Former first lady Hazel Hawke has died aged 83.
The former wife of Bob Hawke, Labor’s longest serving prime minister, died peacefully surrounded by family and friends following a long battle with dementia.
”The family appreciates the great affection many have for Hazel, but ask for privacy at this stage,” her daughter Sue Pieters-Hawke said in a statement.
“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.”
Hazel is being remembered as a “courageous” and “gutsy” woman.
“Bob Hawke’s public achievements in the union movement and in government are unthinkable without Hazel’s steadfast support,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
“After her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, Hazel’s life of service to Australia continued in ever more trying circumstances.”
Governor-General Quentin Bryce said Mrs Hawke was one of the most admired Australians in public life.
“She was gutsy, compassionate, and had a fierce intelligence and a wonderful sense of humour,” Ms Bryce said in a statement.
“My most special memory of her is of the time at the Opera House when she played the piano exquisitely.”’
Hazel, who was married to Bob for 38 years, became the public face of an Alzheimer’s campaign to raise awareness about the disease, after revealing she suffered from it.
Bob and Hazel divorced in 1994 and he went on to marry biographer Blanche D’Alpuget the following year.
Hazel spent her final years living a high-care nursing home.