Kay Setches has committed much of her life to serving the Victorian community and campaigning for women’s rights. She grew up in working-class Collingwood, her father a wharf labourer and her mother a textile spinner. Kay went to the local St Joseph’s primary school and then Cromwell Street State School before attending the Collingwood School of Domestic Arts. She left school at 14 and was married at 18, moving with her husband, Denis, to Croydon, where they raised their children.
In the early 1970s, Kay made two decisions that established the direction of her future career – she joined the Labor Party and started volunteering at a local women’s refuge. These initial insights later galvanised her to enter into politics. She was elected in 1982 and served as the Member for Ringwood from 1982–92. During this time she held various ministerial portfolios, including Conservation, Forests and Lands and Community Services, and served as as Minister Responsible for Child Care.
In the 1990s, alongside one of her closest friends, Joan Kirner, Kay was instrumental in creating the Labor Party’s affirmative action quota of 35% female MPs, which has significantly increased the participation of women in parliament. She later went on to be one of the founding members of Emily’s List Australia, which actively supports women candidates seeking election.
Kay is now involved in various action and community groups in the Bass community, particularly those dedicated to combatting family violence.
Kay was inducted onto the inaugural Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2001.