I speak in tribute on the passing of a great Australian woman, the inspirational Hazel Hawke AO.

Born Hazel Masterson in 1929 in Perth she was the younger of 2 daughters, who grew to be dux of her school and a gifted pianist. I cannot tell Hazel’s story without mentioning Bob Hawke. They first met in 1947 at a church social and subsequently became engaged in 1950. In her 1992 autobiography, ‘My Own Life’ Hazel very bravely lays bare her courtship and marriage. Also describing the internal conflict and isolation she suffered at terminating a pregnancy in 1952. She never wavered from believing it was the only option available for her at that time. Hazel married Bob in 1956 just 3 weeks after they returned from England where Hazel had supported Bob in his studies at Oxford. Hazel highly valued traditional family life which she singlehandedly maintained despite her husband’s presidency of the ACTU and gaining the Prime Ministership in 1983, she remained a stalwart of support. I am in no doubt that Hazel was the rock behind Bob’s success. The Lodge became home for the next eight years and Hazel excelled in the role of First Lady. She said she may have been there because she was someone’s wife


but she had a strong sense of purpose and responsibility and truly put it to good use. Throughout her life Hazel never lost sight of her strong principals of social justice and continued that passion in Canberra. She campaigned on women's issues, reconciliation, education, welfare and the arts. During her Lodge years, Hazel became patron of an astonishing number of organisations - 60, and lent her name in support to hundreds more. She was actively involved in them all. Apart from all the official duties, she most enjoyed attending the grass roots community activities and was always on the lookout for ideas on how to provide people with a better quality of life. Of Hazel as Australia’s first lady, Anne Summers is quoted ‘I think she came to realise that she could use the fact that she had some clout, and people would listen to her, and she used that very wisely’. Following politics, Hazel transitioned from a wife of nearly 40 years to independent single woman with great dignity and grace. Her popularity soared. She continued to campaign for the ALP in elections, maintained her charity work and was an esteemed public speaker. She was appointed chairwoman of the NSW Heritage Council, and served on the board of the Australian Children's Television Foundation and as a patron of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

In 1999 Gough Whitlam said of Hazel, ‘She is the only person born in Western Australia to have resided in the Lodge. If she had enjoyed the opportunities for women provided by my government she might well have spoken…as the first Prime Minister born in Western Australia’. A further measure of her popularity is evidenced in her election - from the unwinnable 12th position on the Australian Republican Movement's NSW ticket - to a seat at the 1999 constitutional convention. In 2000 she instigated the Hazel Hawke Scholarship at Curtin University. This annual scholarship is for mature age women whose finances would not normally allow them to study at university. Hazel remained at the heart of the community, and for the community. She was justly recognised for this work with an AO in June 2001: ‘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. In 2006 Hazel was thrilled when the John Curtin University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Letters. When Hazel was diagnosed with what she described as the ‘Big A’, Alzheimer’s disease, instead of despairing

Hazel in her determinable way saw it as a real opportunity to change the conversation in the community about what Alzheimer’s meant and its impact on people’s lives. Courageously, Hazel went public in 2003 on Australian Story. She relished the opportunity to fight the stigma and shame associated with Alzheimer’s which she felt was completely unfounded. She co-founded The Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care Fund with Alzheimer’s Australia. Sadly, on May 23rd Hazel Hawke passed away and Australia lost a National Treasure. In tribute, Governor-General Quentin Bryce described 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,'' Ita Buttrose, Australian of the Year and president of Alzheimer's Australia, said, ''Her courage to speak openly about her dementia journey has left a lasting legacy in raising the profile of Alzheimer's disease and reducing the strong sense of isolation that thousands of Australians with dementia experience.

Her daughter Sue Pieters-Hawke wrote, she ‘was a woman of her times…who was aching for change. She eagerly grasped the imports of feminism as it appeared,

thought deeply about the quest for more equal relationships, and, rather than feeling sorry for herself, became determined and courageous in forging a new way of life’. My deepest condolences to her children Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn and her six grandchildren. Vale Hazel Hawke.