UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 01: Australian PM Robert Hawke speaking at the Australian embassy during his visit to the US. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke has died at the age of 89.

The Labor legend, who led Australia from 1983 – 1991, passed away peacefully at home on Thursday according to a statement released by his wife Blanche d’Alpuget and his three children — Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn.

“Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian — many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era,” the statement read.

“He died peacefully at home at the age of 89 years.

“I and Bob’s children, Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and stepson, Louis, and his grandchildren, will hold a private funeral.

“A memorial service will be held in Sydney in coming weeks.”

The statement said Hawke “abhorred racism and bigotry” and that “among his proudest achievements were large increases in the proportion of children finishing high school, his role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and his successful international campaign to protect Antarctica from mining.”

Former Prime Minister Hawke’s legacy also includes free healthcare in the form of Medicare. He was also admired for his colourful, larrikin spirit and love of a beer; he broke the world record when he skolled a yard of beer in 11 seconds when he was at university.

News presenters struggled to hold back tears as they broke the news on Thursday night, and many prominent Australians, including former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, took to social media to pay tribute to the iconic Australian.

His death comes just days before Australians head to the polls to vote for the next Prime Minister. Just this week, Mr Hawke endorsed Labor leader Bill Shorten.