Labor luminary and pioneering feminist Susan Ryan has died age 77.
Ms Ryan served in the Hawke government and was responsible for landmark sex discrimination and affirmative action laws.
After being elected to one of two newly created ACT senate seats in 1975, she became the first female minister of a federal Labor government.
Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard led online tributes, saying the nation had lost a “feminist hero and Labor giant”.
“Every Australian’s life has been improved by her leadership on gender equality,” she tweeted.
“She blazed the trail for Labor women, including me. I honour a woman of courage and true believer.”
I am shocked and saddened that we have lost feminist hero and Labor giant, Susan Ryan. Every Australian’s life has been improved by her leadership on gender equality. She blazed the trail for Labor women, including me. I honour a woman of courage and true believer.
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) September 27, 2020
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay echoed those words: “Her legacy lives in every Labor woman who seeks to make a difference.”
Ms Ryan was elevated to the frontbench after Labor’s 1977 election loss and in 1979 women’s affairs was added to her responsibilities.
She introduced a private member’s bill to ban discriminatory acts based on gender or marital status in 1981 then became education minister and minister assisting the PM on the status of women when Bob Hawke came to power in 1983.
Her sex discrimination bill passed later that year.
She stayed in parliament for 12 years before quitting after being demoted in 1987.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said her accomplishments went beyond a series of “historic firsts”.
Vale Susan Ryan. Trailblazing Labor Senator, Cabinet Minister & anti-discrimination campaigner. A worthy candidate for a state funeral. pic.twitter.com/srLEZGMsOe
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) September 27, 2020
“In a life dedicated to women’s rights and equality, Susan achieved something even bigger – that while she was the first, she would never be the last,” he tweeted.
His predecessor Bill Shorten suggested Ms Ryan was a “worthy candidate” for a state funeral.
Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull remembered the Labor legend as a “champion for justice all her life”.
Ms Ryan remained in public life, with appointments as Australia’s inaugural age discrimination commissioner and later disability discrimination commissioner.