Mavis Robertson, an architect of Australia’s compulsory super system and fierce advocate for women, died on Tuesday evening in Melbourne aged 84.
She was a leading figure in industry superannuation from the early 1980s until her retirement last year, having served on many boards, including construction fund Cbus.
The Mothers Day Classic she co-founded continues to be the largest fundraising event for breast cancer research in the nation, having raised more than $24 million.
The fun run’s surviving founder Louise Davidson said the “extraordinary” woman would be missed deeply — “both personally and professionally”. In her honour, special tributes will be held at each of the capital city fundraisers in May.
Thanks to Ms Robertson’s tireless efforts, many female workers will retire in a better financial position.
Women in Super chair Cate Wood remembered Ms Robertson as a visionary with incredible drive who fought for all workers, especially women.
“Mavis was the exemplar of a good citizen dedicating her intellect and energies to the benefit of others and leaves a legacy of institutions, which will continue to work for the rights of women and achieving a dignified retirement for all working people,” Ms Wood said.
Ms Robertson was the founder of various industry bodies, including Women in Super and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST).
AIST chief executive Tom Garcia described Ms Robertson as a remarkable woman who never lost sight of the social policy side of superannuation and the not-for-profit ethos.
“Mavis leaves an enduring legacy in superannuation. Many of the successful initiatives that have been borne out of the not-for-profit super sector are a direct result of her vision and passion,” Mr Garcia said.
In a career that spanned more than six decades in the union movement and superannuation, Ms Robertson was fund secretary of BUSS and AUST before leading the merger of these funds to create Cbus, becoming its CEO and later its Chair.
Cbus chair Steve Bracks and CEO David Atkin have both paid tribute to Ms Robertson.
“Mavis dedicated herself to the cause of ensuring that building and construction workers had access to superannuation in their retirement,” said former Victorian premier Mr Bracks.
“She was a fierce advocate for the industry fund model of all-profits-to-members and an important mentor to many who took up the role after her.
CEO David Atkin said there would be “tens of thousands” of retired construction and building workers saddened by the news.
“Mavis’ mentorship and support to employees across the industry fund network, particularly to women, and her advocacy for industry funds and Cbus will be deeply missed.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to her family and loved ones.”
Ms Robertson was also a founding member of the Australian Council of Super Investors (ACSI).
ACSI president Gerard Noonan described Ms Robertson as a “major player” in Australia’s super system.
“She had big ideas, a big heart and an uncanny ability to carry her excellent ideas through to completion,” Mr Noonan said.
In 1994, Ms Robertson was awarded membership in the Order of Australia for her services to the superannuation industry.