Helen Coonan is a company director, corporate adviser, barrister and mediator. She is a former Parliamentarian in the Australian Parliament, Senator, Cabinet Minister and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. Helen’s 40 year professional career has spanned high level attainments in politics, business and the law.
Before her election to the Australian Parliament Helen had a distinguished legal career – founder of her own firm, practice as a partner in a large commercial firm, admission as an Attorney in New York and practice at the Bar as a commercial barrister and mediator.
But her desire to make a critical difference to the lives of others saw her move from being a political advocate to the Australian Parliament as Senator for NSW in 1996.
She was fortunate to serve in significant portfolios and positions during her 15 years as Senator and was promoted to Cabinet Minister in the Howard Government. As the Deputy Leader in the Senate she became the first woman to be elected to the leadership team of the Coalition Government and as Assistant Treasurer she was the first woman to serve in a Treasury portfolio in the history of Federation. She was the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. As Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Revenue and a member of Cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee she was the key driver of the Howard Government’s business tax and GST changes. She also oversaw a major overhaul of prudential regulation, credited with underpinning the strong performance of Australia’s institutions in the wake of the GFC.
In 2011 Helen stepped away from the Australian Senate to the private sector. Today her experience and expertise is broadly represented across corporate, government, scientific and philanthropic sectors.
She has a proven range of well developed analytical skills, financial acumen, broad spectrum industry experience in a number of sectors and in-depth knowledge and expertise in financial services, (banking, insurance, superannuation) energy (trading, generation, retail) telecommunications, broadcasting, media, entertainment, IT, the digital economy and life sciences.
In the corporate sector she is a member of Advisory Council of JP Morgan, non-executive Director of Snowy Hydro Ltd (also chairing the Retail Operations committee and serving on the Safety, Operations and Environment Risk Committee); non-executive director of ASX-200 listed Crown Resorts Ltd (also Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee and Chair of CSR Committee). She is also Chair of Supervised Investments Australia Ltd, on the Board of Advice for Aon Risk Services Australia Ltd, Co-Chair of GRACosway and Chair of Place Management NSW (formerly Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority).
Philanthropic roles include Chair of Crown Resorts Foundation. As former Minister for the Arts Helen continues to support the performing and visual arts and has a particular passion for promoting Australian culture to the world. She is a director of Australian Children’s Television Foundation and Trustee of Sydney Opera House Trust, chairing the SOH’s Conservation Council. Helen’s interest in science and health is reflected as a director of Obesity Australia Ltd, Ambassador for the Menzies School of Health Research and the GUT Foundation, Advisory Council of the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Advisory Council of Questacon. She is also a mentor at the start up hub, Stone and Chalk.
Recognising the importance of Australia’s global relationships, Helen serves on the Advisory Council of Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the European Australian Business Council. She maintains ties to her parliamentary career as Patron for the Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentary Alumnae.
As a second wave feminist of the 70s and 80s Helen was a key contributor to setting up the first women’s refuges in Sydney, women’s legal centres and women’s health centres. Her interest in the advancement and mentoring of women and girls is undiminished. She has a strong interest in encouraging women to enter politics.She appears as political commentator on Sky Business and is a regular participant at business forums, often as guest speaker.
Helen is Principal and Director of her own private company, Coonan Consulting Services Pty Ltd, providing high level strategic advice and facilitation to corporate clients including Samsung Electronics. Quantium (data analytics) and Allegis Partners (global executive search).
She lives in Sydney with her husband The Hon. Andrew Rogers AO QC and takes great pride in the milestones of her three young grandchildren.