
  • Some preschool programs offered in long day care centres – must be run by qualified kindergarten teachers if government funded.
  • Mobile preschools in remote areas.
  • State government transitionary initiative.

Western Australia

  • Known as kindergarten.
  • Operates within schools and day care centres and as independent centres.
  • Bus services offered.
  • No fees.
  • Last updated or reviewed 08-08-2014