The Hon Susan Ryan AO

Susan Ryan is an advocate for the rights of older people especially their right to affordable and secure housing. She was appointed as Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Right Commission on 30 July 2011 for a five-year term. In addition, she was appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner, 12 July 2014. She concluded both terms 28 July 2016. As Age Discrimination Commissioner she was highly effective in drawing the attention of policy makers and the public to the extent of discrimination against older people. She commissioned pioneering research into age stereotyping, and economic and social impacts of ageism and disability discrimination. She conducted the first national enquiry into workplace discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability. The landmark report from this enquiry Willing to Work sets out national strategies for all sectors to improve the economic participation of Australians as they age and of people with disability.

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; and chair of the Australian Human Rights Group 2008-2011. She was CEO of ASFA, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia from 1993-1998, and President of AIST, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees from 2000 to 2007. She was a founding member of Australian Council for Superannuation Investors and of the ASX Corporate Governance Council.

From 1975 to 1988, Susan was Senator for the ACT, becoming the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a federal Labor Government. In the Hawke 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. As Education Minister, she achieved a doubling of school retention rates while universities and TAFE enrolments grew to historic rates without the imposition of tuition fees. 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.

She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Macquarie University, University of Canberra, University of South Australia, the University of New South Wales and the ANU.