Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Susan Ryan AO, the common man’ senator, woman’s liberator

The Government extended its heartfelt condolences to the family of Susan Ryan, the pioneering Labor senator who helped pass landmark laws to protect women from workplace discrimination, has died. She was 77.

The Honourable Susan Ryan AO was a ground breaker who spent her life advocating for Australians who had been excluded from full participation in our national life.

Susan was the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a Labor Government. During the Hawke Government she served as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, and Special Minister of State. Elected to the Senate in 1975, the then Senator Ryan was first Labor Senator for the Australian Capital Territory.

Opening the doors for women in our national life was an abiding passion for Susan Ryan.

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Susan Ryan said she had two goals in Parliament, “One was to bring into consideration matters of vital importance to women which had been neglected; the other was to establish, through my work and by supporting the work of other women in the Parliament, recognition that women were capable parliamentary performers. I wanted to demonstrate that the neglect of female candidates by the major political parties had been an error, and had deprived the nation of a great deal of capacity.”

These defined her Parliamentary career. From her first election when she ran with the slogan “A woman’s place is in the senate”. In 2019, the Senate reached gender equality in terms of representation. In part, this was achieved because of ground breakers like Susan Ryan.

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Following her time in Parliament, Susan Ryan was a leader in the superannuation industry holding various roles.

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In 2011, Susan Ryan was appointed as a Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Again, Susan Ryan’s passion was for our nation to see the capacity we were neglecting: older Australians and people with a disability.

She sought to remind Australians that because of discrimination in employment, older Australians and people with a disability were “denied the benefits – of dignity, independence, a sense of purpose and social connectedness – that work brings. Belief in the rights and benefits of work has always been a core value for me”.

Susan Ryan will be remembered as someone who sought to make our country bigger and more open to every citizen. She leaves a legacy that will endure.

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