Susan was very well-known, liked, and respected in the superannuation sector and in a variety of other settings in the community.

She had a passion for life, her family, politics, the Labor Party, good public policy and superannuation.

My contact with her went back to 1996 when she, along with Dr Michaela Anderson, recruited me to head up the newly established ASFA Research Centre. That was a life-changing event for me, and she was instrumental in life-changing events for many people.

She was instrumental in moving ASFA to a professional organisation which had a focus on evidence-based research and analysis supporting its public policy analysis and advocacy. This focus has been continued by subsequent CEOs – Philippa Smith, Pauline Vamos and Martin Fahy.

Having one outstanding career is enough for most people but Susan had at least three.

From 1975 to 1988, Susan was Senator for the ACT, becoming the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a federal Labor government. She served in senior portfolios in the Hawke Government as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and Special Minister of State.

As Education Minister, Susan saw school retention rates double and universities and TAFEs grow significantly. She pioneered extensive anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation, including the landmark Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Affirmative Action Act 1986.

She was awarded an AO for services to the Australian Parliament in 1990.

Her commitment to education, particularly higher education, continued after her time as Education Minister. She had a strong connection with the Australian National University. As recently as last year she was speaking to young graduates and students at ANU, providing them with both good advice and encouragement. She was a role model for many young women (and older men and women).

After politics she had a stint as an author, publishing a political autobiography, Catching the Waves: life in and out of politics.

Her second main career involved superannuation.

She was Executive Director of ASFA from 1993 to 1997. She continued her involvement in superannuation as President of AIST, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees from 2000 to 2007. She was a founding member of ACSI and of the ASX Corporate Governance Council. She also had a strong connection with Women in Superannuation.

There was no early retirement for Susan Ryan, and she did much to break down barriers to the employment of older Australians. She was appointed as Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner on 30 July 2011 for a five-year term. In 2014, she was appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner – in addition to her responsibilities as Age Discrimination Commissioner.

Up until her appointment as Commissioner, Susan was the Independent Chair of the IAG and NRMA Superannuation Plan; pro chancellor and Council member at UNSW from 1999 to 2011; chaired the Australian Human Rights Group since 2008, and was Women’s Ambassador for ActionAid Australia.

Susan lived her life to the full, and she enrichened the lives of many. We will miss her.

Susan Ryan AO
The Honourable Susan Maree Ryan AO
Photo Credit: Human Rights Commission