Memories of Bob: 'He was the best boss I ever worked for'

Heather Le Nevez, mother of actor Matt Le Nevez, remembers starting work as an assistant to prime minister Bob Hawke in Canberra when Matt was only four and his brother Tim just three.

Heather Le Nevez with Hazel and Bob Hawke in 1990.

Heather Le Nevez with Hazel and Bob Hawke in 1990.

"He was the best boss I ever worked for," she said. "Really compassionate. He treated everyone the same.

"Even though we were admin staff and he had access to all the top-notch advisers and cabinet ministers, he treated us as equals and always listened to our point of view."

Mrs Le Nevez worked with Mr Hawke in both the old and new parliament houses, from 1983 to 1990.

"Matt was four and [younger brother] Tim was three when I started working for him," she said.

"When they were older, they would come in to see me and if Bob wasn't in a meeting, he would come out and often take them into his office and let them play around on the phones and they'd be ringing cabinet ministers," she laughed.

"He adored kids, he adored people. He was the best bloke to work for."

Mrs Le Nevez spoke to both her sons on Friday morning, all shocked by Mr Hawke's passing on Thursday, Matt calling in from Los Angeles.

"Matt was shocked," Mrs Le Nevez said.

"And then Tim rang while I was on the phone to Matt. Tim said, 'How are you mum?'. I said, 'I'm sad, I shed a few tears last night'. But you can't expect him to go on forever. He was 89. He'd lived a good life."

Mrs Le Nevez said she would travel for weeks on end with Mr Hawke during election campaigns and her husband Ian would have to be "mum and dad" to Matt and Tim, who both attended St Edmund's College.

"He only liked to smoke cigars which was something when we were on a small plane," she said of her boss.

"Even though I was a smoker, it got very ... foggy."

Mr Hawke was a boss who always made a fuss of his workers on their birthdays or other special occasions, she said. Or even when it wasn't a special occasion.

"Every Friday, if he was at Parliament House, he'd make everyone stop at four o'clock and he'd come out and he didn't touch a drop of alcohol, which was a monumental feat for him, but it was happy hour for everyone else," she said.

"He'd be asking everyone, 'What are the kids doing?', 'What is the family doing?'.

"I couldn't say a bad word about him."

Actor Matt Le Nevez as a child played in the office of prime minister Bob Hawke. Picture: Supplied

Actor Matt Le Nevez as a child played in the office of prime minister Bob Hawke. Picture: Supplied

Matt Le Nevez, star of shows including Offspring and The Widow, took to Twitter on Friday to tell his 22,000 followers of his family's special relationship with Mr Hawke and to pay tribute to him.

"His love of country was unparalleled and not many people can ever say they made Australia a better place for all," Le Nevez wrote.

Mrs Le Nevez, now living on the South Coast with husband Ian, agreed.

"I was saying to Matt this morning - he made some monumental changes to the way we all lived and I was there through all of it, but at the time you don't think about it, you just got on with it," she said.

She left Mr Hawke's office in 1990 to spend more time with her boys.