Mini bio: Hazel Hawke

Lana Wilson / May 24, 2013 04:46 PM

Who’s Who in Australia and Who’s Who of Australian Women are today deeply saddened by the passing of Hazel Hawke.

Hael Hawke

Photos: Adelaide Now, John Curtin University, Sydney Morning Herald

Hazel Hawke was undoubtedly an Australian legend.

Born on July 29, 1929, Hazel left school early to take up a job as a book-keeper, before moving around the country to support her husband’s political quest and begin her work as a mother, community ambassador, charity supporter and backbone for her husband’s demanding political career.

Hazel rose to social recognition as the first wife of famed Australian Prime Minister, Robert ‘Bob’ Hawke. The young couple, who are believed to have met at their local church in Perth, were engaged in 1950 and married in 1956.

In 1957, Hazel gave birth to her first child, Susan, and later, in 1959, to son Stephen, followed by daughter Rosslyn in 1960.  

In March of 1983, Bob Hawke became Prime Minster and the family moved to The Lodge in Canberra, which further set her status as a role model for women across the country.

Bob’s reign of Prime Minster ended in late 1991 to new incomer Paul Keating and the couple later faced a highly publicised divorce in 1994.

Throughout her time as Bob’s wife, Hazel endured many hardships and challenges through the fame, fortune and high society life of Australian politics. She supported her husband in his determination and drive to succeed, and suffered through his alcoholism and well-charted womanising charm.

She agreed to a long engagement with Bob – six years – and later in her life spoke of an illegal abortion she had in 1952, aged just 23 years-old, in order to refrain from hindering his career prospects.

Hazel also spoke of the devastating loss of her fourth child, who died at just four days old in 1963. 

As an ambassador and supporter on a range of women’s, social welfare and indigenous issues, Hazel strived to help the less fortunate and find justice in Australian society.

Hazel worked as a volunteer with The Brotherhood of St Laurence between the years of 1978-1980, before going on to become the Secretary to the organisation’s Social Issues Department Director. She was a Member of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation Board in 1984, President of the Australiana Fund between 1984 and 1992 and later a Patron of the Kendall National Violin Competition, Chair of the New South Wales Heritage Council and Council Member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

In 2001, Hazel became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Hazel, who noted her hobbies and interests in music, gardening, reading, handiwork, golf and yoga, set up the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care Fund, to help support sufferers of the disease that impacts thousands of Australians – herself included.

After a long battle with the disease, Hazel Hawke died on Thursday, May 23, 2013, with outpourings of respect and admiration from various Australian figures and Who’s Who entrants, such as Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Former Prime Minister John Howard and the wife of John Howard’s successor, Therese Rein.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told News Limited that “ordinary Australians saw the best of themselves in Hazel”.

“We have lost a wonderful Australian,” she said.

“Bob Hawke’s public achievements…are unthinkable without Hazel’s steadfast support.”

Sources: Who’s Who, Fairfax, News Limited

You can read more on the biography of Hazel Hawke as well as thousands of other prominent Australians in Who’s Who Live. Find out more here.


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