The Hawke Legacy

Bob Hawke, a third generation South Australian, was one of the 20th century's most notable Prime Ministers (1983-1991) and a great conciliator nationally and abroad. 

The following brief information gives some insight into Bob Hawke's contribution to Australian society.

Achievements of Bob Hawke as Prime Minister 1983 to 1991

Bob Hawke has been recognised for many contributions to Australian public life but perhaps none so great as his determination to persuade Australians of the need to see their society and economy in a global context. 

Listed in fuller form by Old Parliament House in Canberra.  Hawke's main achievements show his vision and breadth as a leader and are summarised here:


  • 1983 Wages Accord improved economic growth without inflation.
  • Modernised the national economy, integrated it into the global economy, and diversified Australia’s export base.
  • Comprehensive tax reform reducing the top marginal rate and introducing capital gains tax.


  • Stopped the Tasmanian Gordon-below-Franklin dam project. 
  • The World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 gave the Commonwealth control over State heritage sites.

Global initiatives

  • Developed closer ties with the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South-east Asia.
  • Supported international pressure on South Africa to overturn its apartheid regime.
  • Established APEC - the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

Social security

  • Established Medicare.
  • Improved social security benefits to the children of low-income families.


  • Outlawed sex discrimination in the workforce.
  • Established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) as the peak national policy and administrative agency for Indigenous Australians.


  • Reformed Australia's education, training, and university system.

More information is available through the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library, including access to online exhibitions: History of Industrial Relations in Australia and Bob Hawke - A Pictorial History. 

Photography Randy Larcombe, Copyright University of South Australia

While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.