The Hon. Dr Kay Patterson
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Dr Kay Patterson

Senator for Victoria

LIB, 1987–2008

The Hon. Dr Kay Patterson at the opening of the Trak Furniture factory in Lonsdale, South Australia, in 2005.

Image courtesy of Minda Incorporated.

A specialist in the health sciences, the Hon. Dr Kay Patterson worked in various roles at Monash University and the Lincoln Institute before being elected to the Senate in 1987 as one of five Liberal senators for Victoria. She later said that one of her goals upon entering Parliament was to ensure that young people had the sort of opportunities she had enjoyed.

After spending six years in the shadow ministry, Senator Patterson was appointed as parliamentary secretary in both the immigration and multicultural affairs (1998–2001) and foreign affairs (2000–01) portfolios, undertaking student visa program reforms and managing international postings.

Throughout her parliamentary career health, ageing, education and social security were policy areas of particular interest. She was a strong supporter of private health insurance and as Minister for Health and Ageing (2001–03) introduced Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme reforms. In this portfolio she also dealt with the threat of a SARS virus outbreak and the aftermath of the Bali bombings.

In 2003 she was jointly appointed Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women (2003–06). In these roles she was credited with increasing family and carers’ assistance and the establishment of family relationship centres.

In 2006 she was successful in having her private senator’s bill, which permitted therapeutic cloning for stem cell research, pass both houses of Parliament.