Lee Cataldi was born in Sydney in 1942 to an Anglo-Australian mother and Italian father. She completed a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney in 1962 and then a Bachelor of Letters from Oxford University in 1968. She became a high school teacher and later a linguist, lecturing on Indigenous Australian languages. Her first book of poetry, Invitation to a Marxist Lesbian Party was published in 1978. She won the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in 1999 for Race Against Time.