Gratefully, Audrey

Monday, 10 May 2021

In 1989 two stars aligned - the first from the silver screen, and the second a 'Silver Bodgie'.

Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn met on the 9th of October. Hepburn, now semi-retired from acting, was touring Australia as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund. Ahead of her was a whirlwind week of interviews, functions and fundraisers. Despite her schedule, she still found time to send a thank you note.

The UNICEF branded greeting card features a copy of Hepburn's 1988 drawing Mother and Child. It is dated the 12th of October, the same day as Hepburn's address at the National Press Club.

We don't have a record of exactly what Hepburn and Hawke spoke about in their meeting, but this note provides a tantalising insight.

Dear Mr Prime Minister.

This is to express my gratitude to you for so graciously receiving me on Monday, giving me those lovely moments of your so precious time and for starting me off on my appeal for children with your blessing. I couldn't believe my eyes when Thomas Keneally's book arrived so rapidly – you are a man of your word – thoughtful and sensitive. Little wonder you are so popular!

My love to you and your gentle wife

Gratefully, Audrey.

Unfortunately, we don't know which of Australian writer Thomas Keneally's books Hawke had sent the star. Hepburn may have recognised some of her own recollections of World War II in Keneally's novel 'Schindler's Ark', which won the Booker Prize in 1982. Living in occupied Holland as a child, she had witnessed trains of people being sent to concentration camps. She discussed this experience, and her humanitarian mission, in an interview with the ABC's Margaret Throsby.

1989 marked Hepburn's first and last tour of Australia. In the Throsby interview, she indicated that although she hadn't seen the more traditional tourist attractions: 'In these few hours, these few days I've been in Australia I've come into contact with such warmth and marvellous people, and a spirit that I'd feared maybe was disappearing, and I know that's done me a great deal of good.'

This card was found in the collection of Prime Minister Bob Hawke's papers held by the National Archives. It was made accessible online as part of the Australian Prime Ministers' Papers Digitisation Project.

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