Bob Hawke campaigning in Hobart, 21 February 1983 (NAA: A6180, 21/2/83/8)

The Hawke government oversaw a period of extraordinary progress in Australia’s environmental history. 

Passionate about environmental issues, Hawke often went against the advice of his resources and economic ministers to ensure the preservation of Australia’s natural environment. 

The Hawke Government introduced new regulations under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 and later passed the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983.

This resulted in a High Court ruling giving the federal government authority in state matters concerning the protection of World Cultural and Heritage sites.

He’s the first leader in our time who actually basically just stepped
out and said, ‘I’m gonna make a really strong action to protect the environment…
damn the consequences, that’s what I’m gonna do.

Peter Garrett, Minister for Environment & Arts 2007-2010 from Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader, ABC TV, 2018

Key environmental achievements of the Hawke Government:

  • Stopped the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania
  • Returned Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the Anangu people
  • Expanded Kakadu National Park and prevented mining at Guratba
  • Prevented mining in Antarctica
  • Expanded the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Gained World Heritage listings for many Australian sites including the Daintree Rainforest and Kakadu
  • Committed $320 million to fund the National Landcare Programme

This is our country, our future.  I give my commitment to the children of Australia
that my generation will hand on to you a better country, a brighter future.

Bob Hawke in Our Country, Our Future, 1989


Prime Minister, Bob Hawke with the Kakadu Man, Bill Neidjie at Parliament House in Canberra, 26 November 1986 (NAA: A6180, 26/11/86/1)

Images courtesy of the National Archives of Australia, digitised from the unprocessed photographs in the Bob Hawke Collection.