Bob Hawke’s school record

“Mediocre results are not to his credit. He lacks the serious and steady application indispensable for his future success”. Comments on Bob Hawke’s school record provides surprising insights into the academic performance of our former Prime Minister.

This week Damien Hassan, Senior Archivist at the State Records Office of WA, talks about Mr Hawke’s student record and why school records are important State archives.


Bob Hawke attended high school at Perth Modern between 1942 and 1946 before being going on to study Law and Arts at the University of WA. The State Records Office holds many records from government primary and high schools including the student cards for Perth Modern for students who attended the school up until the mid-1960s. These cards are unusually detailed, providing insight not only into academic performance but also a student’s character.

Throughout his time at Perth Modern it seems Mr Hawke’s academic performance was, as the card states, “borderline”:

  • “Results patchy and below average” (1942);
  • “Seems irresponsible re his progress and inclined to be a nuisance in class” (1942);
  • “He does not always make a full effort and is anxious to distract others” (1944)
  • “Robert’s mediocre results are not to his credit” (1945).

The card notes that Mr Hawke’s desired profession was “Medicine”, that he was injured after being hit in the head with a cricket bat during sport and that he was involved in a number of pranks at school such as drawing a moustache on a fellow student’s face during class (perhaps an indication of Hawke’s larrikin nature).

School records provide evidence of a student attending a specific school which can be useful for many purposes: confirming attendance and residency in WA, for identifying students who attended specific years for subsequent school re-unions, through to family history research. Lists of records the State Records Office holds from government schools can be found via the name of the school.

For more stories from the State Library and the State Records Office, follow @statelibrarywa and @staterecordsofficewa on Facebook and @statelibrarywa on Instagram.

Recorded live on ABC Radio Perth on 1 December 2020.

This page last updated on