Senate debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Ryan, Hon. Susan Maree, AO

4:58 pm

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to associate my comments in relation to the passing of Susan Ryan with all senators in here, although I have to say that, unlike Senators Sheldon and O'Neill, I'm neither Catholic nor Irish. But nevertheless I have a place in the Labor Party.

Susan Ryan was first and foremost a feminist. She was a trailblazer, an activist and a republican. She was the first in so many fields but none, in my view, as important as being elected as the first female senator for the ACT and going on to be the first woman in the Hawke cabinet. Indeed, when I joined the party in the early eighties, Susan Ryan was there, and she was someone that I looked up to in this place all the way from Western Australia. I looked at her in awe. But nevertheless she showed us, as women in the Labor Party, that there was a place for us, because we could see what we could be.

She was truly amazing. The bills that she introduced—the Sex Discrimination Bill, in particular—have stood women in good stead and have enabled women to really advance in our society. But it is sad, as a number of people have reflected, that we've still got a long way to go. As a feminist in the Labor Party, Susan certainly made pathways for the rest of us. She would have applauded the fights that we had to get our affirmative action policies in place, and today she would have been honoured when our leader, Mr Albanese, dedicated Labor's budget statement to Susan Ryan. She was the first to have a particular budget statement for women and today, when we launched our statement, it was in honour of Susan Ryan.

I met Susan in her role as the Age Discrimination Commissioner when I was the National Assistant Secretary of United Workers Union and had responsibility for aged care. She was just as strident there as she was as a member of the Hawke cabinet. Yes, she was warm, and that certainly came across, but she was fierce in her advocacy. I would like to end my contribution by paying my most sincere condolences to Rory, her partner, and to her children Justine and Ben. Most of all, I say thank you to Susan Ryan for being that feminist, for paving the way for other Labor women.


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