Cate Kennedy had a peripatetic childhood, living with her parents in several Australian states and the United Kingdom. She studied at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education (later the University of Canberra) and the Australian National University, gaining a BA and a B.Litt. She has worked as a freelance later, been engaged as a writer-in residence at various Melbourne schools and taught creative writing to senior students and scriptwriting to University of Ballarat students. For several years Kennedy was also a community arts worker in Daylesford in country Victoria and has been involved in the organisation of various street festivals in Victoria.
In the 1990s Kennedy spent two years in Central Mexico, working in a cooperative as a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International, teaching literacy to peasant communities. During this time she wrote mainly non-fiction.
Primarily a short story writer, Kennedy has won numerous awards for her work, which has been published in major Australian newspapers. It was her observations while working for the Australian Customs Service that inspired Kennedy to write her prize-winning short story Habit about a dying woman's attempt to smuggle cocaine into the country. Her writing of poetry resulted in her collection Signs of Other Fires (2001) which draws on her experiences in Mexico and on her observations of daily life. The following year she won the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize, thus enabling her to travel to Ireland to study and teach.
Kennedy's home is a farm on the Broken River in northeast Victoria.
Like a House on Fire2012selected work short story 'From prize-winning short-story writer Cate Kennedy comes a new collection to rival her highly acclaimed Dark Roots. In Like a House on Fire, Kennedy once again takes ordinary lives and dissects their ironies, injustices and pleasures with her humane eye and wry sense of humour. In 'Laminex and Mirrors', a young woman working as a cleaner in a hospital helps an elderly patient defy doctor's orders. In 'Cross-Country', a jilted lover manages to misinterpret her ex's new life. And in 'Ashes', a son accompanies his mother on a journey to scatter his father's remains, while lifelong resentments simmer in the background.
'Cate Kennedy's poignant short stories find the beauty and tragedy in illness and mortality, life and love.' (From the publisher's website.)