Leading the way since 1895

The groundswell for the kindergarten movement began in Australia in the late 1800s. At that time great concern was held about the many young children living with their families in very poor conditions, who were often neglected and had no access to appropriate education. The worsening of these conditions by a major strike in 1890 and the depression of 1893 resulted in widespread destitution in the slum areas. Social reform was linked to the education and welfare of these young people.

In August of 1895, a meeting of kindergarten enthusiasts was held and those present formed themselves into a provisional committee of The Kindergarten Union. They were led by the well known feminist and educator Maybanke Anderson.The stated objectives of this committee were to:

  • Set forth kindergarten principles
  • Endeavour to introduce those principles into every school in New South Wales, and
  • Open Free Kindergartens wherever possible

Maybanke Anderson
Maybanke Anderson

The first Free Kindergartens

The first Free Kindergarten was opened in January 1896 in a Mission Hall in Sussex Street. This site did not prove suitable, as there were not enough families in the area so the kindergarten was moved to Charles Street in Woolloomooloo. Enrolments increased but the premises proved to be inadequate and the kindergarten was finally moved to Dowling Street in Woolloomooloo, where it remained for 21 years.

First Free Kindergarten

The Kindergarten Union Training College

In the first ten years of establishment, the Kindergarten Union founded a training college (with over 200 students trained there during that time) and opened five kindergartens in Sydney, three in Newcastle and one in Bowral. As the Kindergarten Union developed, there were three main areas of operations:

  • The administration of the organisation
  • The establishment of kindergartens/centres
  • The training college.
Froebel Kindergarten School 1904-13 Wentworth Free Kindergarten

KU Today

Forever progressive, KU has gone on to become the leading not for profit provider of preschools and child care centres in Australia, with over 150 services now operating in the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

During this time, KU has built a solid reputation for leading the field of early childhood provision, enriching generations of young children’s lives.

KU children, past and present, are testament to just what the concept of ‘enrichment’ is all about, and they continue to thrive within an ever-changing world.

Further information on the history of the Kindergarten movement in NSW can be found in the following resources:

Harrison, R. Sydney Kindergarten Teachers College 1871 - 1981, Sydney Kindergarten Teachers College Graduates Association, Sydney, 1985.

Langford, P. & Sebastian, P (eds) Early Childhood Education and Care in Australia, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Sydney, 1979.

Roberts, J & Kingston, B. Maybanke: A Woman's Voice, Ruskin Rowe, Sydney, 2001.