Moving to Australia from New Zealand?

Get all information you need to make a successful and stress-free move across the ditch.

Are you moving to Australia with little kids? In Australia, every state is slightly different when it comes to schooling.

Pre-schools, kindergartens, child care centres and early learning centres are all options for schooling/childcare before age 6.

The Australian Government provides funding to all states and territories to ensure all children have access to early childhood education, particularly in the year before they start school (4-6 years old). There might still be a fee, especially for kids under four.

Different states and territories have different names for preschool services, which I have outlined below.

Pre-schools are generally for children who turn four in the year before starting school. Some states offer pre-schooling for three-year-olds. However, you can still pay for childcare earlier than this.

For information on primary and secondary schools in Australia visit my Schools in Australia post.

On this page you will find the below helpful information:

Finding a Preschool in Australia

Finding a preschool in Australia can be tricky and it is important to contact preschools as soon as you decide on the suburb you are moving to. Competition is high and the wait lists are long, some are years long and there is a wait list fee, usually between $20 and $50.

For someone just moving to Australia, you’re going to want to start your search for a preschool now, before you arrive in Australia, as soon as you have confirmed where you are moving to. Search for preschools/kindergartens either close to where you’re going to live or close to where you are going to work.

Some preschools are located in the same building as a primary school. These preschools give priority to children that will be attending kindergarten the following year. They are part of a larger school system and can be private or public.

Public preschools that are located on the same grounds as the primary school, will give priority to children that live in that school’s catchment zone, or school zone as we say in New Zealand.

Private schools don’t follow the same catchment zone system but will be more difficult to get into. If you are interested in private schools then you need to consider faith-based schools such as Catholic schools. Catholic schools don’t follow catchment zones but the parish will insist that you live within their postcodes.

Looking for pre-schools/kindergartens in Australia

As you are moving to a new country it’s going to be hard to get referrals for a preschool in your area, as you would in NZ, so you are going to have to reply to websites that investigate and review pre-schools/kindergartens operating in your area.

You will need to use both the below websites as they list different pre-schools. There are some that are listed on both sites, but others that are not. big search engine for small people

Finding the right childcare service is a big decision. Let Care for Kids help you narrow it down to the best available in your neighbourhood. With 23,000+ services to compare you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Services on

They also have great child care articles & tips, e.g. returning to work, managing feelings of mother guilt and heaps more (

Care For Kids provides links to each preschool website, when available, and is colour coded showing which preschools currently have space available (

Child Care Finder – Australian Government Department of Education and Training

Early learning and child care provide the foundation for children to develop both educationally and socially in a safe environment while supporting parents at work. The Australian Government provides a number of subsidies and programs to help you with the cost of your child care.

You can search by centre-based day care, family day care, in-home care and outside school-hours care. You can also set alerts for vacancies in your area.

Pre-school/kindergarten wait lists

Be aware they might not let you on the waitlist until you are actually present in Australia. If you get that response then just move on to the next pre-school, especially if you don’t have time to wait. Remember, getting on a waitlist is not free so don’t go too crazy (usually the fee is between $20 and $50).


Age of children going to Preschool in Australia

In Australia, preschool is the year before children attend kindergarten at a primary school. Remember, Australia’s kindergarten is New Zealand’s year 1. See my Australian school’s post.

Some pre-schools only accept children that are eligible to start kindergarten the following year. These are usually the schools that are located on the same grounds as the primary school. There are a few pre-schools that accept three-year-olds but usually require that the children be toilet trained before they will accept them.

Your child is not required to go to preschool. In fact, the legislation does not require your child to be in school until they have turned six on or before the cut-off date of July 31st.

From 6 to 15 years of age, Australian legislation requires students to be enrolled in school and to attend school on each day that instruction is provided. It doesn’t matter if it’s public, private, or religious.

Benefits to pre-school

The obvious reason for your child to attend preschool is so you can attend work! However, there are also other benefits to having your child in preschool for that year before primary school starts.

Pre-school will give your children a chance to make friends before going into primary school. The sooner they can make friends the easier their pre-school to school transition with be. They will also have an easier time going to school in general. Enrolling your child in a preschool that is located on the same grounds as the primary school they will be going to makes that transition even easier.

Pre-school isn’t just a childcare solution. Children start learning the very basics so that they will be more up to speed for kindergarten. For some children, it will mean learning new things and for others, it will be more putting to use what they already know. Pre-school helps to ensure that children are close to the same level going into kindergarten.

Preschools in Australia follow the Early Years Learning Framework where children learn through play. They learn through puzzles, playing blocks, reading and listening to stories, and sometimes even computer games. The Early Years Learning Framework focus on the successful transition to formal schooling. Find out more here:


Pre-school hours of operation

Hours vary from preschool to preschool. Some have normal school hours, 9 – 3 pm, others have long extended hours, 7 – 6 pm. There are a few others that are morning or afternoon sessions instead of full days. In general, preschools that are only half-day sessions prefer that children attend either five mornings or five afternoons per week.

The preschools that have normal and extended hours usually ask that children attend more than one consecutive day a week. You can of course schedule your child to attend more than two days a week, depending on space available and of course your schedule. Most full-day preschools are two, three or five days per week.

The majority of preschools in Australia follow the same school dates as primary and secondary schools. They also have the same school and public holidays. You’ll need to plan ahead for those holidays and organise alternative childcare. has the option for childcare and holiday care.

Staffing levels of pre-schools

The minimum staffing levels of preschools are set by the National Regulations:

  • One staff member for every 8 children ages 2 – 5 years.
  • One staff member for every 10 children ages 3 – 6 years.

Of course, there are preschools that have a higher ratio of staff per child.

How much do preschools cost in Australia?

Pre-schools in Australia cost about the same as regular childcare, about $40-$110 a day depending on hours of operation. You will be required to pay fully for preschool.

The preschool will ask you to sign a register at the beginning and end of each day or session as a way to keep track of who is attending and who is not. Please ensure you sign this register, which is generally found at the preschool entrance.

New Zealanders in Australia on non-protected Special Category Visas (SCV) and at a lower family income bracket are entitled to family payments, including the Child Care Subsidy.

Enrolling in pre-school

To enrol in a public preschool you will need the following documents:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • Proof of address – a copy of your lease or electric bill
  • Your child’s immunisation history statement.

For private schools, you will need pretty much the same documentation plus a few extras. For example, for a Catholic private preschool, they will ask for a Baptism certificate. Does your child have to be Catholic to go to a Catholic preschool? No, but priority will be given to children who are baptised and live within the parish zone.


States and territories preschool services

Different states and territories have different names for preschool services, which are outlined below.

Australian Capital Territory Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools or early learning centres
  • are for children who turn four years old by 1 May in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • operate close to, or on, school sites. In newer areas, preschools are often run next to childcare centres
  • have no fees, but usually have a voluntary contribution levy
  • more information: ACT Government – Preschool matters.

New South Wales Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools
  • are for children who turn four years old before 1 August in the year before starting school
  • mostly operate as stand-alone services – for example, as community preschools or services delivered by non-state schools – or as preschool programs in long daycare or early learning centres
  • might be offered as school-based programs attached to government-run primary schools
  • usually charge fees, which are set by providers
  • sometimes offer flexible hours for working parents
  • more information: NSW Department of Education – Preschool.

Northern Territory Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools
  • are normally for children who turn four years old in the year before starting school, although there are exceptions for children who live in very remote areas
  • are mostly attached to schools
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • have no fees
  • sometimes offer flexible hours for working parents
  • might offer bus services in some areas
  • more information: NT Government – About child care services.

Queensland Pre-schools:

  • known as kindergartens
  • are for children who turn four years old by 30 June in the year before starting school
  • operate as either stand-alone services or in long day care centres run by community organisations or non-government schools
  • mostly operate close to, or on, school sites
  • have fees, which are set by providers
  • offer some remote and distance education services
  • more information: Queensland Government – About approved kindergarten programs.

South Australia Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools, kindergartens, early learning centres or centres for early childhood development and parenting
  • are for children who turn four before 1 May in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run but can be run by community or private organisations
  • can be stand-alone services or located in schools or alongside other early learning services
  • have no fees when they are government-owned, but some ask for a voluntary contribution levy
  • offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children access to preschool from three years of age
  • more information: SA Government – Preschool and kindergarten services.

Tasmania Pre-schools:

  • known as kindergartens
  • are for children who turn four years old before or on 1 January in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • have no fees
  • are located in schools and linked to the school system
  • more information: Tasmanian Department of Education – Kindergarten.

Victoria Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools, kindergartens or preschool programs in long daycare centres
  • are for children who turn four years old before or on 30 April in the year before starting school
  • are mostly run as stand-alone centres
  • have fees
  • are often managed by parent committees
  • are offered as mobile services in remote areas
  • more information: Victorian Department of Education and Training – Kindergarten programs.


Western Australia Pre-schools:

  • known as kindergartens
  • are for children who turn four years old before or on 30 June in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • operate within schools and in the community
  • offer bus services
  • have no fees
  • more information: Early Childhood Australia Western Australia.

Schools in Australia

Read my post about schools in Australia and find out about Australian schools, which year will your child move into from NZ, primary, secondary and finishing school and more:

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If you’ve read the above content and the answer to your question isn’t there, please write a comment below and I’ll research the answer for you. Please note, if the answer to your question is in the content above, I will not reply. Sorry, I just get too many questions these days and I can’t keep up.

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  1. Ting Chen

    April 9, 2024 at 6:54 pm


    My family is getting ready to move to New South Wales with my 4-year-old daughter from China. I would like to know if it is okay for my daughter to enter preschool without English ability?


  2. Sunny

    November 2, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    Hi JJ

    I have a NZ passport and my husband had NZ permanent residency.

    We are waiting for his Subclass 461 New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship visa and he is on a bridging A visa which does not allow him to work in Australia but works online for his NZ owned business.

    Would we be able to receive Child Care Subsidy for my son? I understand there is an activity test but I am unsure whether we can consider my husband to be working?

    Many thanks

    • JJ Smith

      November 3, 2022 at 11:51 am

      Hi Sunny,
      Thank you for your comment.
      The standards the ATO use to determine your tax residency are not the same as those used by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection – for example, you could be an Australian resident for tax purposes even if you’re not an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
      To understand your tax situation you first need to work out if you are an Australian or foreign resident for tax purposes. You can do that here using the ATO’s ‘Are you a resident?‘ tool:
      Regarding the Australia Child Care Subsidy, to get an answer you are either going to have to ask an Australian financial advisor or Centrelink (NZ phone number is 0800 441 248).
      Sorry I cannot be of more help.

  3. Jeena

    February 26, 2022 at 10:09 am

    Hi, I am a NZ resident parent moving to Australia with 494 visa. My son is holding NZ passport. His birthday is on 20/08/2018. Are we eligible to get Child care subsidy?
    Do we need to pay his kindergarten fees?

  4. VEENA U

    April 25, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    My son will turn 5 on august 4 ,2022.Is there any way I can enroll him in kindergarten in the same year in NSW.

    • JJ Smith

      May 3, 2021 at 1:07 am

      Hi Veena,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Therefore your son will be 4 years old on the 31 July 2022, so the answer is yes. Children can enrol from the beginning of the school year if they turn 4 on or before 31 July that year.
      NSW Department of Education preschools enrol children for one year only – the year before they start kindergarten.
      Please read this post, as in Australia kindergarten is the equivalent as year 1 in NZ:
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

  5. Emma Carter

    March 12, 2021 at 6:57 am

    Do you know if there is an equivalent to NZ Playcentre? Ie: for any child under 5, parents stay.
    Thank you!


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