Education International
Education International

Education unions pay tribute to New Zealand’s Helen Kelly

published 14 October 2016 updated 16 October 2016

A former teacher and union leader, Ms Kelly is being remembered by friends, colleagues and the global teaching community for her lifelong commitment to quality public education both at home and around the world.

Educators and unions are mourning the passing of Kelly, a member of New Zealand Educational Institute - Te Riu Roa, who succumbed to cancer on 14 October.

“She was truly someone who made a genuine difference in the lives of countless New Zealanders. Her passing is a loss to all of us, but we especially send our love and sympathy to Helen’s husband Steve and her son Dylan,” said NZEI President Louise Green.

In September 2015 Kelly’s dedication was celebrated when she was made an Honorary Fellow of NZEI for her enormous contribution to the goal of quality public education in New Zealand.

Kelly started her career as a primary school teacher in Johnsonville, a suburb in northern Wellington, where she was made a union delegate on her first day in the job. Among the many roles she filled throughout her career, she played a prominent role in the primary pay parity campaign of the 1990s and continued the fight into the next decade on pay parity for kindergarten teachers. In 2002 Helen was appointed General Secretary of the Association of University Staff – now the TEU. She held the role of President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions from 2007 to 2015.

At the global level, Kelly actively contributed to the rights of workers through various  activities and took a leading role in many of the debates and negotiations at the International Labour Organisation.

Ms Kelly was 52.