The former first lady of Australian politics, Hazel Hawke has died at age 83.
She was disagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2001 and has been in a high level care facility since 2009, when her family reluctantly decided they could no longer care for her at home.
Hazel was formerly the wife of Australian Prime Minister and Labor Leader Bob Hawke (who led the Government from 1983 – 1991) and was a popular figure with many Australians, particularly women.
Hazel had four children while married to Bob Hawke; Susan, Stephen, Roslyn and Robert Jr. She was the author of several books including My Own Life: An Autobiography, published in 1992, a year after she and her husband left the Lodge and chose to separate.
Hazel was a member of the Order of Australia and a strong believer in a woman’s right to control her own body, having spoken publicly about accessing an (at that time illegal) abortion in 1952.
She was a social policy activist who committed herself to many causes, particularly Indigenous reconciliation and wildlife preservation.
Hazel and her immediate family went public with the details of her Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. This prompted a book, which was co-written by her daughter Susan and also saw the establishment of the Hazel Hawke Dementia and Care Fund.
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life….At present there is no prevention or cure for most forms of dementia. However, some medications have been found to reduce some symptoms. Support is vital for people with dementia and the help of families, friends and carers can make a positive difference to managing the condition.
In a statement released this evening by her daughter Susan, it was confirmed that Hazel passed away due to complications resulting from her ongoing battle with dementia. Susan Pieters-Hawke said that:
”The family appreciates the great affection many have for Hazel, but ask for privacy at this stage. There will be a private funeral for family and close friends. A memorial celebration of her life will be held later at a time and place to be advised.”
You can make a donation to Alzheimer’s Australia here.
Vale Hazel Hawke, a great Australian woman.