Hazel Hawke sucumbs

Posted by gosfordpip on May 23, 2013 at 6:45 AM


Hazel Hawke, the ex-wife of former prime minister Bob Hawke, died today after complications of dementia at the age of 83.


She was a passionate campaigner for women's rights, and after her diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease in the early 2000s, used her profile to raise dementia awareness.


Hazel Hawke, nee Masterson




Born in Perth in 1929.

Married Bob Hawke aged 26 in 1956.

Bob Hawke served as PM from 1983 to 1991.

After almost 40 years, the couple divorced in 1995.

Revealed she had Alzheimer's disease in 2003.

Established the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer's Research and Care Fund.

Died May 23, 2013.

She is survived by three children and six grandchildren.

Born in Perth in 1929, Hazel Masterson married a young, ambitious Bob Hawke in 1956 at the age of 26.


The couple had four children, although one died in infancy.


When her husband was elected prime minister in 1983 their family life changed forever.


They called The Lodge home for the next eight years and Hazel Hawke embraced the role of first lady.


A talented pianist, she campaigned on abortion, reconciliation, drug education, welfare and the arts.


Hazel Hawke's role as Australia's first lady was over in 1991 after Mr Hawke lost a leadership ballot to Paul Keating.


However, she continued her role in public life, campaigning on issues such as women's rights to abortion.


She spoke from experience, having had an abortion so her future husband could pursue a Rhodes scholarship in the UK.


"I didn't feel it was wrong. I felt it was in the circumstances ... it was the only rational, logical thing to do," she said when asked about it years later.


After almost 40 years together the pair divorced in 1995.


In 2003, she again put her life in the spotlight, appearing on the ABC's Australian Story to reveal she had Alzheimer's disease.


"I wouldn't have chosen to have Alzheimer's, but it's ... I like my life," she told the program.


"The only thing I would name as [a] loss is that I've lost my driver's licence, and that's just obligatory as soon as the big 'A' is mentioned.


"Even though I felt it was a bit ... it was a bit rough because I'm a competent driver. But even that doesn't bother me now."


Hazel Hawke established a research fund but as her condition worsened she slowly retreated from public life.


Hazel Hawke's dementia advocacy to leave 'lasting legacy'


Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose, the president of Alzheimer's Australia, said many Australians will feel a sense of personal loss from Hazel Hawke's passing.


"Hazel Hawke's life was a life to celebrate and one devoted to many causes and especially those Australians who suffered disadvantage," she said.


"Hazel embodied a sense of fairness and concern for other Australians. She was the first and only well-known Australian to speak publicly about her life with Alzheimer's disease.


"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.


Ordinary Australians saw the best of themselves in Hazel – many women of her generation will feel they have lost a friend

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

"It took remarkable courage to make public appearances after her diagnosis in order to raise awareness of the disease and tackle stigma head on.


"Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to Hazel's children: Sue, Stephen and Roslyn and their respective families."


Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement that she is sad to learn of Hazel Hawke's passing.


"Ordinary Australians saw the best of themselves in Hazel – many women of her generation will feel they have lost a friend," she 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."

Glenn Rees, chief executive of Alzheimer's Australia, said Hazel Hawke's revelation about her Alzheimer's on Australian Story left an indelible mark.


"She made a great and personal commitment to dementia research and particularly to improving the quality of dementia care through the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer's Research and Care Fund," he said.


Her daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke, told Australian Story in 2003 that Alzheimer's affects the whole family.


"I suppose it's just coming to terms with the grief and the impact of it, and then getting on with it and making sure that mum has a happy life and that we support her to do that," she said.


"And yes, sometimes that's hard, but in another sense it is a pleasure to do that and to participate with the rest of my family in doing that."


Hazel Hawke's family said in a statement that they appreciate the public's affection, but have asked for privacy.


They say there will be a private funeral for family and friends, with a public memorial to be held at a later date.

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