JavaScript is required

Opening a childcare service

Information about how to start a childcare centre or family day care in Victoria.

Childcare services are regulated

Childcare services (early childhood services) are regulated by each state and territory in Australia:

  • to protect the safety and wellbeing of children who attend the services, and
  • to ensure they have access to quality learning experiences.

Before opening a service, providers and their services must be approved by the Regulatory Authority. It is illegal to operate a child care service without this approval. 

In Victoria the Department of Education is the Regulatory Authority for early childhood services.

Types of early childhood services

The following childcare services are regulated in Victoria:

  • long day care services (LDC)
  • preschools (kindergartens)
  • family day care services (FDC) (where care is provided in the carer’s own home or an approved venue)
  • outside school hours care (OSHC) services
  • school holiday care programs
  • limited hours services (where children attend for a short period of time)
  • occasional care services.

Some services and activities for young children do not need to be approved by the Regulatory Authority to operate.

Read more about the different types of early childhood services, how they're regulated, which activities don't need to be approved or regulated, and the role of the Regulatory Authority.

Contact us to confirm if your proposed service or activity will require approval:

Things to consider before you start

Operating a service is a significant commitment.

As the approved provider you have the legal responsibility to ensure that the service and each educator engaged complies with the relevant laws and regulations.

Before you open a service, you need to consider:

  • the financial investment required to establish a service
  • how many staff you will need to offer a quality service and what qualifications they need
  • how you will organise and govern your operations
  • what role you will have in administering Australian government childcare funding (Child Care Subsidy)
  • and many other issues.

You will also need to consider whether the proposed location of your service is suitable and meets all the regulatory requirements for the service premises and operations.

Services must have natural light, ventilation, access to genuine outdoor space and a natural environment, as well as meeting detailed safety requirements. These requirements are important considerations if you are intending to retrofit or re-purpose an existing building.  

First steps – provider approval

To start a childcare service in Victoria you must first apply to the Regulatory Authority:

You can apply as:

  • an individual
  • a company
  • an incorporated association
  • partenership.

To apply for a new provider approval you must ordinarily reside in Victoria or have a principal office in Victoria if the applicant is not an individual.  

You should get your own legal advice on the implications of the entity type.

Being a suitable person to operate a childcare service

To become an approved provider of an early childhood service, you must satisfy the Regulatory Authority that you are a ‘fit and proper person’, that is:

  • you are a person* of good character and
  • you have the capability to operate a service.

*If the applicant is a company or other entity this applies to all individual persons who comprise that entity, i.e. the directors of a company, the members of the executive committee of an incorporated association, and the partners in a partnership.

To assess if you are ‘fit and proper’ the Regulatory Authority will:

  • conduct background checks - including your criminal history and record of compliance with relevant laws as well as whether you hold a Working With Children Check.
  • check your knowledge and understanding of:
    • the laws that regulate early childhood services
    • the Victorian Child Safe Standards.
  • check your past management experience and ability to operate a service.
  • check your financial capability.
  • it may also check you do not have medical condition that makes you incapable of being responsible for providing a service.

The Regulatory Authority will also assess whether other people in your organisation are ‘fit and proper’.

This applies to any other people:

  • who will have responsibility for managing the delivery of the service(s) or
  • who have significant influence over the activities or delivery of the service.

There are no limits to what the Regulatory Authority may assess to consider if you are a fit and proper person to be involved with providing a service.

Next steps - operating a service

After you become an approved provider, you may apply to the Regulatory Authority for approval to operate a service.

Next you need to decide what type of service you will operate:

  • Services that provide education and care to children on a regular basis must meet the requirements and standards specified in the National Quality Framework (NQF).
  • Similar requirements apply to occasional care and limited hours services that provide care to children on an irregular or ad hoc basis under the Children’s Services Act.

The National Quality Standard (NQS) applies to services that provide regular education and care to children. It sets a high national quality benchmark for early childhood education and care services in Australia. The NQS has 7 quality areas that are important for ensuring quality outcomes for children.

Services regulated under the NQF are:

  • assessed and rated by their Regulatory Authority against the NQS, and
  • given a rating for each of the 7 quality areas and an overall rating based on these results.

Regulatory fees

While they are a small part of the overall cost of running a childcare service, you should also consider the regulatory fees that will apply.

Fees are payable under both regulatory schemes that operate in Victoria and fall into two categories:

  • the annual service fee, which applies to all approved services and is payable by 1 July each year
  • transaction fees, which are individual fees that apply to specific applications and are payable when the application is made, for example, an application for provider approval.

All fees are indexed annually. Some fees vary according to the size of the approved service.

For the current fees under the NQF (for long day care services, family day care services and outside school hours care services), refer to ACECQA indexed fees.

For the current fees for occasional care and limited hours services, refer to: Children’s services regulated under State law.

More information

Child care funding

The Australian Government operates the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) scheme. For more information please read the Child Care Provider Handbook.

Contact us

For more information and assistance about starting a service, contact our Enquiries and Support Team on: