If you’re moving to Australia with your family, childcare is one of the first things you must sort out. Understanding the Australian childcare system will help you ensure proper child care, whether you’re looking for daycare, in-home care, or outside-school-hours care.
To help you, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to help you understand the childcare system for expats in Australia.
How Does the Childcare System in Australia Work?
In Australia, childcare centres offer part-time or full-time care for children from early morning until evening. The country has various childcare providers operated by local councils, not-for-profit groups, community centres, and private businesses. A few employers also run childcare facilities primarily for their employees’ children.
Australia has various regulations in place to ensure safe and high-quality childcare. All childcare providers in Australia must register with the Department of Family and Community Services and comply with the National Quality Standard (NQS).
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) also ensures that family daycare centres adhere to the National Quality Framework (NQF) to deliver high-quality, safe childcare.
Childcare providers must align with the national childcare and early education benchmarks. They must adhere to planning, communication, and administration rules. Moreover, they must pass a police or criminal history check before working in a family daycare service.
Lastly, they must have insurance and a current first aid certificate and maintain a safe environment in their care centre.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting childcare services in Australia:
- Your child’s age and interests
- The hours of care you need for your child
- Whether you work or study full-time or part-time
- Whether you need daily or occasional care
- The provider’s address
- Whether you have a car or must depend on public transport
Applying for Childcare
In Australia, waiting lists at childcare centres can be lengthy, particularly for kids under two years. Depending on your circumstances, you may have to wait up to two years to enrol your child at a centre.
So, submit applications to as many childcare centres as possible in and around the area you’re planning to live in before leaving your home country.
Submitting applications typically costs nothing. So, you can easily file many applications and avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.
Required Documents for Enrolling Children in Childcare Services
Once you pick a childcare service that meets your family’s needs, you need to provide the following details to enrol your child:
- Your child’s name, date of birth, address, and information about any special needs
- Details of yourself and other parents, guardians, carers, or those who may pick up your child
- Your child’s birth certificate and other identity documents
- Documents detailing your child’s health, disability, or other support needs
- Your child’s medical health and immunization status
- Details of any family law or court orders dealing with your child’s care or safety
- Relevant visa details
Childcare fees vary from one provider to another. The fees also differ depending on the type of care they provide and inclusions such as food and nappies. On average, the fees range from $70 to $180 per day. So, factor these costs into your budget before moving to Australia with your family.
If you want more in-detail information about the fees, we have an entire page dedicated to Childcare Costs For Expats In Australia.
Most children from abroad do not qualify for childcare subsidies and programs, so you may have to pay the entire fee. But you may qualify for fee assistance in the following circumstances:
- Your child is under the age of 13
- You use a registered childcare service
- You are responsible for paying for childcare
- Your child fulfils residency and immunization requirements
The extent of the childcare subsidy you can receive from the Australian government depends on many factors, like your income level and the type of care the child requires.
Types of Childcare Services
You can opt for different childcare services depending on your child’s age and needs. Understanding the many service types available will help you choose the right one. Take a look at the kinds of childcare services at your disposal in Australia:
Long Daycare Centers
Long daycare centres or childcare centres mainly cater to children from birth to five years old. Generally, local councils, non-profit organizations, community organizations, private companies, or individuals run these centres from morning to evening.
The centres are typically located in a building or a section of a building specifically designed for this purpose. Children in these centres are generally grouped in rooms according to age and stage of development.
Programs at these centres also often include an early education component to promote children’s learning and growth. They may also offer meals during the day along with other care services.
Family Daycare Services
Family daycare centres are primarily for children aged 6 weeks to 12 years. They are networks of registered and trained educators who offer childcare in their homes. The educators are meticulously chosen, governed, and work as per the Education and Care Services National Regulations. They also regularly receive compliance checks.
Children in these centres are cared for in small group settings. Educators offer individualized programs to encourage children to build their knowledge and skills. These services have flexible timings and ensure that children receive the comfort and care of a nurturing home environment.
Preschools are government-approved, community-based, not-for-profit childcare services that offer early education and care. They mainly serve three-year-olds to six-year-olds, but a few of them are also licensed to care for two-year-olds.
Many preschools follow public school terms but may have different timings, typically starting in the morning and ending in the afternoon. Teachers and educators run preschool educational programs and are tasked with the management along with parents on the management committee.
Occasional Care Services
Occasional care services are centre-based childcare services that cater to the needs of the community at large. They offer flexible care services at short notice when parents are called in to work unexpectedly or have to take care of some other duties and commitments.
Families can regularly or intermittently access these services to suit their needs. They can also pay fees based on the amount of time their children spend in care. But occasional care services do not provide full-time daycare except in certain situations.
Occasional care offers early education and is also available to all children. But most kids who enrol in these services will not have started school.
Nannies and au pairs (foreign residents holding temporary work visas) offer childcare at home — usually in a live-in situation. They may also perform other chores like cooking and cleaning, although this must be discussed ahead of time. They may provide childcare services whenever necessary — regardless of the time of day — and typically work 25 to 35 hours weekly.
Their fees differ depending on whether they charge an hourly or weekly rate and if their remuneration includes food and board.
Casual Care Services
Like nannies and au pairs, babysitters also offer care in the child’s home but on a short-term, occasional basis. They are usually not qualified, provide hourly care, and get paid in cash.
Starting childcare is a turning point in your and your child’s lives. Whether you pick daycare, occasional care, preschool, ongoing care, or casual care, do your research and select the right type of childcare service that best suits your child’s and family’s needs.