Bob Hawke – Champion for Multiculturalism

FECCA today pays tribute to Bob Hawke, who as Prime Minister sought to enshrine in the nation’s character and law the principle that all Australians, wherever they came from, were entitled to the same opportunities.

During a period of tension and xenophobia directed at migrant communities, Bob Hawke rejected division and instead brought Australia closer to its neighbours, recognising that Asia was central to Australia’s future prosperity.

Australian multicultural public policy was consolidated and embedded in the machinery of Government in Bob Hawke’s time as Prime Minister with the creation of the Office of Multicultural Affairs in his own portfolio – the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It played a pivotal role in advancing multicultural public policy from its creation in 1987.

Bob engaged with FECCA regularly, and during his time in office worked to make Government institutions more accessible to migrant communities, including through the establishment of the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia.  

Australia needs champions of unity like Bob as much today as ever. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

He loved people; regardless of race.
He hated racism and bigotry.
He was a Champion for Multiculturalism.

From the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District:

For most Australians Bob Hawke was a lovable larrikin whose popularity transcended political affiliations.  Who could forget his iconic comment after Australia won the Americas Cup in 1983? “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up to work today is a bum.”

His government stopped the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania and uranium mining at Jabiluka, produced a landmark wage accord with the unions and proclaimed Advance Australia Fair the national anthem, and established Medicare. With Paul Keating as treasurer, the Hawke government’s lasting achievements included floating the Australian dollar, dismantling tariffs and deregulating the banking system.

He legislated Commonwealth power over World Heritage sites, outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace and opened the Australian economy to global competition which accelerated the integration of the economy into the world and reshaped Australia’s relationships with Asia, Europe and the US. Hawke was instrumental in forming the Asia-Pacific Economic forum in 1989.

Hawke was passionate on many social issues and regarded racism as abhorrent with his strong views expressed in a very vocal opposition to Apartheid in South Africa and his support for racial vilification laws, stating in 1984: “We will not allow to become a political issue in this country the question of Asianisation.” He led the widespread reform of education and training and even advocated a treaty with Indigenous Australia.

He will be remembered as a giant of contemporary Australian history, mixing comfortably with people from all callings and just as at home having a beer and a bet at the races as hosting important Government events.

His fierce commitment to a bipartisan approach to multiculturalism and non race-based immigration is one of many lasting legacies that have shaped modern Australia.

Vale Hawkey. 



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