Lee Cataldi was born in Sydney in 1942 of Italian and Australian parents and attended The Friends School, Hobart, and the University of Sydney, where she graduated in English. After studies at Oxford and while lecturing at the Univeristy of Bristol, she became a Marxist, and eventually returned to Australia. Her first book of poems won the Anne Elder Memorial Prize. Since 1983 she has worked as Teacher-Linguist at Lajamanu School in the Northern Territory, organising the production of books and curriculum in the Warlpiri language. With a Warlpiri colleague she is planning a large project collecting and transcribing Warlpiri narratives.