Sunday October 22, 2017   Last updated 21:03PM

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Saying goodbye to Helen - The Helen Kelly memorial service

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Saying goodbye to Helen - The Helen Kelly memorial service

The Michael Fowler Centre was full. Unionists, activists, politicians, bosses, Government MPs, men, women, children, Maori, Pacific island, Pakeha, Indian, Academics, working people, young, old, Gay, straight, Trans - everyone wanted to pay their respects to Helen.

Everyone knew she was dying, but for her to actually leave has left a void on the progressive side of politics that is yearning to be filled.

It was somber.

REM played in the background as shell shocked grievers filed in. It was the enormity of what NZ had lost that pressed down upon everyone.

Photos of Helen at various stages of life were displayed. At her height of activism, from her youth and from her illness. The most poignant were those of her with her father. Her deep solemn eyes unflinching in their gaze almost as if even as a child, the weight of a world of injustices were already deep within her alongside the devotion she had for her Dad.

Russel Norman MCd and words of kindness given by CTU President Richard Wagstaff, ITU Confederation President, Sharan Burrow and Australian Council of Trade Unins President, Ged Kearney.

The passion with which Helen fought her battles and the deep kindness she used to build support were constant themes.

The music played a powerful role. The Union anthem Joe Hill, a song sang by her son and Don McGlashan leaving no eye dry with his haunting rendition of Anchor Me.

People grieved, because there was much to grieve.

Robyn Malcolm spoke of the horrific way Helen was attacked over the manufactured crisis at the Hobbit. She reminded us of the loyalty and warmth that embodied Helen not just as leader but as a person.

The pain of the Pike River family tragedy was articulated best by Trevor Mallard in what was one of the best speeches of his life. Trevor reflected through a shaking voice how he had sat down with Helen and asked what he could have done differently in regards to oversight. His level of self reflection was honest and raw and it was the kind of authentic response that Helen was able to create in others.

The final word went to the woman many hope will have the empathy and compassion to take up Helen's leadership, PSA National Secretary, Erin Polaczuk. Erin asked anyone to stand who had been taught something by Helen, and the room as one stood.

It was a poignant moment in a memorial that left everyone in wonder not by the fights Helen fought but the fights she might have gone on to win.

NZ lost a Great warrior and buried one of our great civil rights activists.

The seeds are there for us to do her proud.

Martyn Bradbury

Editor -

Waatea 5th Estate

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