Neal Blewett

Dr Neal Blewett AC (born 24 October 1933), Australian politician, was an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives representing the Division of Bonython, South Australia from 1977 to 1994.

Education and academic career

Born in Launceston, Tasmania, Blewett was educated at Launceston High School and the University of Tasmania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education. Blewett received a Rhodes Scholarship and studied PPE at Jesus College, Oxford between 1957 and 1959 for a further BA (later converted to a Master of Arts). He also obtained a D.Phil. in political science. In 1974, he was appointed professor of politics at Flinders University in South Australia, until 1977 when he ran for parliament.

Political career

When Labor under Bob Hawke won government in the 1983 election, Blewett was made Minister for Health. In 1987, with the introduction of "super-departments", he gained additional responsibilities as Minister for Community Services and Health. As Health Minister, he oversaw many important reforms such as the implementation of the Medicare universal health scheme, the Disability Services Act 1986, a 'Drug Offensive' which included tobacco smoking and alcohol, and in what is considered his greatest legacy, a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. The strategy included a major education and advertising campaign (including the famous 'Grim Reaper' advertisements), and anti-discrimination legislation against HIV/AIDS sufferers.

In 1990, he became Minister for Trade and Overseas Development. Blewett supported Paul Keating in his successful 1991 leadership challenge against Hawke, and when Keating became Prime Minister, Blewett became Minister for Social Security until he retired from politics in 1993.

Post-political career

In 1994, Neal Blewett was appointed Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, as which he served until 1998. At the same time, he was on the Executive Council of the World Health Organization.

Returning to Australia in 1998, he became President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and a visiting professor of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney. In 2002, he was appointed as President of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia.

In 1999, he published A Cabinet Diary: A Personal Record of the First Keating Government 1991-93, his memoirs which detailed his time on the frontbench of the Keating government.


Neal Blewett has received honorary degrees from the University of Tasmania, the University of Hull and the Australian National University. He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College Oxford in 1998.

In 1995, he was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to Australian society.

Personal life

Neal Blewett was married for 26 years to Jill Blewett, a renowned Australian playwright, with whom he had two children. Jill died when she was accidentally electrocuted in their home in October 1988.

Blewett revealed he was homosexual in a May 2000 issue of The Age's Good Weekend magazine, which profiled his relationship with long-term partner Robert Brain, who he had met as a university student 50 years previously. The couple live in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, New South Wales. Brain and Blewett moved in together in 1989, after which Blewett successfully sued a radio station and two doctors for claiming he was gay.

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