New Zealand Labour Party

Labour mourns passing of Helen Kelly

Helen Kelly was a passionate advocate for working New Zealanders and for a safe and decent working life, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says. 

“Helen Kelly spent her adult life fighting for the right of every working person to have dignity and a better life.  

“Helen was a fighter. She was a passionate advocate for the causes she believed in – fair treatment for working people, justice in the workplace and the opportunity for all Kiwis to live better, more fulfilling lives at work. 

“Her tireless campaigning and advocacy made a real difference and her commitment to her cause saw her championing the need for safer working conditions for those in the forestry industry, shining a light on an industry that has for too long neglected the people who work in it.  

“The way that Helen continued to stand up for what she believed in even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer was an inspiration. To the very end of her life, she was an example of extraordinary dedication and tenacity.  

“Helen spent her life standing up to powerful people and fighting for justice. Her passing is an enormous loss to New Zealand and our thoughts are with her husband Steve and her son Dylan, says Andrew Little.

The Labour Party mourns Helen Kelly

The Labour family is today in mourning for Helen Kelly.

“After a long illness, borne with irrepressible fortitude and humour, and a determination that her final months should make a difference for others, she leaves her much-loved family, and a multitude of friends and colleagues, deeply saddened by her loss, and uplifted by her memory, said Nigel Haworth, Labour Party President.

“Helen was profoundly involved in all things Labour. Her trade union work, nationally and internationally, was imbued with her strong social democratic values. For her, the Labour Party was a party for working people who by right should have a strong political voice.

“Trade unionism and Labour politics were inextricably intertwined in her thinking, combined in a fusion of workplace and political voice. She contributed her own strong unflinching voice in both. She was as determined in her work in the Labour Party to further worker rights and conditions as she was in her trade union life.

“Helen had a wonderful capacity to see the big picture in the day-to-day life of people. This gave her an extraordinary ability to work with people and understand how their struggles translated into wider political campaigns and policy. Nowhere is this more obvious that in her health and safety work around, for example, Pike River and the forestry sector. It was also true in her final days as she campaigned on the medicinal cannabis issue. It was this quality that marked her commitment to better employment legislation, based on respect for working people and their families.

“The Labour Party lost today a member who contributed at every level, from the practical tasks of organising local pamphlet deliveries to the determination of major policy. It is no secret that Helen may well have entered parliament one day, and many is the commentator who saw in her a future leader of the Parliamentary Party. Equally, others hoped to see her take up senior leadership roles in the international trade union movement, or in the International Labour Organisation. Leaving her CTU role was to be the start of another chapter in the life’s work for working people. This is not to be, and we lament the arbitrary extinguishing of such potential for good.

“The Labour Party offers its sincere condolences to Steve and Dylan, and to Cath, and hopes that the recognition by so many of all that she has achieved offers support and comfort. All who knew here will mourn with her family today. All who knew her will go forward in trade union and political life the better for her friendship and commitment, and the clearer in our dedication to a decent life for all," said Nigel Haworth.