Hazel Hawke

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Hazel Hawke AO
Hazel hawke.jpg
Hazel Hawke in the 1980s at The Lodge in Canberra
Born Hazel Masterson
(1929-07-20)20 July 1929
Perth, Western Australia
Died 23 May 2013(2013-05-23) (aged 83)
Hammondville, New South Wales, Australia
Cause of death
Alzheimer's disease
Nationality Australian
Known for Spouse of the 23rd
Prime Minister of Australia
Spouse(s) Bob Hawke
(m. 1956-1995, divorced)
Children Susan, Stephen, Roslyn, Robert Jr

Hazel Hawke, AO (20 July 1929 – 23 May 2013) was the first wife of Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991. They divorced in 1995. She worked in social policy areas, and was an excellent amateur pianist and a patron of the arts. After she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, she made public appearances in order to raise awareness of the disease.

Biography[edit]

Hazel Masterson was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1929. She met her future husband Bob Hawke at a church fellowship in Perth. They married on March 3, 1956. They lived in Melbourne from 1958 to 1983, including during his term as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (1969-1980). Bob spent much of his time in Canberra after his election to Parliament in 1980. After he became Prime Minister on 11 March 1983, the family lived in The Lodge in Canberra, until Hawke was replaced as Prime Minister by Paul Keating in December 1991.

During their marriage, Bob Hawke had an affair with Blanche d'Alpuget in the 1970s.[1][2] Hawke proposed to his mistress in 1978, but later withdrew the offer saying "Divorce could cost Labor three per cent."[2][3] D'Alpuget was initially so upset at Bob's decision not to leave Hazel that she considered suicide or killing him, but they reconciled and remained friends—so much so that she became his official biographer.[3] From 1980 to 1982 d'Alpuget worked closely with Hawke in preparing his 1982 biography. In 1988 Hawke and d'Alpuget resumed their affair[2][3] but he remained ostensibly committed to his wife during his prime ministership. After he left office in 1991, he and Hazel announced their separation and later divorced. Hawke and d'Alpuget married in 1995.[2][3]

Hazel had four children with Bob Hawke: Susan Pieters-Hawke (born 1957), Stephen (born 1959), Roslyn (born 1960) and Robert Jnr (born and died 1963).

Views and interests[edit]

Hawke acted as a prominent pro-choice advocate in Australia, often drawing on her personal experience of having an illegal abortion in 1952 so that her future husband Bob Hawke could further his education at the University of Oxford.

She wrote books, such as My Own Life: An Autobiography (1992)[4] and A Little Bit Of Magic: Thoughts For Women (1994).[5]

Hawke was an excellent pianist. In 1990, she was one of the three soloists in Mozart's Concerto in F for Three Pianos and Orchestra, K. 242, the others being Duncan Gifford and Rebecca Chambers. They played at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under John Hopkins. The performance was recorded and is currently available to purchase.[6][7]

She was the inaugural Patron of the Kendall National Violin Competition, and later the Patron Emeritus.[8]

Honours[edit]

In June 2001 she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. The citation read: "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".[9]

Alzheimer's disease and death[edit]

On 3 November 2003, the ABC aired an episode of Australian Story in which Hawke publicly revealed that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her family had noticed significant short-term memory loss, leading to the diagnosis in 2001. She had been reluctant to go public about the illness she called the 'Big A', but eventually did so to publicise a fund for supporting Alzheimer's sufferers that she had jointly set up with Alzheimer's Australia.

In 2004, Hazel Flynn and Hawke's daughter Susan Pieters-Hawke published a book, Hazel's Journey: A personal experience of Alzheimer's, describing the previous decade of Hawke's life and the onset of Alzheimer's. At the book launch on 1 November 2004, Pieters-Hawke revealed that her mother had reached the mid-stages of the disease and was now suffering from quite severe short-term memory loss. That year the Hazel Hawke Dementia and Care Fund was established.[10] Hawke's granddaughter Sophie Pieters-Hawke launched an education kit for schoolchildren about Alzheimers in 2007.

In August 2009, she was placed in high level care.[11] On 23 May 2013, she died from complications associated with the disease. She was 83 years old.[12] Her family had been by her side in her last days. Public tributes were paid to her by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard[13] and the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.[14] A state memorial service was held for her at the Sydney Opera House on 25 June 2013, attended by five prime ministers (Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard), the Governor-General, and a range of state leaders and other federal politicians.[15]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Tamie Fraser
Spouse of the Prime Minister of Australia
11 March 1983 – 20 December 1991
Succeeded by
Annita van Iersel