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Member of the Week – Kay Martin

Known within the wider Party for being a warrior within the Central West and for her steadfast resolve to return Bathurst and Calare to the fold, Kay is a prominent grassroots member within the NSW Nationals.

Kay first became interested in the Party during her teaching career in Orange, admiring the work of her local member Sir Charles Cutler, with Kay thinking at the time, “I cannot wait until I’m 18 so I can vote for him”.

Soon after her marriage to John Martin, a grazier, a field officer named Stan Robinson asked for them both to join the then Country Party. She was passionate and hardworking from the get-go, and subsequently, Kay became the secretary of the Lithgow Branch and has held her position for 44 years – remarkable innings.

After 10 years representing the seat, the Country Party/National Party lost the seat of Bathurst in 1981 to the Labor Party, and struggled to make a comeback. Although this not without a strong fight from the local branch, kept alive by Kay. When others would have lost hope and abandoned the cause of returning Bathurst to the green and gold, Kay was steadfast in her resolve that it could be done. Rick Colless, Member of the Legislative Council and Duty MLC for Bathurst for four years reflects on Kay’s hard work:

“One memory that sticks in my mind was during my time as Duty MLC for Bathurst, and we’d recruited Paul Toole, who had a big profile and a good chance of taking the seat. The preselection meeting was held at Kay and John’s property “Canobie”, it was a very exciting time, I just remember that she was so fired up at the meeting and from that moment on we were out door-knocking, door-knocking, with even more door-knocking.”

“After the election I called into Kay and John’s on the way back to Sydney, and of course the night before we had won and had the biggest swing ever. The door was open and I knocked and there was no answer, so I walked in and Kay came running down the stairs. We stood there for a moment and hugged, then she burst into tears then we had another big hug and she was just so over the moon.

“I will never forget that moment.

“She had worked tirelessly for years to win that seat back for us, so we both just sat there and had a little cry and a cup of tea. It was truly wonderful.”

Kay received a Life Membership for the NSW Nationals in 1994 and has received countless other accolades for her tireless efforts within the local community. She is a proud recipient of the inaugural Hidden Treasures Award presented by the Department of Primary Industries’ Rural Women’s Network to recognise her outstanding work as a volunteer in NSW and inspiring other women to volunteer in their communities. 

Kay shows true passion her community and to this day, is involved in various school associations, including P&C committees, and continues to support the Rydal Show and Miss Rydal Showgirl program.

When asked about some of her favourite memories and people from her time with the Party, Kay proudly proclaims “winning Calare and Bathurst!” She remembers fondly her extensive time in the role of campaign director, which was both challenging and rewarding, and certainly kept her busy; day and night. She also speaks highly of her role as secretary to Michael Cobb. When asked if any particular characters came to mind, Kay recalled the late Kath Robinson who was said to rule the Oberon branch “with an iron rod” as just one of many people who have made her time in the Party so enjoyable.

Kay believes the Nationals are gaining strength and are thought to be heavily relied upon to keep the ship on a steady keel. “We’ll always be around,” she remarks, “and will continue to be a great party. It’s like a family, it really is.” She believes that no other party has such grassroots involvement and is as readily willing to go into “every cat and dog fight” to advocate for their communities.

Her message to other members? “Get involved to have your say. It’s all about getting access, through involvement, to members of parliament to be able to voice the things that you don’t like. If you want change, get involved.”

Caption: Peter Pilbeam, Member for Bathurst Paul Toole, Kay Martin, John Martin and Hon. John Cobb

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