The Hon Susan Ryan AO FAICD

MA ‘74
6 April 2018

The friendships and contacts you make at university often turn into lifetime associations. This was the case for me. A shared experience at this crucial phase maintains its value throughout your life.

2018 Alumna of the Year

Susan Ryan has had a remarkable career advancing equal opportunity legislation and policies for women as well as the rights of older Australians.

Susan graduated with an MA from ANU in 1974 despite having to interrupt her studies several times for work and family reasons. She recalls that the flexibility offered by ANU was essential to ensuring that she could combine study with parenting.

"My positive experiences of the quality of teaching at ANU, and the support for my unusual circumstances in the late 1960s as a young mother who also needed to interrupt my Masters studies several times when my diplomat husband was posted overseas, affirmed my views that women could combine study, work and parenthood."

In 2011, Susan was appointed Australia's first Age Discrimination Commissioner. Susan commissioned pioneering work into ageism and disability discrimination and conducted the first national inquiry into workplace discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability. She was appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner in 2014.

Susan was a founding member of the Women's Electoral Lobby and was elected to the ACT

Legislative Assembly in 1974. She was one of the first two senators to be elected to the Federal Parliament from the ACT and was the ACT's first female senator and first Labor Senator. Her campaign slogan was: "A woman's place is in the Senate."

When the Hawke Government was elected in 1983 Susan became the first woman to hold a cabinet post in a federal Labor government.

"As Commonwealth education minister I was able to make many improvements and bring in reforms for all levels of education: schools, vocational training, and university teaching and research. As Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women, I was able to enact landmark legal reforms advancing opportunities for women, especially the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and support new programs for Aboriginal and migrant women as well as supporting improved income and workforce opportunities for all women."

In 1990, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for her service to parliament. In 2017, ANU awarded Susan with an honorary doctorate for her contributions to the advancement of human rights.

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