Senate debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Ryan, Hon. Susan Maree, AO

4:42 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I will be brief, because people have said so many wonderful things about Susan Ryan. I'd, firstly, like to offer my condolences to Susan's family, friends and colleagues.

I'll be so bold as to say that every woman in Australia has benefited from the work that Susan Ryan did. I think there are a number of young women today that still don't really get or believe that some women were forced to resign when they got married and that some women had to get their sons to go guarantor for loans. Nowadays younger women appreciate that strides have been made, but they don't get that people like Susan put so much effort into achieving those changes.

I wanted to go to some of the work I did with Susan Ryan when she was the Age Discrimination Commissioner. I believe that she carried on the excellent work that she did in this place and in many other places as the Age Discrimination Commissioner. She was the inaugural commissioner, and she really got how older people were—and still are—being discriminated against in many areas, including in aged care. I was part of that discussion, having been the aged-care spokesperson on those issues and having worked with some very close friends in Western Australia on that particular issue as well. So I'd like to particularly comment on that, but also on employment in general. This is why the work that Susan was doing is so important right now—the discrimination that is still going on for older workers and particularly for older women workers. They are the fastest-growing cohort of those who are unemployed. They are ageing into poverty as older women not being able to find work on very low income support payments. They are ageing into poverty as they wait to be able to move onto the aged pension, using up all their savings. It's absolutely imperative that these issues are dealt with, and Susan knew that. She was working on that. She held forums, and I attended some of those, on how to work with business and with employers to ensure that older workers are taken on. She was always raising those issues about older women.

Then, as has also been pointed out, she became the Disability Discrimination Commissioner. Again, I had a related portfolio at the time. Susan took the same gusto to disability discrimination issues as well. Not only did we have a number of discussions—and Susan was very active throughout the country—but I asked her questions across the estimates table when she was commissioner. She was always very glad to talk about the issues across the estimates table.

Susan Ryan made an enormous contribution to this country—particularly to the women of this country. She'll be remembered for all the work that she did. There are some things from your childhood and your young adulthood that you take with you your whole life, and throughout my life I have taken with me the work that she did. It was an honour to be able, just to a small degree, to work with her on these really important issues. Vale Susan Ryan; you won't be forgotten.


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