State funeral to farewell Labor giant Ryan

AAP
A state funeral is being held for pioneering Labor senator and women's rights champion Susan Ryan.
Camera IconA state funeral is being held for pioneering Labor senator and women's rights champion Susan Ryan.

Pioneering Labor senator and women's rights champion Susan Ryan will be farewelled at a state funeral in Sydney on Friday.

Ms Ryan fell ill after going for a swim in September and died at the Prince of Wales Hospital, aged 77.

She served in the Hawke government and was responsible for landmark sex discrimination and affirmative action laws.

The Sydney-born women's rights trailblazer was also the first female Labor government cabinet minister.

When Bob Hawke took power in 1983, Ms Ryan was installed as education minister and minister assisting the PM for the status of women.

She was an integral part of the creation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and Affirmative Action Act 1986.

Though those pieces of legislation, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said she "changed Australia for the better".

"Before then women could be sacked simply for falling pregnant," he told reporters after Ms Ryan's death.

Labor ministry colleague Paul Keating said her "great achievement" was to set in motion lifting Year 12 retention rates from three in ten in 1983 to nine in ten by 1996.

"This revolutionised education in Australia, most particularly for girls," the former prime minister said.

She stayed in parliament for 12 years before quitting in 1987 after being demoted.

Ms Ryan worked in several academic and industry roles and was briefly chair of Australia's republican movement after the failed 1999 referendum.

She was then called upon to advise the Rudd and Gillard governments, with Australia's first female prime minister Julia Gillard in September saying the nation had lost a "feminist hero and Labor giant".

Later in life, Ms Ryan returned to fighting for the powerless as Australia's inaugural age discrimination commissioner and then disability discrimination commissioner.

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