Hazel Hawke was born in Perth in 1929, the younger daughter of James and Edith Masterson. She was educated at Mt Hawthorn State School and the Perth Central Girls School. Hazel loved school and enjoyed music, studying the piano. At age fourteen she left school and went to work at a small city electrical firm.
Playing the organ in the Subiaco Congregational Church brought her into contact with the pastor's son, Bob Hawke, and the young couple became engaged in 1949. When Bob travelled to Oxford to take up a Rhodes Sholarship in August 1953, Hazel followed in December of the same year, finding herself a job at the Institute of Statistics.
After their return to Australia, Hazel and Bob married in early 1956 and they moved to Canberra where Bob undertook doctoral studies in the law faculty and Hazel found secretarial work at the Indian High Commission.
The Hawkes lived in Melbourne from 1958 to 1983, where Hazel was busy with home and children and Bob worked for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, becoming president in 1969. Hazel began voluntary work with the Brotherhood of St Lawrence in 1976, later taking on the job of secretary and personal assistant to the director of the social issues department and studying towards an associate diploma of welfare studies at the Caulfield Institute of Technology.
In 1980 Bob entered federal politics as the Australian Labor Party Member for Wills. Three years later he was leader of the opposition and after the Labor Party won office in the federal election of March 1983, Bob Hawke became prime minister of Australia. Moving back to Canberra, Hazel Hawke lived in the prime minister's Lodge from 1983 to 1991, actively pursuing her interest in community work, women's and children's issues, music and the arts and becoming a strong and energetic leader in these areas. Among her numerous positions across a broad range of organisations, Mrs Hawke has been Chair of the NSW Heritage Council, a Board member of the Australian Children's Television Foundation and Patron of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
In January 1992 the Hawkes moved to Sydney to live and in December her autobiography My Own Life was published. She was divorced in 1995.
While perhaps achieving greatest prominence during the period of her ex-husband's prime ministership, Mrs Hawke has always worked independently and become involved in important social issues.