Archives and Special Collections: Bob Hawke

Bob Hawke biography

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

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 he was at university 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.

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

Collection overview

The Bob Hawke Collection focuses on items of historical and political interest and includes Hawke's personal papers, photographs, newspaper clippings, audio and video recordings including oral history, posters and original artworks. The collection also includes a large, varied selection of realia, including a motorcycle, sculptures, state gifts, campaign memorabilia and commemorative items.

Select the heading below to learn more about accessing the Bob Hawke Collection.

The collection is housed in the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library at the University of South Australia City West Campus. Items are not available for loan but can be viewed by appointment with the Special Collections Coordinator. For access to the collection, please contact Ask the Library.

Some items within the collection can be accessed online through UniSA's Special Collections Catalogue. You can search or browse the Bob Hawke Collection by selecting the links below:

For more information about conducting archival research, please visit our Archival Research guide.

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.

More information about Bob Hawke

Records relating to the Hon Bob Hawke AC AGL 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. Their NAA Fact sheet 267 Robert James Lee Hawke includes a brief biography and information about the records they hold.
  • 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 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 Extrodinary 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.  

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.

Books about Bob Hawke

 Remembering Bob book cover

Remembering Bob
Sue Pieters-Hawke 2019

Bob Hawke the complete biography book cover

Bob Hawke: The Complete Biography
Blanche d'Alpuget 2019

Wednesdays with Bob book cover

Wednesdays with Bob
Bob Hawke & Derek Rielly 2017

The Hawke legacy book cover

The Hawke Legacy 
Gerry Bloustein, Barbara Comber & Alison Mackinnon 2009

The Hawke Government A Critical Retrospective book cover

The Hawke Government: A Critical Retrospective
Susan Ryan & Troy Bramston 2003


Further resources

More books about Bob Hawke can be found in the National Library of Australia's TROVE catalogue.

Navigate to Ask the Library Portal