As she prepares to face her stepdaughter over the division of Bob Hawke’s estate, Blanche d’Alpuget has revealed she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
As she prepares to face her stepdaughter over the division of Bob Hawke’s estate, Blanche d’Alpuget has revealed she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Blanche: ‘I’ve got breast cancer’

Less than a year after the death of her "soulmate", the former prime minister Bob Hawke, Blanche d'Alpuget has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ms d'Alpuget confirmed the diagnosis to The Sunday Telegraph yesterday and revealed she is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for the disease.

"Yes it's true. I'm being treated at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre," she said.

"I detected the lump in my left breast about six or seven weeks ago.

"You never think you're going to get cancer - not at my age, but it happens. I'd like to encourage all older women to have their breasts checked. I found the lump by accident."

Author and wife of the late Bob Hawke, Blanche d'Alpuget. Picture: John Appleyard
Author and wife of the late Bob Hawke, Blanche d'Alpuget. Picture: John Appleyard

The news comes as Ms d'Alpuget, 76, prepares to face her stepdaughter Ros Dillon in private mediation over the division of Mr Hawke's estate.

Ms Dillon's claim to a larger slice of her father's fortune will go before NSW Supreme COurt Justice Philip Hallen on May 7 - days before the first anniversary of Mr Hawke's death.

Ms Dillon is seeking $4.2 million from her father's estate.

In an unexpected twist, Ms d'Alpuget, who has been battling ill health during her cancer treatment, has approached Ms Dillon's older sister Sue Pieters-Hawke to serve as her support proxy should Ms d'Alpuget be too ill to appear.

The alliance marks a new high point in Ms Pieters-Hawke's once strained relationship with her stepmother - one which hit rock bottom in 2010 when Ms d'Alpuget slapped Mr Hawke's eldest child at Brisbane Airport Qantas Chairman's Lounge during a chance meeting, spurring Ms Pieters-Hawke to contact Federal Police.

Bob Hawke and Blanche d'Alpuget, who she described as her soulmate.
Bob Hawke and Blanche d'Alpuget, who she described as her soulmate.

Ms d'Alpuget's physical reprimand coincided with the release that year of Ms Pieters-Hawke's book, Hazel: My Mother's Story, in which the author sought to address what she saw as inaccuracies about her mother, Hazel Hawke, in Ms d'Alpuget's earlier work, Hawke: The Prime Minister.

"There were words in the lounge after the slaps, but I haven't spoken to her since. You could say they were harsh words," Ms Pieters-Hawke said in 2011 confirming relations between the women were icy for years.

In 2011, as Hazel Hawke battled the dementia that would claim her in 2013, there was a rapprochement between the women at Mr Hawke's urging.

A decade on, the two women appear to have joined forces to see off Ms Dillon's claim to a larger slice of Mr Hawke's estate.

Bob Hawke with former wife Hazel Hawke, who died in 2013 after battling the dementia.
Bob Hawke with former wife Hazel Hawke, who died in 2013 after battling the dementia.

Hawke left his three children, Sue, Stephen and Ros - along with Ms d'Alpuget's only son Louis Pratt - $750,000 each in his last will. The vast bulk of his $18 million estate he left to his second wife.

Of the four, only his youngest child has rejected the cash payment and is challenging the will. Mother-of-two Ms Dillon, 60, is a disability-support pensioner who suffers from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and lives on welfare payments. In documents lodged in the Supreme Court in December, she said she remained haunted by a series of sexual attacks by late Victorian Labor MLC Bill Landeryou, one of her father's friends, in the 1980s when she was in the grip of heroin addiction.

Her claim includes provision for a $2.5 million home in the eastern suburbs, $30,000 for dental implants and $7,000 for a funeral.

 

Originally published as Blanche: 'I've got breast cancer'

Bob Hawke and wife Blanche d'Alpuget at the 2019 Woodford folk festival.
Bob Hawke and wife Blanche d'Alpuget at the 2019 Woodford folk festival.