24 May 2013

Death of Hazel Hawke

7:17 am on 24 May 2013

Hazel Hawke, the ex-wife of former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, died on Thursday from complications of dementia.

Mrs Hawke, 83, was a passionate campaigner for women's rights. After her diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease in the early 2000s, used her profile to raise dementia awareness.

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

Mr Hawke was prime minister from 1983 to 1991, until he lost a leadership ballot to Paul Keating.

However, the ABC reports 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.

"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.

She revealed had Alzheimer's disease in 2003 on Australian Story on ABC TV.

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

"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."

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