Public call for information on Hawke’s childhood home

By Melissa Coade

June 1, 2021

Bob Hawke
the official portrait of the late former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke at Parliament House, Canberra. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The draft papers to register Bob Hawke’s modest childhood home — a 1920s three-bedroom residence on Tate Street in West Leederville, WA — on the state heritage register are open to public consultation. 

The heritage council has called for public input on the inclusion of the home that Australia’s 23rd prime minister lived in during his formative years from 1939-1953. 

Hawke’s family moved into the single storey inter-war period residence from South Australia when he was 10 years old. Hawke, who was raised and educated in WA, remained at the property until he moved out of home at 24 and continued to visit his parents at the family home until it was sold in 1981. Hawke died at the age of 89 in May 2019.

WA heritage minister David Templeman said the opportunity to include the California Bungalow style home on the heritage register was a unique and exciting political legacy for the state. 

“Heritage listing will ensure it remains a home for all Western Australians to cherish into the future,” Templeman said. 

The WA government purchased the 1920s Leederville home for $1.45 million last year, which includes many original internal features including timber joinery and Australiana-themed stained glass, and still has an external outhouse and laundry. The property also boasts a mature Jacaranda tree in its backyard.

According to the heritage council, the residence sits in a ‘typical suburban street’ and tells the story of a lower middle class family raising a son who would go on to become ‘one of Australia’s most recognisable and, for a time, powerful figures’ in the nation. Papers that outline the proposal to list the property describe how it also holds significance ‘for the Australian Labor Party and the labour movement more broadly as the childhood home of one of their key twentieth century heroes’.

“The place is rare as a WA residence closely associated with an Australian Prime Minister, only two of whom to date have had strong links [to the state],” the heritage papers say.

“The West Leederville [house also] demonstrates the consolidation of metropolitan Perth through the inter-war years, as suburbs beyond railway stations and brick-and-tile residences with moderately large gardens became the norm for most suburban families.”

On a return visit to Perth in 2009, the heritage council said that Hawke dropped by his childhood home, which was then accommodating private tenants in a house-share arrangement. Many of the tenants were surprised to learn that the young Hawke’s bedroom in the property was one of the ‘pokiest’ spaces of all – in the sleepout with a sloped floor, and whose current use was to store brooms.

“Hawke’s efforts to visit the place decades after it passed out of Hawke family ownership indicate that the place held some significance for him,” the council said.

Templeman urged those with special knowledge of the property, or a background in political and cultural history to make a submission to the heritage council. He added that community and stakeholder engagement would ensure that the state’s ‘heritage value’ of the property was ‘appropriately captured’.

“With only one other owner since the Hawke family, the integrity of the home has been well preserved, boasting the character features common to a brick and tile, inter-war residence encapsulating family life in the late 1920s,” Templeman said. 

“One of Australia’s most revered Prime Ministers spent much of his childhood, and his schooling and politically formative years, in this home, and from modest suburban roots progressed to be one of the most successful reformist political leaders on the national and global stage.”

Draft papers to register the property have been published and public consultation on the proposed heritage listing will be open until July 15.

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