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Special Collections

Bob Hawke Collection banner including images - Bob Hawke portrait; Bob Hawke greeting media on election night in 1983; Bob Hawke with Nelson Mandela in 1989

The Bob Hawke Collection held in the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library at the University of South Australia, commemorates the achievements and legacy of the Hon Robert (Bob) James Lee Hawke AC (1929-2019), Australia's third longest and longest serving Labor Prime Minister. 

The Collection documents 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 also included. While the Collection does include some materials that date from 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 materials, gifts and memorabilia. 

Banner images - Official portrait of Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, (NAA: A6180, 31/3/83/3) 1983; Bob Hawke at the National Tally Room, 7 March 1983, (NAA: A6180, 7/3/83/1); Bob Hawke with Nelson Mandela at Parliament House, 18 October 1990, (NAA: A6180, 29/10/90/16)
Access and explore the Collection

The Collection is housed  in the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library at the University of South Australia City West Campus. Access is by appointment only. Contact Ask the Library to make an appointment.

You can explore the Collection by browsing Collection Discovery or searching the Special Collections Catalogue.

Current exhibitions

More information about An Australia for the World exhibition Access History of Industrial Relations in Australia Access Bob Hawke - a pictorial history

Explore the 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

A Journey Through the Archive

The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial 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.


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, University of Oxford 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 Institute (now known as 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.

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