After receiving a First Class Honours degree in Sociology from Victoria University, Helene worked first for the State Services Commission, then was seconded to the Prime Minister’s Department as social policy adviser to Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon in 1978-80. She was the first woman to be appointed to the Advisory Group.
A career change led to acting and directing for theatre, film and television. She worked for the New Zealand Film Commission as its first script development executive, and for New Zealand on Air as Programme Manager for Television. From 2000-2006 she was a member of the Board of the New Zealand Film Commission, representing the Commission at the Shanghai-NZ Film Festival in 2004.
She worked as script and casting consultant on Illustrious Energy, Leon Narbey’s acclaimed 1988 feature about Chinese goldminers in Otago, and directed the television documentary about Chinese in New Zealand, Footprints of the Dragon, for the series An Immigrant Nation. The episode was among the 10 top-rating documentaries of 1995. As an actor, she appeared in the Court Theatre’s 2012 production of Lynda Chanwai-Earle’s Man in a Suitcase, in Christchurch and Beijing.
She is a member of New Zealand Asian Leaders, and of SUPERdiverse WOMEN.
Helene is now a full-time writer and occasional actor. She was film critic for the NZ Listener for twenty years between 1996 and 2016, and has written feature film screenplays. She published her memoir, Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story, in 2016, and collaborated with graphic artist Ant Sang to produce comic-book artworks for the Being Chinese in Aotearoa exhibition at Auckland War Memorial Museum during 2017.