Archives and Special Collections: Bob Hawke

Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library

Hon RJL Hawke AC Prime Minister of Australia, oil on canvas, Adelaide 2000.

The Bob Hawke Collection commemorates the achievements and legacy of the Hon Robert (Bob) James Lee Hawke (1929-2019), Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister and longest serving Labor Prime Minister.

The Collection documents Mr Hawke's career, from ACTU Research Officer and ACTU President to his election as the Member for Wills, and his career and business interests following his resignation from Parliament. Some personal papers are included. While the Collection does include some materials that date from Mr Hawke's terms as Prime Minister of Australia, most records relating to that period of his career can be found at the National Archives of Australia.

The Collection includes correspondence, papers, speeches, photographs, campaign material, books, audio visual material, gifts and memorabilia.


The Collection can be explored through searching the Special Collections Catalogue or browsing Collection Discovery. Digital copies of some items may be available from the Catalogue.

The Collection is housed in the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library at the University of South Australia City West Campus. Archival material is not available for loan with access by appointment only. To arrange an appointment contact Ask the Library .

Image above: Robert Hannaford. Hon RJL Hawke AC Prime Minister of Australia, oil on canvas, Adelaide 2000. 

A journey through the archive

The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library (BHPML), as part of the University of South Australia Library and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre presented a public talk and exhibition as part of the 2019 South Australia History Festival. The talk can be viewed in full in the video above.

Online exhibition - Bob Hawke: a pictorial history

Bob Hawke a pictorial history

From the archive

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL delivering a passionate speech.

Extract from Birth Entry, Robert James Lee Hawke, December 9th 1929.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL planing a tree in Wentworth, NSW on March 12th 1989.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with Mr Len Keogh, Member for Bowman, during the ALP Election Campaign 1984.

The Hon Julia Gillard AC with The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL, 2017 Annual Hawke Lecture, presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, Photographer: Tony Lewis

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with the Hon Gough Whitlam AC QC at the official opening of the Hawke Building, 2007.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with Mr Len Keogh, Member for Bowman, alongside a collection of children's drawings given to Bob Hawke.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with Nelson Mandela, October 1990.

Premier of South Australia, John Bannon, recieves a cheque from The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with American President Ronald Regan at the White House in 1985.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL addressing a crowd after leading the Labour Day procession in Adelaide on October 11th 1980.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL seated on a replica of his beloved motorcycle.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL speaking at the official opening of the Hawke Building, 2007.

A 1999 Christmas card from Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip to The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL.

'Hawke Soars' The Bulletin, March 15th 1983 with election campaign memorabilia.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with Mr Bill Neidjie & friend, traditional custodians of the Kakadu area.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL playing cricket during a visit to the electorate of Burke.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL playing tennis at The Lodge in 1986 alongside Australian sporting memorabilia.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL Bob Hawke pictured with Dr. Kevin Threlfall, Geelong FC President.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL & wife Hazel pictured with American President George Bush & First Lady Barbara Bush.

The Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL pictured with Premier John Cain at the Australia Games announcement.

Explore the Bob Hawke Collection

The Bob Hawke Collection has over a thousand digitized transcripts of speeches given by the Hon Bob Hawke across his career - before, during and after his time in Government. Most were given in his capacity as Prime Minister covering Hawke government activities and achievements as well as commemorating significant events occurring during his time in office.

Notable speeches in the Collection include:

So as our Bicentenary now comes to a close, I give you, our young people, this challenge : look into our past and see what we have done well and what we have done less well; look at our present and see what is good and what needs to be changed; then look to the future and ask yourself what contribution you can make to building an even better Australia.

R.J.L. Hawke's correspondence files document a period of Australian history that saw significant changes to the economy, social welfare, industrial relations, international relations and community values and provides insight into the impact that Mr Hawke had on Australian society. The content of correspondence will depend upon whether he was focusing on his union, political, business, media, charity, or scholarly careers.

Correspondence can also be found in subject files series and series relating to particular subjects. If you are looking for correspondence relating to a specific subject, it is recommended that you also review box lists for subject files series, series specific to relevant subjects, and miscellaneous files series. See the Special Collections Catalogue for more.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President September 1969 – September 1980

After working as ACTU Research Officer and Advocate since 1957, R.J.L. Hawke was elected President of the ACTU at the 1969 ACTU Congress and was President until September 1980.
Correspondence created while Mr Hawke was ACTU President includes:

RH57 Correspondence received - R.J.L. Hawke, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) 1969 - 1980
RH58 Correspondence and other papers with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Labour Office (ILO), and international unions - R.J.L. Hawke, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) 1970 - 1980
RH75** Letters received after significant career events - R.J.L. Hawke 1978 - 1982
RH1 ITU business & correspondence
(previously M2249)
1970 - 1980
RH13 ACTU correspondence
(previously M2265)
1970 - 1980

Member for Wills, pre-Prime Minister, October 1980 – March 1983

R.J.L. Hawke announced his intention to enter politics and campaigned for the Australian Labor Party in the 1980 Federal election. On 18 October 1980 Mr Hawke was elected to the House of Representatives as the Member for Wills in Victoria. After the resignation of Bill Hayden, on 8 February 1983 Mr Hawke was elected Leader of the Opposition.
Correspondence created while Mr Hawke was Member for Wills but before he became Prime Minister includes:

RH73 Personal correspondence received, arranged chronologically – Member for Wills 1980 - 1983
RH74 Personal correspondence received, arranged by subject – Member for Wills 1980 - 1982
RH75** Letters received after significant career events - R.J.L. Hawke 1978 - 1982
RH116 Australian Labor Party (ALP) correspondence received, arranged chronologically - Member for Wills 1981 - 1982

Prime Minister of Australia, March 1983 – December 1991

R.J.L. Hawke led the Australian Labor Party to a landslide victory in the 1983 Federal election and became Prime Minister of Australia on 11 March 1983. Mr Hawke subsequently led the Australian Labor Party to victory in the 1984, 1987, and 1990 Federal elections, making him the longest serving Labor Prime Minister of Australia.
Correspondence created while Mr Hawke was Prime Minister of Australia includes:

RH71 Copies of letters of thanks sent to international dignitaries after overseas visits - R.J.L. Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia 1983 - 1991
RH80 Miscellaneous correspondence received - R.J.L. Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia 1983 - 1991
RH14 Personal and Family matters
(previously M3826, partial transfer to UniSA)
c.1950 - 1990
RH16 Election campaign records and congratulatory messages
(previously M3830, partial transfer to UniSA)
c.1980 - 1990
NAA CRS M3596 Correspondence to and from the Prime Minister and his Parliamentary Office 1982 -1991
NAA CRS M3601 Correspondence and congratulatory telegrams maintained by the office of the Prime Minister 1984 - 1991
NAA CRS M3826 Correspondence maintained in the Office of the Prime Minister relating to family/personal matters
(partial transfer to UniSA - RH14)
1980 - 1991
NAA CRS M3830 Election campaign records and congratulatory messages
(partial transfer to UniSA - RH16)
1980 - 1990
NAA CRS M3843 Electorate correspondence, single number series 1980 - 1991
NAA CRS M3845 Thank you letters and requests for autographs etc 1983 - 1990
NAA CRS M3854 Unanswered correspondence 1977 - 1990
NAA CRS M5064 Non-constituent correspondence 1980 - 1991

Member for Wills, post-Prime Minister, December 1991 – February 1992

After losing a second leadership challenge from Paul Keating, R.J.L. Hawke tendered his resignation as Prime Minister on 20 December 1991. He resigned from Parliament two months later on 20 February 1992.
Correspondence created while Mr Hawke was still Member for Wills but after he lost the Prime Ministership includes:

RH70 Letters received in response to loss of Prime Ministership - R.J.L. Hawke 1991 - 1992
RH81 Miscellaneous correspondence received - R.J.L. Hawke, Member for Wills,
post- Prime Minister of Australia
1991 - 1992

Post Parliament, February 1992 – May 2019

Following his retirement, R.J.L. Hawke pursued a number of business, media, charitable and scholarly pursuits. R.J.L. Hawke died on 16 May 2019, at the age of 89.

Correspondence created by Mr Hawke following his Parliamentary career includes:

RH72 Correspondence received, alphabetical 1992 - 2018
RH76 Requests for messages of congratulations and condolence - R.J.L. Hawke 1991 - 2019
RH77 Requests for autographs 1991 - 2019
RH78 Correspondence received, chronological 1991 - 2019
RH82 Letters of condolence sent - R.J.L. Hawke 1996 - 2012
RH83 Letters of support for Honours - R.J.L. Hawke 1994 - 2019
RH41 Greeting cards received - R.J.L. Hawke 1991 - 2018

Biography of Bob Hawke

The Hon Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke AC was born in Bordertown, South Australia in 1929. He was educated at the University of Western Australia, Oxford University and the Australian National University (ANU). Prior to completing his studies at ANU, Hawke joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a research officer, later becoming the ACTU president from 1973 to 1980.

​Hawke joined the Australian Labor Party (ALP) while at university. He entered parliament in 1980 as the Member for Wills and in 1983 was elected as the ALP Leader. Later that year Hawke won the election and became Prime Minister. Under his leadership, the ALP went on to win the next three elections, making Hawke the longest-serving Labor prime minister in Australian history. Throughout his term, Hawke focused on public health care (establishing Medicare), education, human rights and reforms in economics, environmental policy and international affairs.

In 1991, Hawke resigned as Prime Minister and in 1992, he resigned from politics.  The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre was established in 1997, along with the Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library. Hawke continued to lend a voice to national issues and remained a strong supporter of the Australian Labor Party until his death on 16 May 2019.

More information about Bob Hawke

Records relating to the Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL are held in a number of organisations across Australia. More information and archival material can be found by exploring the collections linked below.

 Briefcase icon  Related archival collections

  • National Archives of Australia
    A collection of records created by Hawke in his years as a member of parliament and prime minister, along with the Official Commonwealth records about Hawke including the records on the Hawke Cabinet.
  • Museum of Australian Democracy
    A collection of resources and archival items relating to Hawke's political career and achievements while in office.
  • Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
    A database of transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia, which can be searched for lists of Hawke speeches and related transcripts.

  • Australian Parliamentary Library
    A database of parliamentary records, including records relating to Hawke's career in the Australian Federal Parliament.
  • National Film and Sound Archive
    A collection of film and sound realia, which can be searched for recordings of and relating to Bob Hawke.
  • TROVE (National Library of Australia)
    The National Library of Australia's collection of books, images, historic newspaper, maps, archival items and more. Search the TROVE collection for various items relating to Bob Hawke.

There is also a wealth of freely accessible information about the Hon Bob Hawke AC GCL available online. The resources linked below have been selected by staff at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library for their quality and accessibility.

 Microphone icon   Podcasts

 Newspaper icon   Media

  • The Bob Hawke I knew (The Guardian, 2019)
    A selection of articles from Australian newspaper The Guardian. Additional articles from The Guardian about Bob Hawke are available here.
  • Articles on Bob Hawke (The Conversation, various years)
    A selection of 57 articles on the life and legacy of Bob Hawke.

 Play button icon   Videos

  • Bob Hawke's Legacy on Australia (ABC, 2019)
    A great conciliator, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke's achievements as PM included modernising the economy and integrating it into the global community, establishing Medicare, and championing environmental issues.
  • Bob Hawke: An Extraordinary Life as 'The People's PM' (ABC, 2019)
    Australian Story celebrates the extraordinary life and career of Bob Hawke, Australia’s most popular Prime Minister.
  • 80 Hawke Years (UniSA, 2009)
    The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA hosted a birthday celebration for Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke at a special 80 Hawke Years celebration, honouring the man and his legacy.  

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