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Early Start Kindergarten eligibility and funding

The ESK initiative will continue to support eligible children to access free or low-cost kindergarten in 2023.


Kindergarten students with their teacher

Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) continues to be available for all funded kindergarten programs to help provide eligible children 15 hours of free or low-cost kindergarten each week for 2 years before starting school.

This continues as the kindergarten program expands to support all children to access 15 hours of free Three-Year-Old Kindergarten by 2029. Access for ESK-eligible children is a priority for all Victorian funded kindergarten programs.  

When services accurately record ESK enrolments, additional funding will be allocated. This includes additional School Readiness Funding.

We encourage services to discuss eligibility for ESK with families and professionals working with families directly, in addition to information provided through enrolment processes.

Engaging eligible children and their families with ESK supports strong engagement in kindergarten programs by priority groups and ensures the needs of services that may need more supports can be met.


To be eligible to receive ESK funding, a service must confirm in KIMS all ESK eligible children. Children eligible for ESK are those who turned 3 years old before Sunday 30 April 2023 and:

  • come from a refugee or asylum seeker background, or
  • identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or
  • their family has had contact with child protection.

Services should make all reasonable efforts to offer ESK eligible children a program of up to 15 hours per week. This can include enrolling children in mixed age groups. 

Children without up-to-date immunisation information can enrol in ESK while they undertake catch-up immunisations, or apply for a medical exemption, under the relevant grace periods of:

  • 63 days under the Australian Government’s No Jab No Play for ESK in long day care settings
  • 16 weeks under the Victorian Government’s No Jab No Play for ESK in sessional kindergarten settings.

Find out more

For more information, refer to Early Start Kindergarten.