Say hello!

Who we are, where we are from and a little bit about us.

If you’re an approved provider, service owner, centre manager, team member or teacher then you are going to love us and our team of epic (fearless, talented and legendary) specialists.

Why? Because we get it: all of it.  Big services, small kindergartens, great (read exceeding) and working towards great – when it comes to early years, we have experienced it!


Mel Comerford

Director & Founder

Mel is an experienced early childhood professional with more than 25 years working in the early years sector and is passionate about and dedicated to the quality of education & care for all children.

Mel has spent 10 years in senior executive roles with Goodstart Early Learning and C&K Association Limited, both large not-for-profit early childhood organisations that together deliver exceptional early childhood education and care to more than 100,000 children nationally.

As National Manager Professional Capability at Goodstart Early Learning, Mel was responsible for the integration of the delivery of Early Childhood Certificate III and Diploma qualifications

and management of the Goodstart Institute of Early Learning to over 1500 students, and the Professional Practice and Learning & Development functions to 15,000 employees.

At C&K as the Chief Operations Officer, Mel was instrumental in implementing the universal access goals for Queensland by her management of the opening of more than 100 services co-located on state school sites.  In addition, Mel oversaw the development of the first independent birth to five early childhood curriculum that was approved for use by the Queensland Studies Authority

As the Acting Chief Executive Officer of C&K Associated Limited, Mel managed and oversaw a budget in excess of $75 million per annum that includes more than 1200 employees and 1500 volunteers.

Mel also has strong experience in working with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities, working with Commonwealth & State government departments and Ministers and other key stakeholders across our profession.

Natalie McDonald

Natalie is an experienced marketing, communication, and project management professional, with over 10 years’ experience within the early childhood sector. She joins Astute Early Years Specialists, in the role of Business Manager.

Natalie brings to Astute a wealth of knowledge and experience, from the various roles she has held some of which include; in Corporate Affairs and Governance, at Queensland Treasury Corporation; Professional Capability and Project Integration at Goodstart Early Learning; New Services Coordinator, and Marketing Communications at C&K. 

In her role at Queensland Treasury Corporation, the Queensland Government’s central financing authority,  Natalie worked across a number of clients in a corporate affairs capacity to deliver outcomes for the client and the State of Queensland.

Prior to this Natalie’s project management skills were put to great use, with the coordination and delivery of national capability programs, and the integration of national projects at a state level. 

Natalie has extensive marketing communication, and event management experience both at a corporate level, and a community engagement and local area marketing level. In 2013/2014 Natalie successfully lead the setup and delivery of multiple new kindergarten and long day care services throughout Queensland.

She is passionate about delivering high-quality outcomes, and is always up for a challenge.

But this is us now – Astute Early Years Specialists, 10 years of dreams, a lifetime of passion for early childhood and two courageous, chatty, astute women that want to make a BIG difference and change early childhood education and care. From an industry into a profession. Together from the inside out.



Astute has been extremely professional and supportive towards our service. Mel has gone above and beyond and worked around the clock to support our team.  

Our service loves the EarlyEd Academy. It is user friendly and is developed to inspire and shape all services and their team, no matter what skill level we are all at. 

From the moment we met Mel from Astute, we felt comfortable with her warm and friendly presence. Mel is professional, takes pride in sharing her experiences and knowledge. We are lucky to have had the opportunity to work closely with Mel and her team.

Simply Sunshine Child Care

Astute, and Mel in particular, really helped me to get my head around my position as Educational Leader at my centre.  I had been in the role for a couple of years with no real direction or clear idea of what my job involved.  Mel worked with me and gave me clear guidelines and processes to put into place to effectively fulfil my role.  I am now an important part of our leadership team and am enjoying empowering the other teachers to consistently reflect on and improve their practice. 

Gena Smith Teacher and Educational Leader at Next Steps Kindy

“Astute,” which derives from the Latin noun astus, meaning “craft, suggests cleverness, mental sharpness, and diplomatic skill”

Every child you teach will teach you something new about yourself and your teaching style.

Teaching is not a skill one collects when you graduate and pick up your qualification; it’s so much more than formal qualifications.

It doesn’t matter what position you hold, what matters is how you hold that position.  That’s true leadership.