By Shelby Brooks
KAY Setches, a former MP and minister who was instrumental in paving the way for women in the Labor Party, has been appointed to the Order of Australia.
Announced on the Queen’s Birthday Honour List, Kay Setches AM is being honoured for creating the Labor Party’s 1993 affirmative action quota of 35 per cent female MPs.
“It’s an honour because the nomination is for women in politics and I’m very pleased about that because it recognises the work of many women in the Labor Party to achieve affirmative action,” Kay told the Sentinel-Times.
Kay began her journey in politics when she joined the Labor Party and started volunteering at a women’s refuge in the 1970s.
In 1982, Kay decided to run for the seat of Ringwood as she knew the party needed more representation of women.
She won the seat and went on to hold it for two more terms, serving for a total of 10 years.
“That was remarkable because it was always a marginal seat,” she said.
Kay said being in the Legislative Assembly was “frightening” in the beginning.
“There is no more male space to be than in a parliamentary room,” she said.
“I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.”
Back in the ‘80s, Kay said it was really difficult to be a woman in politics.
“It was really difficult for women. You were either an oddity or something to celebrate… rather than just being part of the fabric.”
Over the last 30 years, Kay has continued to advocate for better representation of women in politics.
“There’s nearly 50 per cent [women in Parliament] now, and we’ve been going since 1993… we used to dream about something like that,” she said.
Kay went on to be a founding member of Emily’s List Australia, which supports women seeking election in the Labor Party.
“That was then created to make sure the culture of the party changed as well,” she said.
Her connection to Bass Coast began in 1986 when Kay and her late husband bought a holiday house on Phillip Island.
Twenty-five years ago, they built a house at Surf Beach where Kay now resides.
“I love it here,” she said.
“Looking out at Bass Strait, there’s something so healing and uplifting – you find the perspective to be able to bear things more.”
Kay was a founding member of The Island Story Gatherers organisation and heavily involved in the Change for Sam initiative to end family violence on Phillip Island.
She was also a big supporter of MP Jordan Crugnale’s campaign which saw her as the first woman preselected by the Labor Party for the seat, and win.
“We’re so proud to have a woman representing us here,” she said.