Australia’s present-day first lady, since 2007. Superpowers include rapid weight-loss, global business smarts, scaling African mountains, deploying mega-watt smiles and searing people’s corneas with pink blazers.
Family: Married to current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who she met through the Australian Student Christian Movement in university. They have three children.
Famous for: being the first Australian prime ministerial wife to retain her own name and continue in the workforce, running a multi-million dollar international employment agency (Ingeus), no less.
Trivia: She is a trained psychologist.
Dress sense: Infamous for early fashion faux-pas (sail-like satin coats; shopping-bag sleeves), the newly svelte Rein now favours sleek slimline coats, shoulder-exposing gowns and angular shoulder pads.
Charity interests: Disability (Rein’s father became wheelchair bound after a plane crash), unemployment, homelessness and Indigenous youth literacy.
One of Australia’s most notoriously invisible first ladies (1996–2007), Janette ‘Phantom’ Howard was infamously described by old-school journalist Barry Everingham as someone who “doesn’t do much”, and as “useless” by former first lady Margaret Whitlam. Harsh words.
Married to: John Howard, who she met at a Liberal Party function. They have three children, and one grandchild.
Famous for: being reclusive, yet powerful. Janette Howard was reportedly one of the most influential first ladies when it came to behind-the-scenes political manoeuvring. She was pivotal in convincing her husband to stay in politics after a leadership upset in 1989 (good move), but reputedly convinced him to stay on as Liberal leader for the disastrous 2007 campaign (bad move).
Trivia: She is a patron for the Australian Hockeyroos.
Dress sense: Classic big L liberal: pastels and pearls. Also fond of greys and beiges.
Charity interests: Breast cancer awareness. (Janette Howard has survived cervical cancer.)
ANNITA KEATING VAN IERSEL
Originally from the Netherlands, Annita Keating van Iersel is widely considered to Australia’s sexiest first lady (1991–1996). Those clothes! That Dutch accent! That beauty mark! That ability to speak five languages! Men of a certain age went wild.
Married to: Paul Keating, who she met while working as a flight attendant. They are now separated and estranged, but not divorced. They have four children together.
Famous for: her art. In the year she separated from Paul Keating, Annita enrolled herself in a fine arts degree majoring in photography – something she had pursued since childhood. She now also exhibits paintings.
Trivia: Nowadays, Annita has shrugged off the bodyguards and limosuines, and is often spotted catching public transport in Sydney. She has also spent time trekking through Cuba, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico by herself.
Dress sense: Omnivorous and dignified. During her tenure, Keating van Iersel wore everything from Jackie-O white dress ensembles, to ballroom gowns and oversized red blazers.
Charity interests: The arts, including dance.
One of Australia’s most famously betrayed women, Hazel Hawke was first lady from 1983 –1991. After her husband came clean about the affair he’d been having for years (one of Australian politics’ worst-kept secrets), Hazel famously refused to say a bad word about him in public. Needless to say, everyone’s hearts rushed out to her.
Married to: Bob Hawke, who she met at a church fellowship in Perth. They had four children, including one who died as an infant. They divorced in 1995, and Bob finally married his mistress, the saucy Blanche d’Alpuget.
Famous for: her music-playing chops. Even though she has Alzheimer’s, Hazel is said to still play classical music on the piano. In her time, she played with the Sydney Symphony at the Opera House.
Trivia: When she was the face of Herron Paracetomol, Hazel assisted the company in surviving a poisoning and extortion scare. In 2002, Herron developed a machine that made their products tamper-proof. In gratitutde, they named it the Hazel Machine.
Dress sense: Clean lines, crisp collars and fancy scarves.
Charity interests: Pro-choice lobby; wildlife preservation; classical music organisations and Alzhemier’s Australia. (Hawke was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2001, and has been in high-level care since 2009.)