Commission statement on passing of former Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan

The Australian Human Rights Commission is deeply saddened by the passing of one of Australia’s great champions for equality, former Age Discrimination and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, The Hon Susan Ryan AO.

Ms Ryan dedicated her life to social justice and making Australia a fairer place. From 2011 to 2016, Ms Ryan worked tirelessly to advance the rights of older Australians as Australia’s inaugural Age Discrimination Commissioner and also assumed the role of Disability Discrimination Commissioner from 2014.

Ms Ryan was the first woman to hold a Cabinet position in the Australian Labor Party.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins recognised the significant role Ms Ryan had in advancing gender equality and LGBTI rights in Australia. Ms Ryan was the first woman to hold a Cabinet position in the Australian Labor Party. Her passion for gender equality led to the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Act 1987 and the Affirmative Action Act 1986.

“This is a sad day for Susan’s loved ones, and a sad day for Australia. We have lost a true pioneer of social change, who leaves behind a great legacy,” said Commission President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM.

“Susan was a tremendous colleague, leader and innovator. She had an impact on everyone who was lucky enough to know her.

“On behalf of my colleagues and I at the Commission, we send our deepest sympathies to Susan’s partner Rory, her children and her grandson whom she adored,” said Professor Croucher.

Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner, The Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO, reflected on Ms Ryan’s remarkable career and the impact she had on Australia.

“Susan Ryan championed the rights of women, older Australians and people with disabilities fiercely and effectively with great compassion,” said Dr Patterson.

“I valued her support when we served together in the Senate and am indebted to her for her wise counsel and advice when I took on the role of Age Discrimination Commissioner after her term ended. She was a social pioneer in every way and so many have and will benefit from her passionate advocacy.”

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett recalled Ms Ryan as a tireless advocate.

“Susan Ryan’s contribution as Disability Discrimination Commissioner will benefit generations of Australians. Her outstanding work on Willing to Work, the National Inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability, was a landmark report that highlighted the value of employing people with disability. She will be missed,” said Dr Gauntlett.

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