Media Releases

28 September 2020

ASFA: Australian Superannuation Loses a Giant

The Hon. Susan Ryan AO (1942-2020) 

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) has paid tribute to Susan Ryan: politician, feminist, administrator, company director, champion of women and friend to many, who died on the weekend, as one of the great reformers and instigators of Australia’s modern superannuation industry. 

As a Minister in the Hawke Labor government and later as a superannuation industry leader, she championed reforms to end gender and other forms of discrimination in superannuation and more generally. She sponsored and fought for the Sex Discrimination Act, which was passed by the Australian parliament in 1984. It is her signature achievement. 

Doing what is right matters. 

This sometimes came at some personal cost. There were many periods of happiness, but spells of loneliness. As she wrote in her memoirs, Catching the Waves. Life in and out of Politics (Harper Collins, Sydney, 1999), “I am by temperament quite gregarious, but the combination of my gender and my politics meant that the position I occupied most often was that of a shag on a rock.” Her reflections and insights in her book on various political changes and reforms in the 1980s were the most perceptive of any penned by former Hawke Ministers. 

A pioneer in the Women’s Electoral Lobby, then a Senator for the ACT from 1975 to 1988, she was the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a Labor government. She served as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and Special Minister of State. 

Post politics, she held various CEO Chair and other important posts. In every instance, improving the lives of others, empathising with the disadvantaged and the picked upon, was a hallmark.

Ryan was CEO of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), 1993-97, then served as President of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, 2000-7. She was a member of the ASX Corporate Governance Council, 2003-7, and the independent Chair of the IAG & NRMA Superannuation Plan to 2011, the same year she was appointed Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner. 

ASFA Chair Michael Easson said: “Her legacy includes improvements in the lives and financial well-being of millions of Australians. But she would hate anyone to be complacent. There's more to be done.

The best way we honour her is to rekindle reforms to prevent discrimination and to equalise the situation of women workers, who overall are behind their male counterparts”.

For further information, please contact:
Jacqui Maddock, 0451 949 300.

About ASFA
ASFA is the peak policy, research and advocacy body for Australia’s superannuation industry. It is a not-for-profit, sector-neutral, and non-party political, national organisation. ASFA’s mission is to continuously improve the superannuation system, so all Australians can enjoy a comfortable and dignified retirement.