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Remembering Susan Ryan

Tributes are flowing for the superannuation industry pioneer and former politician who passed away yesterday.

The superannuation industry is in mourning for Susan Ryan, former Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia chief executive and Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees president, who passed away suddenly over the weekend.

Ryan is being remembered as one of the great minds behind the modern superannuation system, as well as a great politician and feminist. Ryan was a champion of women, known for her commitment to improving women's retirement outcomes.

Ryan contributed significantly to the super industry over the years, leading ASFA from 1993 to 1997, and served as AIST president for seven years to 2007, building it into what it is today. She was also a member of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) for six years and a member of the ASX Corporate Governance Council from 2003 to 2007. Ryan also held the role of independent chair at IAG & NRMA Superannuation Plan until 2011.

ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said she is terribly saddened by Ryan's death, saying Australia has lost an important leader.

"Susan spent her career improving the lives of working Australians and their retirement...Susan leaves behind a legacy that her family and all Australians can be proud of," Davidson said.

Prior to her time in superannuation, and what she is best known for, Ryan enjoyed a successful career in politics as a key member of the Hawke government and the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a Labor government.

Over the years, Ryan also served as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and Special Minister of State.

It was during this time that Ryan fought to end sex discrimination, sponsoring the Sex Discrimination Act, which was passed in 1984, and the Affirmative Action Act 1986; the impact of which has and will continue to benefit generations of Australian women.

A steadfast advocate of equal opportunity, in 2011 Ryan was appointed Australia's first Age Discrimination Commissioner - a title she held for five years, in addition to that of Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

In a tribute, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Ryan will be remembered as "someone who sought to make our country bigger and more open to every citizen" and for her abiding passion for opening doors for women in national life.

AIST chief executive Eva Scheerlinck described Ryan as a true pioneer and a champion of the people and a dignified retirement for all.

"Her work in the human rights sphere spanned women's rights, the rights of elderly Australians and those living with a disability," she said.

"She was caring, collegiate and a trailblazer."

Equally, ASFA chair Michael Easson said: "Her legacy includes improvements in the lives and financial wellbeing of millions of Australians. But she would hate anyone to be complacent. There's more to be done."

"The best way we honour her is to rekindle reforms to prevent discrimination and to equalise the situation of women workers, who overall are behind their male counterparts."

Read more: ASFASusan RyanAffirmative Action ActAge Discrimination CommissionerAssociation of Superannuation Funds of AustraliaASX Corporate Governance CouncilAustralian Council of Superannuation InvestorsAustralian Institute of Superannuation TrusteesEva ScheerlinckLouise DavidsonMichael Easson
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