Helen Hughes

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For the American actress, see Helen Slayton-Hughes.

Helen Hughes AO (1 October 1928 – 15 June 2013) was an Australian economist. She was Professor Emerita at the Australian National University, Canberra, and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney. Hughes has been described[by whom?] as Australia's greatest female economist.[1]


Born Helen Gintz in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Hughes migrated with her parents to Melbourne in 1939.[2] She completed a BA (Hons) from the University of Melbourne in 1949 and an MA (Hons) in 1951. Her dissertation on the history of the Australian steel industry was later published as her first book. She completed her PhD at the London School of Economics in 1954.

In 1983 she was appointed by the Australian Foreign Minister Bill Hayden as a member and deputy chair of the Jackson Committee to prepare a report for the Australian government on foreign aid. In 1985 Hughes presented the ABC's 'Boyer Lectures' on 'Australia in a Developing World'. She was Professor of Economics and Director of the National Centre for Development Studies at the ANU from 1983 to 1993, and a member of the Fitzgerald Committee on Immigration: A Commitment to Australia. She also worked at the World Bank from 1968 to 1983 and was a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Planning from 1987 to 1993.[3]

Hughes latter research focused on the development problems facing the Pacific Island nations and remote Indigenous Australian communities in Australia.

Her last book, Lands of Shame, was about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 'Homelands' and reviewed demographic trends, law and order, land rights, joblessness and welfare, education, health, housing and governance, and assesses Commonwealth, State and Territory policies. It was published by the Centre for Independent Studies.[4]


In 1985 Hughes was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for "service to international relations, particularly in the field of economics".[5] In 2001 she was awarded the Centenary Medal, for "service to economic policy, particularly poverty alleviation and economic development".[6]

In 1980 Hughes appeared as a World Bank economist on a panel moderated by Robert McKenzie featuring Donald Rumsfeld, Jagdish Bhagwati, and Richard Deason (an IBEW union leader) as part of the Milton Friedman's PBS documentary "Free to Choose".[7]


Hughes was married twice. She had two sons by her first marriage to Ian Hughes. In 1975 she married Graeme Dorrance, an economist at the International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC.[8]


Hughes died peacefully in Sydney from complications following surgery on 15 June 2013.[1]


1 October 1928 Born Prague Czechoslovakia
1939 Migrated to Melbourne Australia
1949 BA (Hons) University of Melbourne
1951 MA (Hons) University of Melbourne
1954 PhD London School of Economics
1955–1958 University of Melbourne
1959–1960 University of NSW
1961–1962 University of Queensland
1963–1968 Australian National University
1969–1983 World Bank Washington DC
1983–1993 Australian National University – Director, National Centre for Development Studies
1985 ABC Boyer Lectures – 'Australia in a Developing World'
1993–1995 University of Melbourne
1993-2013 Emeritus Professor of Economics (ANU); Senior Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies
2013 Died in Sydney


Helen Hughes wrote, edited or co-authored at least 18 books on topics such as employment, economic development, international trade and investment, Australian foreign policy and migration, including:

  • The Political Economy of Nauru (1964)
  • Prospects for Partnership (1973)
  • Policies for Industrial Progress in Developing Countries (1980)
  • Achieving Industrialization in East Asia (1988)[9]
  • Lands of Shame - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 'Homelands' in Transition (2007)


  1. ^ a b "Helen Hughes, Australia’s greatest female economist: 1928-2013". Catallaxy Files. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  2. ^ Damien Murphy, 'Champion of social justice', Sydney Morning Herald, 21 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Helen Hughes AO". Cis.org.au. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  4. ^ Lands of Shame [SP09] - $38.00 : Zen Cart!, The Art of E-commerce
  5. ^ "It's an Honour - HUGHES-DORRANCE, Helen". Australian Government. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  6. ^ "It's an Honour - HUGHES-DORRANCE, Helen". Australian Government. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  7. ^ Free To Choose - Media
  8. ^ Australian Women’s Register. Retrieved 17 June 2013
  9. ^ University of Melbourne /All Locations