Farewell to Hazel Hawke (AO) - Much Loved Australian Icon
Hazel Hawke and Sue Pieters-Hawke
Sad Farewell to a Much Loved Australian - Hazel Hawke
Hazel Hawke was an inspirational woman, greatly respected and admired for her tireless work supporting the rights of the downtrodden and disadvantaged. Her courage and perseverance shone like a beacon for many Australian women.
Hazel was the long-suffering wife of Bob Hawke, Australian Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991. Hazel endured personal tragedy in her marriage to Bob. She lost a child early in their 38-year marriage and stoically put up with Bob's infidelity and his drinking, supporting him in his career.
Hazel had wealth, glamour and privilege as the Prime Minister's wife but Australia knew that her life was tough. Bob Hawke is famous for his heavy drinking and womanising. Bob's affair with a younger blonde author, Blanch d'Apulget during his marriage was also no secret. After Bob lost the 1991 election, the marriage fell apart. Hazel never re-married and in her later years developed Alzhiemers Disease, ultimately forcing her to withdraw from public life.
Her passing is a melancholy moment for Australians everywhere. She was the epitome of all of the best qualities of her generation - steadfast, gutsy, generous, loyal, fierce and always willing to have a go, Hazel was the greater woman behind the great man.
A young Hazel with Bob
Hazel Hawke's Early Years
Hazel Masterson was born in 1929 in Perth Australia. Hazel's father did not believe in educating women and sadly, Hazel left school at 15, despite being the dux of her primary school.
Hazel met Bob at a church camp when she was 19 but they did not marry until she was 26. Hazel fell pregnant to Bob when she was 22 but decided to have an abortion because Bob would not have been able to finish his education as a Rhodes Scholar if he had to support a child.
On the night of Bob Hawke's election win 1983
Hazel and Bob Hawke at the Lodge 1983
Hazel Hawke 1990
Marriage to Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke
Hazel and Bob married in 1956 when hazel was 26. They had four children together, one of them, Robert Junior, died shortly after his birth in 1963.
Hazel was extremely supportive of Bob, she stood by him for 38 years despite his antics. Many have said that Bob would not have been able to achieve and keep the Prime-Ministership for so long without Hazel's loyalty. A divorced man would not have got the level of voter support in the 1980s that a married man could achieve. And of course, the Australian public had a bond with Hazel. The bond began to develop when Bob was pre-selected and Hazel became known in his electorate. When Bob made party leader it was Hazel who did all the work in Bob's electorate, appearing at openings, visiting schools and community centres and other events. Hazel's name is on many plaques in Wills and some have said that she and not Bob was really the member for Wills in those years.
Bob was often absent from family life because of the demands of his work in the union movement and in politics, leaving Hazel to raise their children and ultimately some of their grandchildren. Hazel's daughter Roslyn suffered from a drug addiction. Hazel's son Stephen refused to speak to Bob for a period of years at one point, so deep was his resentment about his father's behaviour during the marriage. Hazel's perseverance and hard work in adversity is why the nation cherished and respected her so much.
After Bob was ousted from party leadership by Paul Keating in 1991, the marriage dissolved with first a separation and then a divorce in 1995.
Hazel and Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke's Drinking and Womanising
Bob is famous for his drinking, being especially noted for his drinking prowess at Oxford, where he held a record for drinking a yard of beer in 11 seconds. Bob's drinking continued when he came back to Australia. Reports of Bob's drinking activities littler the internet to this day, some of them recent.
Bob is also a self-confessed womaniser. He admitted publicly that he was not faithful to Hazel. Bob's affair during the 70s and 80s with his current wife Blanche d'Apulget was a very badly kept secret at the time. Whan asked about Bob's womanising, Hazel said, ''of course there was hurt ... but it's gone. I always felt it was just a phase''.
Hazel and Bob divorced in 1995 after 38 years of marriage. Bob said that he "fell out of love with Hazel and in love with someone else". Bob married Blanche about 8 months after the divorce.
Hazel Hawke - Activism
Hazel Hawke 1989 - planting a tree with a schoolgirl
Hazel Hawke - Social Justice Advocate, Author, Musician and Recipient of the Order of Australia
Hazel pursued her education despite having to leave high school early. She earned a Diploma in Social Welfare. As well as her community advocacy work, Hazel held various roles in organisations including:
- NSW Heritage Council
- Australian Children's Television Foundation
- World Wide Fund for Nature
- Greening Australia
- Kendal National Violin Competition
Hazel established the Hazel Hawke Scholarship at Curtin University in 2000 and in 2006 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her contribution to the university.
Hazel was an accomplished pianist. In 1990 Hazel was invited to perform at the Sydney Opera House alongside the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. A less courageous amateur pianist would have baulked. Hazel took on this daunting challenge and appeared after only a few months of practice to a packed house. The recording is still available for purchase.
Hazel was declared a 'National Living Treasure' for her work in the social justice arena, something she always pursued regardless of Bob's career.
In 1992 Hazel wrote her autobiography "My Own Life". In 1994 she wrote "A Little Bit Of Magic: Thoughts For Women".
Hazel was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2001. The actual citation is as follows: "For service to the community, particularly through the promotion of the reconciliation process, support for continued improvement in the quality of children's television, as a contributor to the preservation of heritage items, and involvement with environmental and wildlife preservation groups."
Hazel Hawke is granted the Order of Australia - 1991
Hazel Hawke Tribute
Hazel and daughter Sue
Hazel Hawke's Battle with Alzheimer's Disease
Hazel became noticeably ill in 2001 and appeared on the TV program 'Australian Story 'in 2003, informing the public that she was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. On her 75th birthday in 2004 she said in her usual pithy way, ''It's a bugger. It's just bad luck. It's an illness which is unpredictable, and when it comes you've just got to cope with it. It's like losing your skin or something.''
Hazel's simple, courageous disclosure generated an unprecedented level of support for Australians suffering Alzheimer. Despite the limitations of her disease, Hazel became an activist promoting Alzheimers awareness in the time that she had left.
She died peacefully on 23 May 2013 with her daughters by her side. Bob also spent an hour with Hazel shortly before she died.
Just Some of the Tributes to Hazel Hawke
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said: ''She was more than a wife and mother, being father as well, during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career. I think there is general agreement that Hazel did an outstanding job as Australia's First Lady from 1983 to 1991. She was a constant support, particularly through some very difficult times."
- Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: ''We have lost a wonderful Australian. Ordinary Australians saw the best of themselves in Hazel. Many women of her generation will feel they have lost a friend."
- Governor-General Quentin Bryce led the tributes to Hazel Hawke, describing her as one of the most admired Australians in public life. ''She was gutsy, compassionate, and had a fierce intelligence and a wonderful sense of humour".
- Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said: ''Hazel Hawke was widely respected and admired in our community. She was much loved for her courage in facing up to and raising awareness of Alzheimer's disease."
- Susan Pieters-Hawke, Bob and Hazel's daughter, says if people wanted to do something practical to honour her mother, they could donate to Alzheimer's research.
Former ACTU secretary Bill Kelty praised Hazel Hawke as a woman of substance and a great mother saying she was a wonderful person, "She was a great support to Bob Hawke in his days as ACTU president and Prime Minister. I think she was the Eleanor Roosevelt equivalent in Australian politics. She gave support to Bob, but she was a person in her own right, campaigning and believing in issues in her own right -- opposition to apartheid, education, support for women and opposition to French nuclear testing."
Tribute to Hazel Hawke
- Hazel Hawke Dies, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 23 May 2013:http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2013/s3766289.htm
- Hazel Hawke, a forceful presence in our national life, Canberra Times, 23 May 2013:http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/hazel-hawke-a-forceful-presence-in-our-national-life-20130524-2k70e.html
- Tributes for 'wonderful' Hazel Hawke, news.com.au, 24 May 2013:http://www.news.com.au/national-news/tributes-for-wonderful-australian-hazel-hawke/story-fncynjr2-1226649462337
- Hazel Hawke more than just a wife and mother says former PM Bob Hawke, ABC News, 24 May 2013: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-24/bob-hawke-pays-tribute-to-hazel-hawke/4711014
- Nation remembers Hazel Hawke, a first lady of substance and style, The Australian, 24 May 2013:http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/nation-remembers-hazel-hawke-a-first-lady-of-substance-and-style/story-fn59niix-1226649572668
- John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library: http://john.curtin.edu.au/pmportal/hhawke.html
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