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RIP Helen Kelly

Written By: - Date published: 7:52 am, October 14th, 2016 - 42 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags: ,

Helen Kelly

Staunch Trade Unionist and Standard author Helen Kelly has died. Just 52 years old, Helen battled her illness the way she took on the fights in her life, on the front foot, never flinching. It’s a tribute to her ticker that she took up the cause of legalising medical marijuana at a time when she could have been forgiven for worrying about her own situation.

Helen was the daughter of unionist Pat Kelly and his activist wife Cath. She worked as a primary school teacher but was quickly offered a job with the union representing kindergarten teachers. She rose through the ranks as a union organiser, eventually becoming President of the Council of Trade Unions in her early forties. She held that position until her illness forced her to step down.

She was associated with many disputes down the years, none more so than the fight for justice for the families of the 29 workers killed by the management of Pike River coal mine. She championed health and safety in the forestry industry, stood side by side with the abused workers at Talley’s plants around Aotearoa, and lobbied governments for improvements in the basics of working life such as leave, breaks and security of employment.

Helen Kelly was one of the greatest Kiwi women of our time.

She will be missed anywhere there is injustice, anywhere a worker needs a hand.


Solidarity to husband Steve and son Dylan from the TS collective.


Haere ra, Helen.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


RNZ interview with the CTU’s Richard Wagstaff here.

Video from TVNZ here.




42 comments on “RIP Helen Kelly ”

  1. I Feel Love 1

    Very sorry to hear this, staunch leader, will be missed.

  2. mickysavage 2

    Commiserations to Helen’s whanau. She was an incredible activist and trade unionist and will be missed.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    When Kim Hill first announced it this morning on RNZ, she suggested that Kelly had chosen to end her life.

  4. Tory 4

    Politics aside, she showed great composure and strength when speaking about her illness.
    52 years is too young.

  5. RIP Helen. You gave and gave and showed us how we can give more, be more – thank you. Love to whānau, love to everyone who knew you and love to you in your journey. You are remembered and you are missed.

  6. Ovid 6

    Farewell Helen. Thank you. My thoughts are with her friends and family.

  7. greywarshark 7

    Helen you were great and did good and were so admirable. It is sad that we have lost you so early but you did a lifetime’s work in your short years.

  8. miravox 9

    Sad news. Inspirational, dedicated and with enormous integrity, Helen will not be forgotten. Condolences to her family.

  9. One Anonymous Bloke 10

    True greatness.

  10. tc 11

    RIP condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

  11. Manuka AOR 12

    We love you Helen. And now your spirit is woven into the fabric of who we are as a nation.

  12. vto 13

    brought a tear to my eye

  13. Takere 14

    Of all of the CTU leaders, Helen did get out from behind the desk the most …. Leadership from the front line….

  14. gsays 15

    A Kauri has fallen.

    Despite going up against some of the most powerful on behalf of those with the least power, Helen always ‘played the ball, not the man’.
    Even when injustice and emotion were high, she still kept integrity and dignity.

    An example to us all.

    • Leftie 15.1

      “A Kauri has fallen.” Not a truer word spoken Gsays, a beautiful description of a wonderful human being that is Helen Kelly.

  15. keepcalmcarryon 16

    RIP Helen. A truly great New Zealander putting others first right until the end.
    What a loss.

  16. Ad 17

    An awesome person and someone to really look up to.
    I found Helen Kelly inspiring.

  17. ianmac 18

    A huge number of citizens admired and respected and loved this woman of such courage and integrity. A pity that our system of public acknowledgement seems to focus on the rich, the politicians, and the top sportsmen but ignore the truly great people like Helen Kelly.

  18. Philj 19

    What a courageous and capable women that fought for
    Justice and workers rights. She will be missed.

  19. The Chairman 20

    A fighter to the bitter end.

    One that will be remembered and missed.


    A memorial statue would be fitting.

    • mosa 20.1

      In memory perhaps a new employment act that has the teeth and strength to protect all New Zealand workers and would include corporate responsibility for the safety and well being of working people.
      Helens Law.
      That should be a priority of the next Labour led government.

  20. William Robertson 21

    Very sad to wake to news of the death of Helen Kelly, a woman of extraordinary integrity and compassion who I covered at press conferences and at parliamentary select committees over many years, and was very fortunate to have known, albeit tangentially. She exuded kindness as though it was commonplace, because she believed that it should be.

    Helen maintained great humour during a rather ugly and hopeless period in my country’s political history, and she continued with the same strident and valiant spirit throughout a long and painful battle with cancer. To her, her sickness was nothing beside the illness infecting our body politic. Her own body wrecked, throat gagged, she continued to call for justice and respect for all people. Her final, struggling exhalations for human dignity over the last few months, in her suffering, shames any articulation I could conceivably spit.

    “Reality is not simply there, it does not simply exist: it must be sought out and won.”
    – Paul Celan
    Helen embodied that.

    It’s time that we stopped talking of political cycles as though they were seasons. Our position in relation to our leaders is not set like some celestial body with no choice of trajectory. Let hope be our spring, union our summer.

    RIP Helen

  21. Infused 23

    The one thing I do hope for in my life time is for the major cancers to have some sort of cure. Cancer is a horrible thing.

  22. mauī 24

    Selfless and fearless are two words that come to mind. Her actions will only be more admired as time goes by.

  23. greywarshark 25

    These are the last lines of a poem by
    Stephen Spender that Chris Trotter has put on Bowalley Road in remembrance of Helen.

    Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
    See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
    And by the streamers of white cloud
    And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
    The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
    Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
    Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
    And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

  24. One Two 26

    Perhaps the good die young because they have completed their ‘assignment’ in this life

    Helen Kelly stood for and gave of herself on behalf of others over much of her life

    Can’t do much better than that

  25. George Hendry 27

    Tihei mauri mate.

    Haere ra, Helen.

    Waiho mai ra au mahi pono nei hei whakamaumaharatanga mo matou noho tangi tonu nei.

    Ki te hono i wairua

    ki te whai ao

    ki te ao marama.

    Tihei mauri ora.

  26. swordfish 28

    Fought for the rights of others to the very end, just like her dad.

  27. Jenny Kirk 29

    A sterling woman – an inspiration to others – and a person who continued to fight right to the end, not only for herself but for all people. Words do not do Helen Kelly justice – she will continue to be in our thoughts and hearts for years to come and someone whom we will sorely miss. RIP

  28. Once was and others etc 30

    Her, AND her dad – both just bloody good people.
    Those with the need for an icon or star to aspire to, there IS no better.

  29. rawshark-yeshe 31

    So sad you are gone, brave woman warrior for us all and the greatest prime minister we will never have. Your innate courageous compassion brought comfort to so many lives. RIP Helen, and thank you.

  30. McFlock 32

    A great leader and an inspiring human being. Such a loss.

  31. Penny Bright 33

    Your Dad would have been VERY proud of your achievements and legacy Helen.

    You will be missed.


    Penny Bright

  32. Awww C-mon 34

    Condolences to Helen’s family, both her whanau and wider family through the union movement and political left.

    I generally only visit TS as a smart arse but tonight want to offer a sincere kia kaha to you all, please continue to fight hard for what you believe in her name, she deserves a better a hand than what was dealt to her.

    I hope an encouragement to you to continue her fight is seen as sincere and although I am likely to oppose you every step of the way, not because I want a different outcome for NZer’s but because I see a different way to get there, when the arguing and debating is done, it is people that matter.

    RIP Helen, Arohanui to your whanau.

  33. Sacha 35

    Sad Helen is gone and grateful for her profound service. John Campbell’s interview in August, replayed today in tribute: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201820049/helen-kelly-dies,-aged-52 (20m)

  34. millsy 36

    RIP Helen,

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