Hazel Hawke. July 3 1990Picture: Andrew De La Rue Photo: Andrew De La Rue Paying his respects: former prime minister Bob Hawke. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Shanghai night field

Fondly remembered: Hazel Hawke

Damien Murphy

Hazel Hawke lived the life of an ordinary wife and mother in a postwar Australia that became so less and less ordinary that when the country came to say good bye five prime ministers honoured her.

The changes she was forced to go through so publicly as Australian politics turned presidential made many want to protect her but she remained the constant mum, her own woman.

As her close friend, Wendy McCarthy told her State Memorial Service in the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday, Hazel Hawke took her marriage vows seriously and she cherished her family.

“She lived through the shifting landscape of being female in Australia,” McCarthy said.

When her marriage ended, friends mattered a great deal but McCarthy explained she also found independence, a second career, a great social life.

Hazel Hawke died on May 23 from Alzheimers complications.

The great and good joined hundreds of friends and ordinary men, but mainly women, to honour her memory and the Concert Hall.

The venue was special. McCarthy said her friend had become a mature age groupie and the Sydney Symphony,”her favorite band”. They played Mozart’s Concerto in F for three pianos, K242, Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers from Nutcracker; The Sydney Children’s Choir sang a traditional Torres Strait song and Waltzing Matilda.

Bob Hawke, his children Sue, Stephen and Rosslyn, sat with his grandchildren while the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, Lieutenant Governor Tom Bathurst, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Premier Barry O’Farrell, Julie Bishop (representing Opposition leader Tony Abbott), John Howard, Janette Howard and Kevin Rudd also occupied the front seats. Paul and Anita Keating were behind. Laurie Brereton was nearby.

From Hazel Hawke’s Melbourne years, came Bill Kelty, Gareth Evans, Barry Jones. The former Queensland premier Anna Bligh was there. So too was former South Australian senator Nick Bolkus.

Most mentioned her crackling laugh. Bob Hawke’s former ACTU research assistant Ralph Willis remembered her Australian accent and recalled a riddle that went around Oxford when her husband to be was on a Rhodes scholarship concerning the difference between buffalo and bison – the latter was what Hazel called abasin. Everybody laughed.

Willis also recalled entering the Hawke home in the Melbourne suburb of Sandringham with his wife Carol in 1971 when his boss had just been named Father of the Year and how Hazel had been less than impressed with the award.

Sue Peters-Hawke, her eldest daughter, said her mother had an instinctive tendency to see the best in people and situations.

“It’s said that you’re lucky if you have a compass to hand that always points true, a voice that guides you in the direction of your most profound values and towards the best of what is possible. For me, that voice was Hazel.”

Shortly before she died on May 23, Bob Hawke lay next to her and sang Danny Boy.

Tenor Bradley Daley sang it to close the celebration and as the final words “And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me” swelled through the hall Hawke’s head dropped, his right fist tightened.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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