Born in Tasmania, and having lived there for most of her life, Catryna Bilyk was first elected as a Labor Senator for Tasmania in November 2007 taking her seat in the Senate on 1 July 2008. She was re-elected in 2013, 2016 and 2019.
Catryna’s previous experience included a variety of roles including medical administration, research and early childhood education. While working with the Australian Services Union she set up the first Union Jobskills Program and represented the Union on many Industry Training Advisory Boards. She was the ASU delegate to Unions Tasmania and held the position of Senior Vice President of Unions Tasmania. She has also served as National Vice-President of the Australian Labor Party.
In the years immediately prior to her election to the Senate Catryna was employed by the Tasmanian Government as an Advisor/Electorate Officer with Tasmanian Government Ministers David Crean, David Llewellyn and Ken Bacon.
Catryna has also worked for over a decade as an early childhood educator, and early in her career as a research assistant for mental health pioneer Dr Eric Cunningham Dax.
Shortly before commencing her first term, Catryna was diagnosed with two brain tumours which were successfully removed. Her subsequent involvement in the brain cancer community—meeting patients and their families—has motivated her to continue campaigning for a greater Government effort to improve the low survival rates for brain cancers and tumours. Throughout her service as a senator she has often been a lone voice in Parliament in advocating for more brain cancer research funding. Catryna was diagnosed with two more tumours in late 2020 and late 2021 which she is currently living with.
Catryna is currently serving as Chair of the Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (of which she previous served as Deputy Chair) and the Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme. She is also a member of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation, Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library and the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications (Legislation and References).
Her previous Parliamentary positions have included: Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate, Chair of the Joint and Senate Select Committees on Cyber Safety, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Senators’ Interests, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Publications, and Chair of the Senate Select Committees on Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates, the Future of Public Interest Journalism and Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century.
She has also served as a member of the Senate Committees on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (Legislation and References), Education and Employment (References), Environment and Communications (Legislation and References), Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Legislation and References), Selection of Bills, House and Procedure, the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library, the Joint Statutory Committee on Law Enforcement, the Joint Standing Committees on Migration and Treaties, and the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform.
Catryna has also served as the Senate-appointed member of the National Library of Australia Council.
Some of Catryna’s achievements to date are:
- Established a presence for Cure Brain Cancer Foundation in Tasmania and raised over $200,000 for brain cancer research including through seven annual Walk4BrainCancer events with attendance reaching 300 per event.
- Pursued the establishment of a Senate Committee to inquire into cancers with low survival rates, leading to over $170 million of Government investment in research into brain cancer, rare cancers and diseases, and cancers and diseases with low survival rates. The report has also been cited by the World Health Organisation.
- Assisted the Kingston Uniting Church in securing a $2.8 million Commonwealth grant for the Rowallan Park supported accommodation facility.
- Took the lead for Labor on a Senate inquiry into the Liberal Government’s cuts to the arts. The inquiry helped unite the arts community against the Government’s attacks on the sector. The Government since closed their ‘Catalyst’ ministerial arts slush fund and restored $80 million funding to the Australia Council.
- Worked with firefighters and the Workplace Relations Minister to improve access to workers’ compensation for firefighters across Australia who are diagnosed with cancer.
- Chaired Joint and Senate select committees on cybersafety, with inquiries promoting national discussion of important issues such as the vulnerability of many seniors to online fraud. The Senate committee’s inquiry into sexting by minors highlighted the issue of image-based abuse. Legislation has passed the Parliament to make non‑consensual sharing of intimate images a Federal civil offence while Labor introduced a private member’s bill in 2018 to make it criminal offence.
- Participated in the Senate inquiry which recommended the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, paving the way for the implementation of a Special Access Scheme for medicinal cannabis.
- Ran two successful campaigns to save Palliative Care Tasmania from closure.
- Lobbied successfully to save the Australasian Shunt Registry from closure.
- Successfully lobbied the Government and NBN Co to develop a fixed wireless solution for the suburb of Howden to access the NBN network sooner. Howden was previously in category E for broadband availability—the lowest of five categories.
- Assisted Haemochromatosis Australia in securing a grant to run their first national conference, which started the collaboration on a submission to the Medical Benefits Advisory Committee for a genetic screening program which—if accepted—will ensure thousands more Australians are diagnosed and treated for haemochromatosis.
- As Patron of the Australia Day event, A Day on the Beach provided ongoing support to the event. The event has been attended by thousands of people each year for over a decade. The A Day on the Beach committee has since established a new event, A Day at the Park, and invited Catryna to continue as Patron.
- Worked with other Federal colleagues to lobby for:
- The $325 million Tasmanian Health Rescue Package,
- The reinstatement of Australian Federal Police at Hobart Airport, and
- Saving the Kingston Medicare/Centrelink service centre from closure.
- Pushed for the establishment of and chaired the Senate Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century to shine a spotlight on the need for a unified national charity fundraising law. While Labor has led the way on this issue with the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC), campaigning on the issue has pressured the previous Federal government to finally start work on fundraising law reform.