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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

ACT’s first female Senator remembered as trailblazer

The ACT’s first female Senator, Susan Ryan, 77, has been remembered as a trailblazer following her death this week.

Ms Ryan achieved many firsts in life – she was the first woman Senator for the ACT when, as a 33-year-old single parent, she was elected in 1975; and was also the first woman to hold a Cabinet role in a federal Labor Government, as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women in the Hawke Government, and later as Special Minister of State. Susan was also Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner from 2011 to 2016.

Australian National University (ANU) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt described Ms Ryan as “one of our University’s most distinguished alumna”.

“Susan blazed many trails and showed extraordinary leadership,” Prof Schmidt said.

“The Sex Discrimination Act 1984, which Susan introduced into the Parliament of Australia, gave Australian women equal rights in the workforce for the first time. It took exceptional political and personal courage for Susan to demand change and bring it about.

“We at ANU continue to follow her lead in championing equity and striving for gender equality. In that respect, and in so many others, Susan Ryan was an exemplar for every ANU student, and everyone who wants to change their world.”

Former Australian National University (ANU) Chancellor, Gareth Evans reflected on his experiences with Susan. 

“A wrenching loss. Susan was a wonderful Cabinet and Senate colleague, a great supporter of ANU, and a great Australian,” said Mr Evans.

“Her contributions to ending discrimination against women and other vulnerable Australians were legion and legendary, and will be long remembered,” he said.

S”usan was, and remains, a giant in our community and although a terrible loss, her passing does give us the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the remarkable legacy of someone who genuinely did change our world,” said Prof Schmidt.

“In Susan’s own words, ‘nothing is more important than ensuring, as far as laws can, that people are not discriminated against or unfairly denied the opportunities that most of us enjoy’.”

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