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Mavis Robertson AM

Mavis was tireless in her efforts to improve the financial, social and political situation of women in Australia. 

Inducted:
2001
Category:
Honour Roll

In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mavis Robertson was named as one of 50 'Great Australians' by the Australian Human Rights Commission for her contribution to the protection of human rights and services to humanity. Mavis attended Kew Primary School, Tintern CEGGS, and then the University of Melbourne.

She then worked for the Eureka Youth League and later edited Left Review. She worked in the Peace Movement, Anti Vietnam War Movement, while being simultaneously involved in the Women's Liberation Movement.

Mavis was the National Spokesperson of Women in Super (WIS), the national network of women who work in the industry and lobby for appropriate pension provisions to the casual and part-time workforce who are mostly women. This network assists women to understand the retirement income system in Australia.

Under Mavis' guidance the Annual Mothers Day Classic Walk/Run was held in Sydney and Melbourne to raise awareness of breast cancer and raise money for research into the causes and treatments of breast cancer. In just three years of fund raising, WIS raised a quarter of a million dollars for breast cancer research. As a direct result of her commitment to breast cancer research, she was appointed as a Trustee of the National Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Mavis also established with others the Jessie Street Trust in honour of a pioneering anti-war feminist. This Trust provides seeding grants to women and groups working for the concerns of Jessie Street's life - equality, peace and the rights of Aboriginal people. In recognition of her commitment to world peace, Mavis was elected in the 1980s to the post of Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau, an early Nobel Peace Prize winner. She is the first Australian so honoured by this organisation.

Her compassion extended beyond wars involving Australia. Mavis raised money to support Chilean refugees fleeing from the coup against Chile's Allende Government in 1973, in particular through cultural tours of Chilean artists in exile, such as the now world renowned Inti Illimani.

Mavis became involved in the Superannuation (Pensions) Movement in 1984 when Australian building and construction unions made a claim for superannuation, a benefit which then did not exist in this highly mobile, casual industry. This was the beginning of compulsory superannuation in Australia. She became one of the architects of industry superannuation which now delivers benefits to more than half of Australia's paid workforce, including most women.

In 1990, she initiated the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds (CMSF) which held its first conference in 1991. Today CMSF is the conference of choice for fund trustees of corporate, public sector and industry funds. Held annually in March it is a forum where government, industry regulators and community bodies seek to speak to Trustees and dialogue with them to find solutions to problems. Mavis was the Executive Chair of CMSF.

Mavis was the first woman CEO of a national industry superannuation fund and the first Chair of an eligible rollover fund. In 1991, Mavis became CEO of the then several funds of the Construction Industry and led the work to merge these funds into one in 1994. She remains a Director of C+BUS. Today C+BUS (Construction and Building Superannuation) provides benefits for over 300,000 members Australia wide through more than 20,000 participating employers. C+BUS has more than $3 billion of funds under management.

Mavis was a Foundation Director of Industry Fund Services (IFS) which initiated a range of new investment vehicles for superannuation fund members and employers including Super Members Home Loans, Super Business Loans, Industry Funds Property Trust and Development Australia Fund. She was honoured as the first woman in Australia to head up a major national Industry Superannuation Fund, C+BUS, and the first woman in Australia to chair the Australian Preservation Fund (APF), the largest eligible rollover fund in Australia. Mavis spent her life working for wage justice for men and equal pay for women in the trade union movement and in the superannuation industry.

She worked internationally for peace and been nationally recognised by the award of an AM. She assisted in the development of women's refuges in Sydney for women escaping domestic violence, and in the establishment of women's health centres. Mavis saw women denied access to home loans, business loans and other financial services without a male co-signatory. She saw the need to ensure that women have access to financial services in their own right, and for women to be financially independent, both at paid work and during their retirement years.

Prior to the work undertaken by Mavis, the majority of Australian working women had no access to superannuation or retirement pensions. She continued to work to ensure women understood retirement income policy. She regularly spoke to international meetings and conferences on the Australian Retirement Incomes Policy. She was a member of the Washington-based Center for Working Capital.

Reviewed 26 May 2022

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