The Hon Susan Ryan AO

Age Discrimination Commissioner
'The longevity revolution: averting the economic crisis of an ageing Australia'
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Arrive from 11.30am, lunch 12 noon, speaker 12.30 concludes 1.30pm

Registrations for this event are now closed. Please contact reception for further details.

We are in the grip of an economic and social crisis . People are living into their 80s and 90s and beyond, and most are living healthy lives. In 40 years’ time we will have 1.8 million Australians aged 85 and over. Yet public policy, business practice and community attitudes are failing to respond to these changes. At this stage the longevity revolution is fast becoming a potential crisis.

Today’s widespread rejection of workers over 50 condemns them to up to 40 years of unemployment. This could be around 25% more than the years they have spent in the workforce. It could amount to 40 years living off the public purse. Our country can’t afford this unnecessary cost. The cost can be avoided if we embrace the power of this sector of our population.

The way we address this issue today will determine the strength of our economy in the future. It will determine both the quality of our lives and whether older people are forced to become a drain on our economy.

It is the greatest challenge to economic management faced by our country in decades.

Yet, it is not inevitable that 1.8 million Australians will have to rely on public expenditure. In fact, it is a matter of choice – choice by governments, choice by employers and choice by the community.

The choices we make today will determine whether we can successfully manage to turn this longevity crisis into an enduring and productive longevity revolution.

In this address to the National Press Club, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan will examine this critical national issue, look at possible solutions and announce the actions she will be taking over the second half of her term to help address both this situation.

Susan Ryan was appointed as Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner on 30 July 2011 for a five year term. From July 2014 she has also been the Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

Up until her appointment as Commissioner, she had been Women’s Ambassador for ActionAid Australia and chaired the Australian Human Rights Group since 2008. She had also chaired the Australian Human Rights Act Campaign Inc. since 2005.

Immediately prior to commencing as Commissioner, Susan was also the Independent Chair of the IAG and NRMA Superannuation Plan and had been President of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees from 2000 to 2007, member of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors from 2001 to 2007, member of the ASX Corporate Governance Council from 2003 to 2007 and CEO of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia from 1993 to 1997.

Susan has also held a number of positions at the University of New South Wales. She was Pro-chancellor and Council member from 1998, Chair of the UNSW Risk Committee from 2002 and Chair of the Advisory Council FASS UNSW since 2010.

From 1975 to 1988, Susan was Senator for the ACT, becoming the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a federal Labor Government. She served in senior portfolios in the Hawke Government as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and Special Minister of State. As Education Minister, Susan saw school retention rates double and universities and TAFEs grow significantly without the charging of tuition fees. She also pioneered extensive anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation, including the landmark Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Affirmative Action Act 1986.

In 1990, Susan was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia for her contribution to Parliament.

She published her autobiography, Catching the Waves, in 1999 and has been a frequent media commentator on her areas of expertise.