Born in Sydney in 1942, Susan Ryan graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts, followed by a Master of Arts in English Literature from the ANU. Following graduation she served as a delegate to the ACT Labor Party from 1973 to 1976.
In 1975 Susan was elected as one of the first two Senators for the ACT, on the slogan “A woman’s place is in the Senate“. She was the ACT’s first female senator and first Labor senator. When the Hawke Labor Government was elected in March 1983, she was appointed Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women.
Susan Ryan had a strong focus on gender equality while in politics. A private member’s bill written by her in 1981 was crucial to the development of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, the Public Service Reform Act 1984 and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987. She resigned from the Senate in 1987 after serving as a Minister in three terms of government, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1990.
In 2011 Susan was appointed as Australia’s inaugural Age Discrimination Commissioner for a 5 year term and the Disability Discrimination Commissioner from 2014. Susan has campaigned for an Australian Bill of Rights, been Deputy Chairman of the Australian Republican Movement and a founding member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby ACT branch. Her published autobiography is titled Catching the Waves: life in and out of politics.