Writing herself into history: an interview with Prof. Kay Saunders

09/09/2021 by MS Queensland

Historian and author, Professor Kay Saunders is a reckoning force for change. Profoundly reflected in her character, profession and personal involvement with MS Queensland, Professor Saunders speaks about the powerful impact that our actions and words can have. 

It’s one thing to write history, another to make it, and something altogether to succeed at both. An Australian pioneer in history and academia, Professor Kay Saunders is an extraordinary woman with a wildly successful and accomplished career.


A notion that was both uncommon and unconventional in the 1960s, Professor Saunders enrolled at UQ to study anthropology, sociology and political science before undergoing her PhD in these retrospective fields. Now, a distinguished historian and bestselling author, Professor Saunders has written extensively on explorations in gender studies, the global labour market, WWII studies, race relations, the political economy and indigenous studies. Amongst her many other recognitions and honourable mentions, Professor Saunders was a recipient of the Officer of the Order of Australia in 2021 for her service to Australian history as a scholar, author and commentator on social issues.

With an exhaustive list of projects and roles, Kay denotes the core of her education to her upbringing by her father. The only child of a very ambitious father, Prof. Saunders’ resolute work ethic has been ingrained in her DNA since young. However, it was more than his principles of education that made a moving impact on his daughter’s life.

“My father started getting symptoms when I was 13. I was 18 though when he was officially diagnosed with MS at the age of 46,” Kay recalls. “It was a long process as they originally thought he had Ataxia as a result of his war injuries,” Kay recalls that, albeit spending time in the re-pat hospital, her father struggled the most with having to be temporarily placed in a nursing home at such a young age. “He was a very bright young man, and unlike being in the war hospital with the other men, he now felt so alone in his condition.”

Connecting with our organisation, Professor Saunders says MS Queensland were great at giving information and support. “People in these situations just want kindness and very ordinary moments. It’s not big things – it’s simply just coming around for a coffee, talking, watching TV. They brighten people’s day and shows the signs that they aren’t being abandoned,” she says.

After the passing of her father, Professor Kay became a regular donor of MS Queensland and has made the heart-warming decision to bequest a gift to MS Queensland in her Will.  This gift will support the work and services we provide to future generations of Queenslanders living with MS. “MS is not a well-known disease, it doesn’t have the profile that other diseases do. There needs to be more awareness to get it out there to help people.”

As we actively go about our lives and intertwine them with those of others, people like Professor Kay Saunders reminds us to think about what our purpose is, what legacies we may leave behind and how our actions and words will be remembered.

Click here to read more about the importance of gifts in Wills, and the wonderful impact these generous gifts can have.

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