Susan Ryan


The Hon. Susan Ryan AO was appointed as Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission, on 30 July 2011 for a five-year term. In addition, she was appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner on 12 July 2014. She concluded both terms 28 July 2016.

As Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner she was highly effective in drawing attention to the extent of discrimination against older people.

She commissioned pioneering research into ageism and disability discrimination and conducted the first national enquiry into workplace discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability.

This resulted in the landmark report Willing to Work, which sets out national strategies to improve the economic participation of Australians as they age and 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; chaired the Australian Human Rights Group 2008-2011, and was Women’s Ambassador for ActionAid Australia.

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

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