Vale Bob Hawke

17 May 2019
Chancellor of the University of Sydney Belinda Hutchinson AM and Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence AC today honoured former Prime Minister Bob Hawke AC who passed away on Thursday 16 May 2019.

Mr Hawke received a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Sydney in 2016 for his leadership on economic reforms, environmental protection and the introduction of initiatives such as Medicare, the Family Assistance Scheme and the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

“Mr Hawke was a much loved and revered Australian leader and his passing is a huge loss. I know there are many people in our University who feel that loss deeply. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time,” the Chancellor said.

“I was so pleased we had the chance to recognise his many achievements with an honorary degree in 2016. His contribution to Australian life has been exceptional.”

Mr Hawke’s bold and visionary leadership has inspired countless young Australians.
Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence

Vice-Chancellor Dr Spence said Mr Hawke was the first Australian Prime Minister to appoint an Indigenous Australian as head of a Commonwealth department. That was the University’s alumnus Charles Perkins who became Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

“Mr Hawke’s bold and visionary leadership has inspired countless young Australians and his record is as relevant now as it was then,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

Mr Hawke was elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor MP for Wills in 1980. In 1983, he was sworn in as Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister. He led his party to victory again in 1984, 1987 and 1990, making him the most electorally successful Labor leader in history. He remains Labor's longest-serving Prime Minister.

The Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, former PM Bob Hawke and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence.

The Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, former PM Bob Hawke and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence.


Significant economic reforms undertaken during his leadership included the float of the Australian dollar, the deregulation of the financial sector and the dismantling of the tariff system.

Not all these reforms were welcome across the community, but Mr Hawke’s commitment to consensus politics meant that often difficult reforms were clearly understood – if not universally accepted – by the Australian people.

The Hawke Government also had a strong emphasis on protecting the environment and in 1983 used its powers in the High Court to prevent the Tasmanian government from building the Gordon‑below‑Franklin dam in Tasmania. His government was also successful in securing world heritage listing for Tasmania’s forests, the North Queensland rainforests and Kakadu National Park.  In 1985, the Hawke Government officially returned ownership of Uluru to the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people.

Antarctica was given protection from mining exploration and exploitation, (until 2048 under the Madrid Protocol), due to Mr Hawke’s personal intervention and commitment.

Other legacies of the Hawke Government include improved financial assistance to low-income families and the integration of employment, education and training.

Featured image: Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, The Hon Bob Hawke AC, Blanche d'Alpuget, and University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence at a ceremony following the awarding of Mr Hawke's honorary degree in 2016

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