Neal Blewett

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The Honourable
Neal Blewett
Neal Blewett.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Bonython
In office
10 December 1977 – 11 February 1994
Preceded by Martin Nicholls
Succeeded by Martyn Evans
Personal details
Born (1933-10-24) 24 October 1933 (age 84)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Jill Blewett (m.1962-d.1988)
Domestic partner Robert Brain (1989-present)
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Jesus College, Oxford
Occupation Academic

Neal Blewett, AC (born 24 October 1933), Australian politician, was an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives representing the Division of Bonython, South Australia from 1977 to 1994.

Education and academic career[edit]

Born in Launceston, Tasmania, Blewett was educated at Launceston High School and the University of Tasmania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours and a Diploma of Education. Blewett received a Rhodes Scholarship and studied PPE at Jesus College, Oxford between 1957 and 1959 for a further BA (later converted to a Master of Arts).[1] He also obtained a DPhil in political science. In 1974, he was appointed professor of politics at Flinders University in South Australia, until 1977 when he ran for parliament. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Tasmania in 1998.

Political career[edit]

When Labor under Bob Hawke won government in the 1983 election, Blewett was made Minister for Health. In 1987, with the introduction of "super-departments", he gained additional responsibilities as Minister for Community Services and Health. As Health Minister, he oversaw many important reforms such as the implementation of the Medicare universal health scheme, the Disability Services Act 1986, a 'Drug Offensive' which included tobacco smoking and alcohol, and a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. The strategy included a major education and advertising campaign (including the famous 'Grim Reaper' advertisements[2]), and anti-discrimination legislation against HIV/AIDS sufferers.[3]

In 1990, he became Minister for Trade and Overseas Development. Blewett supported Paul Keating in his successful 1991 leadership challenge against Hawke, and when Keating became Prime Minister, Blewett became Minister for Social Security until he resigned from politics in 1994, sparking a Bonython by-election.[4]

Post-political career[edit]

In 1994, Neal Blewett was appointed Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, as which he served until 1998. At the same time, he was on the Executive Council of the World Health Organization.

Returning to Australia in 1998, he became President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and a visiting professor of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney. In 2002, he was appointed as President of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia.

In 1999, he published A Cabinet Diary: A Personal Record of the First Keating Government 1991–93, his memoirs which detailed his time on the frontbench of the Keating government.


Neal Blewett has received honorary degrees from the University of Tasmania, the University of Hull and the Australian National University. He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College Oxford in 1998.[1]

In 1995, he was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to Australian society.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Neal Blewett was married for 26 years to Jill Blewett, a renowned Australian playwright, with whom he had two children. Jill died when she was accidentally electrocuted in their home in October 1988.[5]

Blewett revealed he was homosexual in a May 2000 issue of The Age's Good Weekend magazine, which profiled his relationship with long-term partner Robert Brain, whom he had met as a university student 50 years previously. The couple live in Leura in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.[6] Brain and Blewett moved in together in 1989, after which Blewett successfully sued a radio station and two doctors for claiming that he was imposing wrong AIDS policy because he was gay and because the gay community would not support a more appropriate policy. The defence argued that calling someone gay was not defamatory, but that was not the substance of the defamatory claim and it was rejected.[7]


  • Blewett, Neal (1999). A Cabinet Diary: A Personal Record of the First Keating Government 1991–93. Adelaide: Wakefield Press. ISBN 1-86254-464-6. 


  1. ^ a b Fellows' News, Jesus College Record (1998/9) (p.12)
  2. ^ AIDS Pioneer Regrets "Grim Reaper" Demonization of Gay Men, The Body, 3 October 2002.
  3. ^ a b Neal Blewett: Citation for an Honorary Degree, Australian National University.
  4. ^ Stinging words for cabinet colleagues in Blewett diaries, The 7.30 Report (ABC TV), 27 August 1999.
  5. ^ Former Cabinet Minister Comes Out,, 31 May 2000.[dead link]
  6. ^ David Mills: "Quiet outings", Sydney Star Observer, 10 April 2003. Retrieved on 18 April 2012.
  7. ^ Crikey. Retrieved 2 May 2016
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Martin Nicholls
Member for Bonython
Succeeded by
Martyn Evans
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Carlton
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Brian Howe
Preceded by
Chris Hurford
Minister for Community Services and Health
Preceded by
Michael Duffy
Minister for Trade and Overseas Development
Succeeded by
John Kerin
Preceded by
Graham Richardson
Minister for Social Security
Succeeded by
Peter Baldwin
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Richard Smith
Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Philip Flood