People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Hazel Hawke (1929–2013)

Hazel Hawke has been remembered by dignitaries, friends and members of the public during a music-filled, emotional state memorial at the Sydney Opera House.

The ex-wife of former prime minister Bob Hawke died last month aged 83 from Alzheimer's complications.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard attended the memorial alongside more than 1,600 other people, including Governor-General Quentin Bryce and former prime ministers John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Mr Hawke.

The audience was treated to music that Ms Hawke loved by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, affectionately referred to as her "band".

There were no shortage of speakers and almost all of them spoke of her desire to help the common person, her strength, and her unique and infectious laugh.

Wendy McCarthy, one of Ms Hawke's closest friends, said she would have been bemused and delighted to see so many gathered together at her favourite place.

"Modestly, she'd wonder whether she deserved it and equally, she would be humbled by the outpouring of love, affection and admiration expressed by so many Australians in the last month," Ms McCarthy said.

She also reflected on how Ms Hawke became one of the most important women in Australian politics.

"Hazel had a special relationship with the Australian people," she said.

"They felt they knew her, that somehow she would understand their stories and concerns, that she was one of them, that they shared a common narrative about being Australian and about the things that mattered - love, marriage, children, community, social justice and fairness - and always hoping to leave the world a better place for the next generation."

Close Hawke family friend and political colleague, Ralph Willis, said Ms Hawke was "tremendously supportive" of her former husband's career in politics.

"She believed in his cause and what he was fighting for and was prepared to do all she could to help him succeed," Mr Willis said.

"She did, however, have her own views on issues of the day and wasn't backward in arguing for them."

Ms Hawke's elder daughter and carer for many years, Sue Peters-Hawke, said her mother had an instinctive tendency to see the best in people and situations.

"So many of you have said so many wonderful things about her that in a way there's not much to add," Ms Peters-Hawke said.

"And yet in addition to all you've said, she was also the most wonderful mum and I want to try and talk about how special it was to have her in our lives.

"It's said that you're lucky if you have a compass to hand that always points true, a voice that guides you in the direction of your most profound values and towards the best of what is possible. For me, that voice was Hazel."

'Fiercely determined to make a difference'

Ms Hawke was diagnosed with dementia in 2003 and used her profile to raise awareness of the disease.

"[Despite] retiring from public life 10 years ago, she was still fiercely determined to make what difference she could to the impacts of dementia in people's lives," Ms Peters-Hawke said.

"She had this mantra, 'we've got to fight stigma and raise money through research, we've got to beat this bloody thing'. I heard it many a time.

"She would fix me with that look and say, 'I won't be able to for much longer but you lot can'.

"She knew that we couldn't beat it for her and she would have to live with its effects but her fear of what lay ahead for herself simply heightened her determination that it should be different for others in future."

Emotions ran high as her grandson David Dylan closed the memorial.

"Her loyalty ferocious, her courage defiant, she knew how to love and she loved like a tyrant," he said.

"Hazel was selfless and lived for the moment. She cared for us all and she had no opponent."

Mr and Ms Hawke divorced in 1995 after almost 40 years of marriage.

Following her death, the former prime minister paid tribute to her.

"She was more than a wife and mother, being father as well, during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career," Mr Hawke said in a statement.

"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.

Original Publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Hawke, Hazel (1929–2013)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Masterson, Hazel

20 July, 1929
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


23 May, 2013 (aged 83)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Events
Key Organisations