“Perhaps when we grow very old, our bodies get worn out, or certain parts break down, like parts in an old car,” Mr Hawke wrote in response on July 23, 1985.
“None of us can be sure of how long we will live. Because this is so I think you should try not to think too much about dying but think about all the nice things around you that make life so precious to us all.”
As a child struggling with my Nan’s death, I wrote to PM Bob Hawke, to help my young mind understand why we die. His letter back to me is my most treasured childhood memory! #RIPBobHawke #votesoutforBOB pic.twitter.com/kqpEIYZKmq
— TraceyCorbinMatchett (@traceycm74) May 16, 2019
Tracey called his response “my most treasured childhood memory”, and is one of many Australians sharing the responses they received from the prolific letter writer.
Amanda Perram wrote a letter to Mr Hawke sharing her fears about the prospect of nuclear war as a child.
She said his letter in response made her realise he “truly cared” and “had really listened”. She described him as a “true leader”.
I can’t remember why on earth I was so worried at such a young age about nuclear war to write a letter to the PM about it, but I sure remember getting this letter back from Bob Hawke. I felt like he truly cared. I felt like he had really listened. He was a true leader. RIP 💔 pic.twitter.com/gylCIEVWTM
— 💧💰 Amanda Perram (@AmandaPerram) May 16, 2019
ABC journalist Conor Duffy received a two-page response on behalf of Mr Hawke in 1991, sharing his concerns about the environment, recycling, poverty and the economy.
“I remember being so chuffed they made time for a know it all 9 year old!” Duffy wrote.
Vale Bob Hawke – woke up to the news via text from mum who sent me this letter I got back from his office after I’d sent him one asking about recycling, the environment, poverty and the economy! I remember being so chuffed they made time for a know it all 9 year old! pic.twitter.com/VfTFMlxZHG
— Conor Duffy (@conorduffynews) May 16, 2019
Several other Australians have praised the former Labor leader for writing back to them, saying it was a testament to his character.
As a kid I got angry about rubbish in my local park, so I decided to write to Bob Hawke. Probably my first act of political engagement. I drew him a picture too of my dream park. Got the best signed letter back, despite my clear confusion about levels of Government. #ValeBobHawke
— Joy Kyriacou (@joykyriacou) May 16, 2019
I wrote a letter to Bob Hawke when I was 7 years old. He wrote back to me.
I made everyone stop talking when I saw him on the tv.
I’m saddened to hear of his passing today. #RIPBobHawke
— AJ (@itsArnaNotAnna) May 16, 2019
Somewhere in a cupboard I have a letter that Bob Hawke sent me when I was about 10. I wrote and asked him to help the children who were starving overseas and he promised he would do what he could #RIPBobHawke
— Gayle McNaught (@GayleMcNaught) May 16, 2019
Mr Hawke studied a Bachelor of Letters, specialising in economics, at Oxford University.
The day before he died, he wrote his final open letter to Australians, endorsing Labor leader Bill Shorten for the Saturday election.
“Bravery, honesty and vision are needed of the next Australian government. Laying out a party’s detailed policies ahead of an election requires political courage. Bill and his team have shown that courage, trusting the fair-mindedness of the Australian people,” the letter stated.
— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 16, 2019
ABC political editor Andrew Probyn said last night he expected the death of the Labor great, a transformative figure, would in itself transform the last day of campaigning and affect it “considerably”.
Condolences were led by Mr Shorten, who said Mr Hawke “inspired such profound affection and admiration, such loyalty and love among so many”.
“With his passing, the labour movement salutes our greatest son, the Labor Party gives thanks for the life of our longest-serving Prime Minister and Australians everywhere remember and honour a man who gave so much to the country and people he cared for so deeply,” Mr Shorten said.
— with Charis Chang