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hazel hawke dies aged 83

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Hazel Hawke has died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, aged 83. While Hawke is predominately associated with her former husband Bob Hawke (longest serving Prime Minister of Australia) she is also being remembered as an advocate for Alzheimer’s and the pro-choice movement, and for her patronage of the arts. The Hazel Hawke Research and Care Fund invests in research to improve the quality of dementia care.

Her legacy was cemented in 2001 when she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2001 for: ‘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 environment and wildlife preservation groups.’

Hawke was born in 1929. She left school at 14, and married Mr Hawke in 1956. She had an illegal abortion at 22 in order to sustain Bob’s education and political career. The couple were married for nearly 40 years, and had four children: Susan, Stephen, Rosslyn, and Robert (deceased).

Tributes have flowed from all along the political spectrum as news of her passing broke. Mr Hawke remembered Hazel with ‘deep affection and gratitude’.

‘She was more than a wife and mother, being father as well, during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career,’ the former prime minister said.

‘I think there is general agreement that Hazel did an outstanding job as Australia’s First Lady from 1983 – 1991. She was a constant support, particularly through some very difficult times.

‘Our three children, Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn, adored their mother as did our six grandchildren, and my thoughts are very much with them at this time.’

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said ‘Hazel was one of those rare people who are liked and respected in equal measure.  Her warmth and generosity of spirit in success were only matched by her courage and dignity in adversity.’

‘Bob Hawke’s public achievements in the union movement and in Government are unthinkable without Hazel’s steadfast support.’

Former Prime Minister John Howard said that he remembered Hawke as a ‘gracious lady’.

‘She bravely fought against an illness that sadly affects too many older people. I extend my sympathies to her children’.

Hawke’s daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke, stated that her mother always brought out the best in others. She thanked the public for their sympathy and asked mourners to honour her memory by donating to Alzheimer’s research.

‘I think one of the defining things about Mum was that she appealed to our better selves,’ she said.

‘Maybe the biggest mark of respect we can pay a person is to honour that in who we strive to be ourselves,’ she said.

The Hawke family will hold a private funeral for family and close friends. A public celebration of her legacy will be held at a later time.

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