Vale William George Hayden AC - Australian Fabians
23 February, 2024

Vale William George Hayden AC by Paul Read



Vale William George Hayden AC

(23 January 1933 — 21 October 2023)


A truly good man has left our fold. Bill Hayden, luminary, party leader and governor-general, left us aged 90 on 21 October, 2023. Honoured by a state funeral at St Mary’s Church at Ipswich, Bill was mourned by his wife of 63 years, Dallas, and three of their four children, Georgina, Kirk and Ingrid, alongside the nation.

Georgina Hayden led mourners in a touching tribute, saying the family had proudly shared their father with the entire nation their whole lives.

“Like our father, we don’t feel constrained to do the expected thing. Like our father, we question why. Like our father, we wish we could do better, be better,” she said.

“Like our father was proud of us, we are proud of him. Like our father, we adore our mother, we cherish our family. Like our father loved us — loves us — we love him.”

Former governors-general Quentin Bryce and Peter Cosgrove were among those to farewell Mr Hayden, along with Annastacia Palaszczuk, Jim Chalmers and Wayne Swan, among many others. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, former prime minister Paul Keating and Sister Angela Mary Doyle AO were some who spoke at the service. 

Bill Hayden, a towering figure in Australian politics, dedicated his life to public service, leaving an indelible mark on the nation’s history. Born on January 23, 1933, in Brisbane, Queensland, he grew up in humble circumstances, shaped by the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II. These formative experiences instilled in him a deep sense of empathy and a commitment to social justice that would define his political career.

Mr Hayden’s journey into politics began in the early 1960s when he joined the Australian Labor Party (ALP). His charisma, intelligence, and tireless work ethic quickly propelled him through the party ranks. In 1961, he won the seat of Oxley in the House of Representatives, marking the beginning of an illustrious parliamentary career spanning over two decades.

His tenure in various ministerial positions showcased his progressive ideals and unwavering dedication to advancing social welfare. As Minister for Social Security, Hayden championed reforms that aimed to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of ordinary Australians. His efforts in restructuring the social security system earned widespread acclaim for their compassion and effectiveness.

However, it was Mr Hayden’s leadership as the Leader of the Opposition from 1977 to 1983 that showcased his resilience and political acumen. Despite facing formidable opponents, his determination and ability to connect with Australians from diverse backgrounds garnered respect across party lines. His vision for a fairer, more egalitarian society resonated deeply with the electorate.

In 1983, following a landslide victory for the Australian Labor Party, Bill Hayden assumed the role of Foreign Minister in the government of Prime Minister Bob Hawke. His diplomatic skills and commitment to global cooperation helped shape Australia’s foreign policy during a critical period. Hayden played a pivotal role in strengthening ties with neighbouring countries in the Asia-Pacific region and enhancing Australia’s standing on the world stage.

In a surprising turn of events, Mr Hayden was elected as the Governor-General of Australia in 1989, a role that transcended politics and demanded impartiality and statesmanship. His tenure as Governor-General was characterized by grace, dignity, and an unwavering commitment to representing all Australians, regardless of their political affiliations. His dedication to ceremonial duties and community engagements earned him admiration and respect across the nation.

Beyond his political achievements, Bill Hayden was known for his personal integrity and humility. His modest upbringing shaped his worldview, emphasizing the importance of compassion, fairness, and the pursuit of equality. His commitment to social justice issues extended far beyond his time in office, as he continued to advocate for causes close to his heart even after retiring from public life.

Bill Hayden leaves behind a legacy that continues to inspire generations of Australians to strive for a better, more equitable future.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Mr Hayden’s leadership of the Labor party from 1977 to 1983 gave it the chance of a future. “He made it possible for labour to return to its core mission of governing in the national interest and lifting the lives of his fellow Australians,” he said. “Some giants cast a shadow, but Bill Hayden was not one of them. With his quiet strength of character, this legend of the Labor movement shone the light that let us see the road ahead. We can be grateful that this child of the Depression turned police officer joined the Australian Labor Party to advance his values.”

The service for Mr Hayden was held at St Mary’s Church in Ipswich, the church where Mr Hayden was baptised as a Catholic in 2018 after walking away from his staunch atheism later in life. Sister Doyle, who Mr Hayden once credited as being pivotal in him finding faith later in life, also delivered words of remembrance at the service. She said Mr Hayden was “determined to work for the betterment of society”, and had many strengths, including “humility and compassion”.

During the service, Acting Commissioner Tracy Linford awarded Mr Hayden with a Queensland Police Service medal, in acknowledgement of his service to the community. The service concluded with a guard of honour by Australia’s Federation Guard, soldiers and aviators from the Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley and students at St Mary’s College and St Edmund’s College. A fly-past by the Royal Australian Air Force marked the end of the procession.

Bill Hayden’s legacy endures in the hearts and minds of Australians, remembered not only for his contributions to politics but also for his unwavering commitment to serving the people. His life stands as a testament to the power of dedication, empathy, and the pursuit of a more just society for all. 

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