Work Safety Advocate, Author, Speaker and WA 2012 Local Hero Australian of the Year
Helen is a passionate work safety advocate, author and speaker. Following the death of her husband in 1991, in an underground mining accident in Norseman, WA she was left a widow in her early thirties, with three young children to raise alone.
At the time of her husband Steve's death, mining fatalities in particular were largely 'normalised' - by not only companies, but also government regulators. Such tragedies were considered part of the business and virtually no support was offered to families, to enable them to move forward with their lives.
One of the strategies that Helen used in coping with her circumstance, was to write - she wrote to her husband, but wrote largely for herself and small children and several years later, "Just a Number" was published. The book outlines the journey she and her children took for the five years after Steve's death, as they waded through the quagmire of emotional, legal and bureaucratic processes that make up the life of families bereaved by a workplace fatality.
"Just a Number" is now used largely throughout industry around Australia, as a means of informing workers and their families of the dire consequences on loved ones, of the devastation of a workplace fatality. For the past decade, she has also travelled extensively throughout Australia, delivering safety presentations to companies and their employees, to illustrate the importance of both parties' commitment to safety at work. This has also been accompanied by the production of her DVD in 2007, entitled "Just a Number."
For the past decade, much of her time has been devoted to campaigning for, not just improved safety within the mining sector, but also for improved, on-going support for bereaved family members. This has culminated in the establishment of the Western Australian Resource Workers Legacy Scheme Incorporated (known as The Miners Promise), in 2010, of which she is the current Chairperson of the Board. This organisation ensures that no family of a resource worker is left in a position of poverty or isolation following the death of a loved one and receives a diverse range of on-going support, to meet individual members' and their family's needs. This initiative has recently become a national concern, meaning that resource workers, no matter what their jurisdiction, are now eligible to become members. In recognition of her tireless efforts, Helen was awarded WA Local Hero of the Year 2012 - a category of the Australian of the Year. She is also a qualified Grief Counsellor, assisting other family members who have found themselves in a similar position to her family, to cope with the burden of the loss of a loved one.
Thank you for your very thought-provoking and moving talk. We really appreciate how much everyone's attention to implementing and maintaining safe work practices makes a positive difference to our quality of life both at work and at home. I'm sure that you have inspired many of us to be more aware and proactive in making changes happen. Thank you.
RCR Resources Eagle
Your presentation was extremely powerful. Personally for me, it made me appreciate the role I am in even more, and like you, want others to learn from the past and prevent incidents in the workplace.
Thiess Georgiou JV
One aspect of your presentation that really hit me hard were the numbers of people who have been unfortunate enough to make your list. I would've thought stats like that would be from the 1800's- and that's only in Western Australia... Thanks for being so brave and bold. You really are making a difference to the way people think (and work).