Annita van Iersel was born in the Netherlands on 5 October 1948 and married Paul Keating on 17 January 1975. When Keating was Treasurer in the Hawke government from 1983 to 1991, Mrs Keating and Hazel Hawke became friends. Although Mrs Keating did not have as much experience of Australian politics as Mrs Hawke, after the Keatings moved to Canberra, both women were often in the visitors’ gallery in Parliament House.
The Keatings moved into The Lodge in 1991. They made some changes to the decor and, unlike many of the earlier prime ministerial families, preferred to treat The Lodge as a family home.
Mrs Keating accompanied the Prime Minister on many of his overseas visits. Her official duties included supporting Australia’s bid for the 2000 Olympic Games, and her command of several languages and ability to ‘sell’ the bid were regarded as valuable assets in the successful negotiations in 1993. Her duties as a ‘political wife’ included participation in Labor’s election campaigns, and appearances and interviews before and after the federal budgets. A biographer of Keating recorded comments from colleagues that Mrs Keating was the ‘perfect partner’ for a prime minister, ‘supportive but not interfering, involved but not too much, determined but down to earth’.
In 1998, the Keatings separated. Mrs Keating became a full-time artist, working from a Sydney studio.
- Gordon, Michael, A True Believer: Paul Keating, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1996.
- Watson, Don, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, Knopf, Sydney, 2002.