Devotees of Bob Hawke are now able to stay and hold functions at the former prime minister’s childhood home in Bordertown, in South Australia’s south-east.

The Tatiara District Council bought the house where Mr Hawke lived as a child, and rather than turning it into a museum, they decided to make it a bed and breakfast.

It can also be used for events and meetings. 

“We felt that would benefit the community and it really is a beautiful home, so let’s enjoy it,” Mayor Liz Goossens said.

“I think it will be the best way to promote the town and because we have such an accommodation and housing problem or shortage in the district, this might help cater for that, too.”

Bob Hawke and his second wife Blanche d’Alpuget with the former owner of the house, Rocky Callisto, in 2011.(Supplied: Rocky Callisto)

Mr Hawke was born in Bordertown in 1929 and lived there until 1935.

He died in 2019, aged 89, and is the only prime minister born in South Australia.

In 2019, the federal Liberal government and the Labor opposition both pledged $750,000 for the Tatiara District Council to buy and renovate the Hawkes’ former family home.

The sale went through in 2021.

The rooms have themes based on Bob Hawke, his brother Neil, his father Clem and his mother Ellie.(ABC South East SA: Josh Brine)

Design honours family 

Each room of the cottage on Farquhar Street has been decorated with a theme based on a different Hawke family member.

“It’s been really clever and tastefully done, so I’m excited about waiting for the community to come and have a look and everybody to get to come and stay and sleep in Bob Hawke’s house,” Ms Goossens said.

Labor senator Don Farrell will officially open the renovations today.

A young Bob Hawke has a bath in the backyard of the house.(Supplied: Hawke family)

Mr Hawke’s father Clem was a Congregationalist minister and the church provided the house for him and his family to live in.

The house was built in 1884 and was originally used as a bank.

More recently, it was an office for UnitingSA and a Centrelink agency.

Bob Hawke’s family moved to the South Australian town of Maitland in 1935, and then Perth in 1939.

One room in the house honours Bob Hawke’s mother, Ellie.(ABC South East SA: Josh Brine)

‘Some people have reservations’

Bordertown is traditionally a Liberal Party stronghold among voters, and Mr Hawke was not always popular in the area during his years as a union leader and prime minister. 

“People quite respect the fact that he was prime minister but were perhaps not always in favour of his policies or politics but very much in favour of his family and his father especially,” said Jenny Hunt, a local amateur historian.

“Some people have reservations, shall I say, but I think he was quite a charismatic person and we would love to claim him,” she said.

A bust of former prime minister Bob Hawke outside the Tatiara Civic Centre.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

A bronze bust has pride of place outside the civic centre and banners featuring Mr Hawke’s image flutter in one of the town’s busiest streets.

Members of the Kids’ Voice leadership group at Bordertown Primary School said Mr Hawke showed you could become anything, even if you were born in a small town.

“He set his goals and achieved them, like becoming prime minister,” Cora, 11, said.

Bordertown Primary School students Lara, Cora and Cruze, all 11, with a photo of Bob Hawke from a previous visit.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

Mr Hawke did not visit Bordertown during his prime ministership — the longest of any Labor prime minister, and the third-longest overall.

But he did visit in 2002 to open the Bob Hawke Gallery in Bordertown, and again in 2011 to open the refurbished Tatiara Civic Centre.

The gallery includes memorabilia from Mr Hawke’s life, including a motorcycle that almost cost him his life in a crash when he was aged 17.

A display at the Tatiara Civic Centre about former prime minister Bob Hawke.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

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