She was born in Western Australia and was educated at Wembley Primary School and Churchlands Senior High School. She then attended the University of Western Australia where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a double major in mathematics and later with a Bachelor of Economics. In 2005 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Western Australia.
After graduating from University, Mrs Sanderson joined the Western Australian Treasury where she worked for 17 years, including 5 years as Chief Research Officer and 5 years as Director of Treasury’s Economic and Financial Policy Division.
She has taken a strong interest in continuing education throughout her career, and she co-chaired the First Murdoch Commission which looked at Western Australia and its place in the region, and assessed the challenges and prospects that the Asian region will present to WA. She has also, earlier in her career, been on the Council of Curtin University and, more recently, on the Advisory Council to the Curtin Business School as well as holding the voluntary position of Adjunct Professor in the School. She has also been a member of the Ambassadorial Council for the UWA Business School and of the advisory board for the Notre Dame Business School and the Board of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at Kings College London.
Her distinguished career with government included 17 years as Chief Executive Officer of Fremantle Ports. She led Fremantle Ports through a program of major change, reform, commercialisation and improvement with Fremantle Ports achieving triple accreditation for quality, safety and the environment. Container trade quadrupled while she was at the helm, and Fremantle Ports in 2007 was the first Western Australian organisation to receive an Australian Business Excellence Gold Award (the top level). Fremantle Ports was also awarded the Australian Business Excellence Medal for the top organisation in Australia in terms of the Business Excellence Framework in that year. Other awards received by Fremantle Ports under her leadership were a Premier’s award for contribution to economic development and a Lloyds List award for corporate social responsibility in the transport and shipping industry.
Mrs Sanderson points out that it is teamwork and a contribution from all staff which led to Fremantle Ports being recognised, and her leadership style involves an inclusive approach.
Mrs Sanderson received a number of other awards during her time at Fremantle Ports including the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year for Western Australia in 1996, the Centenary Medal in 2001 for service to the maritime industry, being the inaugural inductee in the national Lloyds List Shipping and Transport Hall of Fame in 2005, being inducted into the Business Hall of Fame in the Fremantle First Business Awards in 2002 and receiving an Export Hero award from the Australian Institute of Export in 2008. She has also served as an Ambassador for the Western Australian Industry and Export Awards.
Mrs Sanderson was on the executive of Ports Australia for a number of years, serving as both Chairman and Deputy Chairman of this national association. She was also on the Board of Austrade, the Australian Wheat Board and the Rio Tinto WA Future Fund and was a Trustee of the Fremantle Hospital Medical Research Trust Fund.
Before taking up the position as Chief Executive Officer of Fremantle Ports Mrs Sanderson was Deputy Director General of Transport, and spent almost a year as Acting Director General, covering all modes of transport. As part of that role Mrs Sanderson chaired a number of Committees and participated in a number of studies designed to improve Perth and Western Australia’s transport.
From 2008 to 2011 Mrs Sanderson was Agent General for Western Australia. This position is based in London and covers Europe and Russia and is responsible for promoting investment in Western Australia as well as Western Australian exports and interests generally. While in London she also worked to promote Western Australia as a base for the Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope (the SKA) as well as to co-ordinate with UK based parties for aspects of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the royal visit to Perth in November 2011. As part of her role she promoted the excellence of WA science and scientific research and worked with outstanding WA scientists to do this.
Immediately prior to taking on the role of Governor Mrs Sanderson was Chairman of Gold Corporation and the independent chair of the State Emergency Management Committee. She was also a non-executive director of listed companies Downer EDI and Atlas Iron, and a board member of the not-for-profit St John of God Healthcare and of the International Centre for Radio-Astronomy Research. She was also on the Board of charities Senses Australia and the Paraplegic Benefit Fund and a patron of children’s charity Variety WA as well as patron of the Australian Branch of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association. She chairs the alumni of the Committee for Perth.
Other Boards she has been a member of include the Rottnest Island Authority, Western Quarries, the Urban Lands Council, the Western Australian Lands Authority (LandCorp), Stateships and the Dampier Port Authority (Deputy member).
During her career she has held a comprehensive list of professional affiliations including being a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (and a member of the State Council), a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia and a member of Chief Executive Women. ,P. Mrs Sanderson married Lancelot (Lance) John Sanderson in 1972. They had been married for 35 years and travelled extensively including a four month trip around Australia with their infant son. Lance passed away in 2007 after a twelve month battle with cancer. He had a distinguished career as a telecommunications engineer with Telstra, having been Chief Engineer for Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory and then Regional General Manager Network and IT before leaving to set up his own consultancy in 1997. They have two sons, Jarrad and Jason. Jarrad is currently studying for a veterinary science degree at Murdoch University and his first degree was a science degree with majors in biochemistry and genetics from the University of Western Australia. Jason graduated from engineering at University College London and works on a FIFO basis with Rio Tinto.
Mrs Sanderson’s parents were both from WA, her father was born in Kunjin (near Corrigin), and was an agricultural scientist and Deputy Director General of Agriculture for many years. Her mother was a high school teacher and Deputy Principal.
Mrs Sanderson enjoys the natural environment and her recreational interests include keeping fit, walking and hiking , travel and reading as well as continued learning.
Mrs Kerry Sanderson was installed as the 32nd Governor and the inaugural female Governor of Western Australia on 20 October 2014.