Striving to close the gap

Helen Wilkes
Striving to close the gap

Words By Sheree Scott
Photo By Minori Ueda

When Helen Wilkes resolved to swap the dreary cold of industrial Manchester for sunnier skies and snorkelling in Cairns she had no idea of the far-reaching consequences it would have.

“Initially the transient holiday atmosphere of Cairns in 1989 felt surreal,” Helen says. It wasn’t until she started travelling and working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that she felt at home.

“Their welcoming attitude was the missing link and the start of a life-changing passion to raise awareness in closing the gap for these very special people,” she says.

With an attitude of honesty and respect, she rose up the ranks of the accounting and advisory services sector to become the Principal for Indigenous Services at Grant Thornton in Australia.

“Coming from the UK, I’d never met an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person before.

Hearing their stories over the last 30 years and what they’ve been through, I can see there is a lot to do. Wherever you look there is a difference in standards – in health, education and opportunities.
“My work at Grant Thornton allows me to make
a difference,”
she says.
Helen’s team conducts financial audits of indigenous communities and organisations throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory, helping to improve corporate governance with training and ensuring community members understand the financial reports.

“Our team also assists our indigenous clients in areas such as tax planning advice, helping them to gain charitable status, providing structuring advice when it comes to receiving royalties and other income streams, fringe benefits tax advice and even mentoring, “she says.

“People within the communities know and trust our team, most we’ve known for the past 20 to 30 years. It has become a close knit network that I feel respected within and a part of.”

“Plus I get to wear jeans and travel to really remote communities in incredibly stunning parts of Australia.”
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