Daughter of well-known unionist, Pat Kelly, Helen was brought up with a firm faith in the power of unions. She began her career as a primary school teacher, and quickly became heavily involved in union affairs.
Over the years she has become an outspoken advocate for workers' rights in various capacities including her current role as president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.
Despite never having been a smoker, Helen was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2015 at the age of 50.
Helen lives in Wellington, with her partner Steve and her son Dylan.