Companion of the Order of Australia (1979)

11 March 1983 — 20 December 1991 8 years, 286 days

Bob Hawke became Australia's 23rd prime minister when the Labor Party won office, replacing the Liberal-National Party Coalition government led by Malcolm Fraser. 


9 December 1929
Bordertown, South Australia


16 May 2019
Sydney, New South Wales


Hazel Hawke
Blanche d'Alpuget


Australian Labor Party

Photo: Ross Duncan/Newspix

11 March 1983 — 20 December 1991 8 years, 286 days


Bob Hawke was an optimistic prime minister, driven by the certainty that he could negotiate solutions to intractable problems and communicate with people from all walks of life. He was also a pragmatist, generally willing to allow his ministers a 'light rein' and to change course as circumstances required.  

Bob Hawke sits on a carton surrounded by cartons.

Photo: Alan Pryke/Newspix

Hawke was a Rhodes Scholar in 1953 and graduated from Oxford University in 1956. He became well known as an advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and, from the late 1950s, presented the annual cases for higher wages to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

Bob Hawke was the ACTU President for a decade from 1970-1980, and President of the Labor Party from 1973-1978. In 1980 he was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Wills in Melbourne and in an unusual step, consistent with his background and public profile, was immediately appointed Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Employment and Youth.

He became leader of his party on the day a general election was called in March 1983 and won a landslide victory in that poll, the first of four election wins. He was Australia’s longest-serving Labor prime minister but, while his party was still in government, lost the leadership in December 1991. He resigned from Parliament two months later in February 1992. 


360° VIEW


The Hawke Government set out to change Australia, having learnt from the successes and failures of past governments. Critical to this was the early decision to harness the full capacity of the public service, rather than holding it at arm's length from policy development.

Legislative and other successes included Medicare, Landcare, the Prices and Incomes Accord, the Family Assistance Scheme, the initiation of superannuation schemes for all workers, the formation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) with 21 Pacific Rim Members, the deregulation of the financial sector, and the announcement that Advance Australia Fair would be the National Anthem.

Across the Hawke governments Indigenous affairs received considerable attention, as did the environment, while higher education was transformed and equal opportunity acquired a national emphasis, including through legislation against gender discrimination in workplaces.  

Bob Hawke sits in an armchair laughing with three men in uniform. He is wearing a suit jacket covered in the words 'Australia'.

Photo: News Ltd/Newspix

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