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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Trudi Rei


Trudi is our Walker Learning consultant based on New Zealand. She is currently the Deputy Principal of Lytton Street School in Feilding, NZ. Trudi has been teaching for 18 years in NZ and the UK.

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.

Ariana Davis


Ariana holds a Batchelor Degree (birth to year 12) & a Diploma of Childrens’ Services. She has more than a decade of experience in the classroom working with young children in a variety of Primary and Early Childhood settings. In her position as Assistant principal, Ariana has facilitated the introduction of Walker Learning across Early Stage 1 and Stage 1. She is passionate about delivering innovative, future focused programs.


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 Michael Nagel

Dr Nagel is a researcher, international speaker and author in the areas of cognition, early learning and neurological development in children at The University of the Sunshine Coast and is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost experts in child development. Dr Nagel has decades of experience as a teacher and behavioural specialist and he is a regular contributor to various journals, magazines and newspapers.

Dr Rosemary McCallum

Dr Rosemary McCallum has an academic and research background and has worked extensively in a range of areas including effective communication, relationships, group dynamics, leadership, teamwork and emotional intelligence (EI).

Karen Young

Psychologist, Karen Young founded the popular website, Hey Sigmund. The website attracts millions of readers worldwide and her articles have been translated into a number of languages. She is the author of Hey Warrior, a book for children to help them understand anxiety and find their ‘brave’. Karen can often be heard on Australian radio and is a sought after speaker.

Dr Anita Collins

Dr Anita Collins is an award-winning educator, researcher and writer in the field of brain development and music learning. She is internationally recognised for her unique work in translating the scientific research of neuroscientists and psychologists to the everyday parent, teacher and student.

Anne Love

Anne has taught mindfulness and meditation in many primary schools working with each year level as well as with teachers and parents. She is a certified Mindful Schools Teacher, certified Meditation and MBSR teacher and is a registered with Australian Meditation Association. She has a Master of Education and Bachelor of HRM.