It is a great pleasure to speak tonight on the great Hazel Hawke. When we heard of her passing just recently, my mother got on the phone to me and said to me: 'You have to get on the record about this brilliant Australian woman. She did so much for women in the suburbs of Melbourne. She did so much for women in country areas of Australia. She was a great role model for Australian women.' So it is at my mother's behest, but also my own desire, that I speak about Hazel Hawke tonight.
I was not fortunate enough to know Hazel Hawke, but, like my mother and so many Australian women, I admired her from a distance. I regard Hazel Hawke as a classic Australian woman. Over many years I have had several overseas friends who have come to Australia and met Australian women. They have described us as being quite unique—that we have a set of qualities that women in other nations throughout the world do not share.
My overseas friends have said to me that Australian women have particular characteristics. They are strong. They are independent. They are intelligent. They are self-sufficient and they are resilient. They are tough and they are plain-speaking.
I think we have had to be like this as a result of the trials and tribulations of our history since settlement. Also, Indigenous women did extraordinary things, living in great hardship throughout hundreds and hundreds of years. I do not know whether my overseas friends have it exactly right, because I do not think you can stereotype a whole nation of women with those particular characteristics—I believe we are quite diverse—but there is a thread of those characteristics running through most Australian women. And for me Hazel Hawke embodied all of those characteristics, and more. She was a strong woman. She was an independent woman. She was a self-sufficient woman. She was a tenacious woman.
I think the reason so many Australian woman identify with Hazel Hawke is that, like so many Australian women, she faced many hardships and sadnesses, and, as it is for so many Australian women, these hardships and sadnesses were as a result of the man in her life. Like so many Australian women she just go on with it. She licked her wounds, picked herself up and faced the world with a smile on her face and with great dignity, selfassurance and self-esteem. I think this is why so many Australian women could connect with her.
Hazel Hawke was a woman that other Australian women, including me, identified with. She was authentic in her public and personal personas. She dealt with the challenges in life with grace and great courage. In particular, she was a woman who brought to the attention of the nation the issue of Alzheimer's and the challenges of dealing with that disease—or, as she referred to it, 'the big A'. She truly changed the discussion around Alzheimer's disease and ageing in Australia, and this is a significant legacy of hers and her family's. Her family can be rightly proud of the work that she did in that and so many other areas.
Hazel Hawke made a significant contribution to our nation at a very personal and professional level. She will be greatly missed. Vale Hazel Hawke, a great Australian woman; a classic Australian woman; a great Australian.