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Helen Kelly was born on September 19, 1964, and died on October 14, 2016.
She was President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions from 2007 to 2015.
She started her career as a primary school teacher, enjoying working for three years at Johnsonville Main School.
Kelly was appointed a union delegate on her first day teaching and quickly became more involved in union affairs.
Helen held senior positions with both the New Zealand Institute of Education and the Association of University Staff (now the New Zealand Tertiary Education Union).
Helen Kelly was the youngest person appointed as a general secretary of the AUS, a position she held for five years until her election as CTU President in 2007.
She was an outspoken advocate for better safety standards in the New Zealand forestry industry.
Because of her campaigning, a review into the industry was launched and some operators were forcibly closed.
At one point, the government refused to press charges against the employer, so Kelly led a private prosecution against the company.
Then the number of deaths due to forestry-related accidents subsequently fell, from 10 deaths in 2013 to 1 in 2014 and 3 in 2015.
Following the 2010 Pike River Mine disaster that killed 29 miners, Helen Kelly worked for improved safety standards and justice through the courts for the miner’s families.
Helen was also recognised for her compassion and support of the victims’ families.
Helen Kelly passed away at 52 years old.