Inclusion in early childhood

Information and resources to help early childhood education and care (ECEC) services ensure every child can access, participate meaningfully in, and experience positive outcomes from ECEC.

On this page:

About inclusion

In an ECEC setting, inclusion means that every child can:

  • access a service
  • participate meaningfully
  • experience positive outcomes.

Inclusion involves considering each child’s:

  • learning styles
  • first language
  • cultural identity
  • abilities
  • disabilities
  • gender
  • sexual identity
  • family circumstances
  • geographic location.

Simply attending ECEC does not ensure inclusion. Inclusion happens when all children are seen as capable learners and valued contributors.

Inclusion is not about changing a child so that they fit into the care environment. It is about changing what we do so that all children can participate.

Your obligations

Inclusion is a human right. It’s also everybody’s responsibility.

All ECEC services must be inclusive.

You have a legal obligation to ensure inclusion at your service under:

  • the National Quality Framework
  • the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

National Quality Framework

Equity, inclusion and diversity underpin the National Quality Framework (NQF).

The NQF:

  • uses the terms each child, every child and all children to promote inclusion
  • recognises all children as confident and capable learners with the capacity and right to succeed regardless of diverse circumstances, including strengths, cultural background and abilities.

All 7 National Quality Standard quality areas demonstrate the right of every child:

  • to be included
  • to participate
  • to have equitable access.

The approved learning frameworks define inclusion as:

taking into account all children’s social, cultural and linguistic diversity (including learning styles, abilities, disabilities, gender, sexual identity, family circumstances and geographic location) in curriculum decision-making processes. The intent is to ensure that all children’s experiences are recognised and valued. The intent is also to ensure that all children have equitable access to resources and participation, and opportunities to demonstrate their learning and to value difference.

Learn more about the National Quality Framework

Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is a law that protects Australians from discrimination based on disability.

The DDA makes it unlawful to discriminate on the ground of a person’s disability. This includes discrimination that occurs in the context of accessing and participating in ECEC.

All ECEC services must comply with the DDA.

Learn more about the Disability Discrimination Act

Programs and initiatives

The following programs and initiatives can help you embed inclusive practices at your service.


The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is the independent national authority that helps governments in administering the NQF.

ACECQA works with all levels of government to provide guidance, resources and services to support the ECEC sector and improve outcomes for all children.

Learn more about ACECQA

Inclusion Support Program

If your service encounters barriers to inclusion, you can seek help through the Inclusion Support Program (ISP).

ISP is for services who need extra support to:

  • address barriers to inclusion
  • build capacity and capability to include children with additional needs
  • implement quality, inclusive and equitable practices.

Inclusion Agencies in each state and territory deliver the program.

ISP is one of many supports available to help you embed inclusive practices. We encourage you to explore the programs and resources on this page before engaging with ISP.

If you need extra support, contact your local Inclusion Agency to get started with ISP.

Learn more about the Inclusion Support Program

Contact your local Inclusion Agency

Resources and training

The following resources and training can help you embed inclusive practices at your service.