Dr Allan Hawke AC, one of Canberra’s most remarkable citizens, has passed away at the age of 74 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Allan Hawke’s influence on Canberra and its community over many decades can’t be underestimated. In one way or another, he touched all our lives, whether it was through his role as a senior public servant or as chairman of organisations such as the Canberra Raiders.
Yet despite his influence, he was very much an everyday man, mixing with footballers one minute and senior government officials who regularly sought his advice the next.
His health in recent years had become a constant battle after being diagnosed with skin cancer, the result of an early life spent as a lifesaver, swimmer and a lover of sports.
He passed away just after 9 pm last night with his family, led by his incredible wife Maria, by his side and blessed by Monsignor John Woods, the long-time Raiders chaplain.
His death will leave a giant hole in the Canberra community.
He loved the Raiders. Coach Ricky Stuart visited him in hospital a few weeks ago. This gave him a boost, as has the performance of the team in recent months.
His presence on the board created stability that was the envy of practically every other club in the competition.
I sat down with Allan in August 2020 to talk about his life.
He told me he grew up in Queanbeyan over the road from the Raiders founders, the McIntyres.
Allan’s brother, Phil, taught and coached Ricky Stuart as well as the Furners at St Edmund’s College. The connections between the Raiders and Allan were always strong.
Allan became chairman of the Raiders, taking over from John McIntyre.
Allan said during our discussion, “I couldn’t be happier with how Ricky is going and Don is the best CEO in the NRL. The stability of the board is great. Forty per cent of the board are women; they are all great contributors with different skill sets”.
But his success always rested on more than his ability to connect with others. It was his ability to get things done, to ensure that it’s done right, and his leadership skills that separated him from so many.
Allan was identified early as a leader. He was captain of Queanbeyan High School before graduating with First Class Honours from the ANU with a Bachelor of Science Degree, followed by a Doctorate in 1976.
As much as he excelled in study, Allan was equally passionate about sport, and it wasn’t limited to football codes.
In 1965 he was the NSW Royal Life Saving Society’s Iron Man Champion.
“When I was growing up, I swam a lot, I played Aussie rules, rugby league and rugby union, all for Queanbeyan,” he explained.
It was through rugby union that he met his wife, Maria.
“When I first laid eyes on her at the Queanbeyan Whites Club one night, I said to my mate, ‘I’m going to marry her’.”
Maria has been a tower of strength throughout his life, including during his stellar public service career, which saw him serve as secretary of three Federal Government departments.
His final government posting was as High Commissioner to New Zealand, after which he retired from public service to become the ANU Chancellor for three years, followed by undertaking 21 separate major reviews and reports for both the Federal and ACT governments.
Allan was patron and chair of numerous local and national organisations, such is the gravitas and respect in which the wider community held him.
“I probably spent too much time in the sun as a kid,” recalled Allan during one conversation and in response to the skin cancer that he was originally diagnosed with and later developed into other cancers.
I remember as we chatted in the lounge area at the Royal Canberra Golf Club, it occurred to me that the strength required to lead government departments was ever-present as he faced the uncertainty of cancer.
He said at the time, “It’s quite debilitating, but I have a very positive attitude. I’ve got too much to do to turn my toes up yet”.
Allan had a passion for golf. He said, “I love it, but it doesn’t love me back.”
And beyond the Raiders and golf, Allan had set himself the task of unravelling his family history.
He had already written one book entitled Calamity and Conquest, a chronicle of the convict Joseph Blundell and his companion, Susan Osborne. It’s a story about his great, great grandfather, emancipated convict Joseph Blundell, and the role the family played in establishing Canberra.
Allan and Maria have one daughter, Stephanie, who, as Allan explains, “Is the second-best thing to ever happen to me”. She carries the family tradition of high achievement.
Allan said, “She gained a PhD in Clinical Psychology at the ANU, married Matthew, the son we never had, and has given us wonderful grandchildren, Rosa and Harry”.
His greatest love was for Maria, the woman he saw all those years ago across the room at the Rugby Club.
“She has been a great support. She has been unbelievable. She is the best thing that has ever happened in my life.”
This is a snapshot of the life of Allan Hawke gained during my last long conversation with him in 2020. Those who knew him, though, will understand that these words alone cannot fully describe his influence, contribution to the Canberra community, or immense character.