Today we say farewell to a loved figure in the Labor Party – Hazel Hawke.
Hazel will always be remembered as a constant part of the Hawke Labor Government.
Not just a strong companion to a Prime Minister but a warm, public figure prepared to argue Labor’s case with a charm that won many opponents over.
Hazel met so many Labor Party members through her years and most will remember a smile and a laugh that could fill up a room, no matter how cold the night.
Hazel always maintained her commitment to tackling disadvantage at home and abroad, starting with her profession of social work.
Never afraid to speak publicly, she took up the case against the apartheid regime in South Africa, for women’s rights, the arts, for better standards in education and children’s television, and to support Indigenous reconciliation.
As Hazel said:
“I remember quite distinctly the night of his [Bob’s] election to this job feeling considerable qualms and uneasiness because of my concern about celebrating white occupancy of Australia and being very aware of a very strong and beautiful culture, the Aboriginal culture.”
Her leading work in putting environmental protection on the agenda was important in securing a better appreciation of Australia’s unique natural environment.
But in her final years, Hazel took on one more fight – both publicly and privately –against Alzheimer’s.
She displayed her characteristic spirit and humour in raising awareness about the disease:
“Although I would obviously prefer not to have Alzheimer's, I continue to live a happy and healthy life, with the love and support of family and friends. I hope that, as a community, we can work towards this as a reality for all those similarly affected.”
She will be missed by the Labor Party and remembered by her family and friends.
You can honour her memory with a donation to Alzheimer’s Australia’s Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care Fund here.