About Early Life Foundations


We provide expertise and support to parents, educators and organisations to create optimal parenting, learning and educational environments for children birth to 12 years. The not-for-profit organisation prides itself on our knowledge and expertise, and on maintaining an independent voice on the national and international stage for children’s development, teaching and learning, research and parenting. 


To provide evidence based knowledge, strategies and support for educators, parents and carers of children birth to 12 years of age. Our professional learning and parent sessions reflect our philosophy and mission to create a child-focused world – a world which is committed to providing an environment that gives every child the opportunity to flourish and to develop life skills that will set them up for success in the modern world. 


Kathy Walker founded Early Life Foundations in 2008 and was the originator and designer of the Walker Learning pedagogy now known as WALKER LEARNING. Kathy was regarded nationally and internationally as a leading curriculum, teaching and learning expert in personalised learning and play-based learning. Her expertise in these areas spanned over 30 years. In 2008, Kathy was awarded a Fellowship from the Australian Council for Educational Leaders for her extensive contributions to the improvement of student outcomes as a teacher, lecturer and consultant. Kathy has also been nominated for Australian of the Year and was awarded an OAM in 2014 for her extensive work with educators and families. Kathy retired in 2018.


We are here with a range of skills and backgrounds to support parents and educators. The Early Life Foundations team include experienced professionals and consultants with particular expertise in early childhood development, parenting and education. Founded by Kathy Walker (OAM) in 2008, the consultancy has developed a reputation over the past 10 years as Australia’s leading professional development organisation, providing high quality support and guidance to organisations, schools and families across Australia and internationally.

Our team‘s wealth of knowledge and experience is the key factor in being able to offer such a broad scope of professional development and information sessions. If you are looking for a customised session for your school or centre or an information session for a key parent event, get in touch and see what support we can offer.

Melinda Vander Reest


Melinda is the Managing Educational consultant for Early Life Foundations and Walker Learning with over 30 years of experience working with young children and their families in a variety of settings.  She has Early Childhood and Primary training, a Bachelor of Special Education and an Advanced Certificate of Child and Family development.

As part of her role, Melinda presents nationally and internationally on topics of parenting and education as well as coaching educators working in Early Childhood and Primary settings.

Based in Victoria

Assists educators in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland

Sally Ward


Sally is the Senior Early Life Foundations presenter and advisor. Sally joined the Early Life Foundations team in 2014 as an early childhood consultant. She is a preschool teacher with extensive experience in the early childhood field for over 35 years.

Based in Victoria

Assists educators in Victoria and New South Wales

Karen McKay


Karen joined Early Life Foundations and the Walker Learning Team in 2010 after 35 years with the Victorian Department of Education as a leader, consultant and teacher. As an educator, Karen was part of a team which implemented an inclusive, exciting and vibrant child centred indoor-outdoor learning environment. Karen mentors in The Walker Learning Approach throughout Australia. Karen holds a Diploma of Education and Graduate Diploma in Special Education.

Based in Victoria

Assists educators in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia

Jan Snowden


Jan joined Early Life Foundations and the Walker Learning Team in 2012 after retiring from the Department of Early Childhood and Education after 37 years of service. Jan worked at one of the first primary schools to implement the Walker Learning Approach. Jan led and mentored the team at the school for many years before becoming one of our Walker Learning Consultants.

Based in Victoria

Assists educators in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland

Andrea Cummins


Andrea is an experienced Early Childhood Teacher and specialist inclusion support facilitator with qualifications from Melbourne University. For over 20 years  Andrea has been a centre director, founding a Bush Kinder program and is passionate about outdoor play and inclusion support.

Based in Victoria

Assists educators in Victoria

Janet Stirling


Janet has recently joined Early Life Foundations and the Walker Learning Team as a highly experienced and qualified teacher and leader. Janet has spent over 40 years teaching in Western Australian primary schools, senior high schools as well as 15 years teaching in Central London. As a founding member of the staff team which introduced the Walker Learning pedagogy to her school in 2013, Janet has demonstrated skill in identifying, leading, and implementing significant improvement and change to curriculum delivery, teaching and learning. Janet has a passion for mentoring, play-based education and supporting educators with their Walker Learning journey. She is driven by the knowledge that what happens early, matters for a lifetime.

Based in Western Australia

Assists educators in Western Australia and the Northern Territory

Rysia Pritchard


Rysia brings a wealth of experience in providing high-quality professional learning and pedagogical mentoring for teachers. She has documented success as a school leader, introducing and implementing the Walker Learning pedagogy in all primary school year levels. She brings recency of practice and expertise to drive e-learning initiatives and empower educators to provide environments where children can thrive. Rysia holds a Bachelor of Education and a Masters of Education and is driven by a commitment to celebrate the uniqueness of every child.

Based in Queensland

Assists educators in Queensland

Ola Goryl


Ola has spent over 25 years working in early childhood education and has held leadership roles in both early childhood and outside school hours care settings. These include Area Manager, Pedagogical Manager, Nominated Supervisor, OSHC Coordinator, Long Day Care Director, Kindy Teacher and Group Leader.

Ola holds a Diploma of Child Care and Education, a Bachelor of Teaching (EC) and a Masters in Early Childhood. Ola is an advocate for quality educational programs in school-aged care settings and early childhood and has a passion for supporting and mentoring Educational Leaders as they develop as professionals.

Based in Queensland

Assists educators in Queensland and New South Wales

Nicole Mason


Nicole joined the Early Life Foundations Team in 2012 as our Administration Officer and Finance Officer. Nicole is responsible for the day to day Administration procedures and tasks.

Based in Victoria

Melissa Walsh


Melissa is the CEO at Early Life Foundations and has worked in various teaching and learning positions within education, the corporate sector and private enterprise for more than 30 years.


Early Life Foundations and Walker Learning have developed close affiliations with our academic guest presenters and proudly bring you events from these leaders in the fields of child psychology, child development and education.

Dr Dee O’Connor

Dr Dee O’Connor is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Notre Dame, Australia – specialising in Early Childhood Education. Dee holds over 25 years of experience in the field within a variety of positions across early childhood practice, policy and academia.

Dr Peggy Kern

Dr Peggy Kern is an associate professor at the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education. Peggy’s research focuses on understanding, measuring, and supporting wellbeing across the lifespan.

Mikayla King

Mikayla King is a Kalkadoon and Dutch woman who was born on Whadjuk Country of the Noongar Nation. Her experience in education spans over a decade in various roles including Aboriginal Islander Education Officer, Classroom Teacher and Deputy Prinicipal. Currently, Mikayla is lecturing at Edith Cowan University whilst completing her PhD. She has been recognised on a local and national level for her impact in the education realm.