Dr Helen Hill

Vale: Dr. Helen Mary Hill


IWDA acknowledges with sadness and deep respect the death on 7 May 2024 of Dr. Helen Mary Hill, Order of Timor-Leste, Profesora Convidada, Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL), Honorary Fellow, Victoria University, and co-founder of the Australia-East Timor Association.


Helen will be remembered by many for her significant and sustained contributions to Timor-Leste – as advocate, organiser, campaigner, academic, teacher and mentor.   


Helen also played a formative role in the approach to gender and development thinking in Australia through the Women and Development Network of Australia (WADNA), which was established in 1981 to recognise and promote women’s central role in development as both beneficiaries and decision-makers. Helen attended the United Nations Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi in 1985, including participating in the Pacific Women’s Caucus alongside other prominent feminists of that time, to help strategise on the group’s objectives. IWDA co-founder Wendy Poussard worked alongside Helen as National Coordinator of WADNA before leaving to form IWDA and announce its establishment at Nairobi.


Helen worked for a time in the Pacific, including two years conducting the Diploma Course in Youth and Development for the Commonwealth Youth Program at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. She was a very active supporter of, and networker with, Pacific women. Her commitment to social justice grew from her early years in the Student Christian Movement.


Helen played an influential role in supporting and highlighting Timor-Leste’s right to self-determination, including publishing ‘The Timor Story’ in 1975 – an academic work which placed a spotlight on Jose Ramos Horta’s diplomatic efforts at the United Nations. As a result of this work, Helen received a 24-year ban from visiting the territory that was to become Timor-Leste.


Helen taught at Victoria University for more than 20 years, introducing new studies on community development in Asia and the Pacific. Committed to supporting a focus on the Pacific, she served as President of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies. She was a regular and continuing contributor to development research and education conferences, sharing knowledge and experience of the Pacific, Timor-Leste, New Caledonia, community development, development education and gender with generations of students, academics and practitioners.

During Timor-Leste’s transition to independence she returned to the country to support the establishment of a Department of Community Development at the National University. After retiring from Victoria University, Timor-Leste’s Minister of Education – a former student of Helen’s – invited her to work in the Ministry. She also continued her research on education and development, gender issues and the solidarity economy. She was awarded the Order of Timor-Leste for her lifetime of solidarity to the country in 2014.


Helen leaves a powerful legacy, including with the many students and collaborators whose lives she touched.


Funeral details
Friday 17 May, 11.30am
Church of All Nations, Carlton, Victoria


Dr Helen Hill