Special Achievements:

Helen Brownlee was the first Australian woman to gain international status in canoeing when selected to judge slalom at the Munich Olympics (1972).  She was first woman President of Australian Canoeing (1985-1999) and the New South Wales Olympic Council (1990), and the first woman on the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Technical Committee for Canoe Slalom (1976-1988), the ICF Board of Directors (1988) and the Australian Olympic Committee Executive Board (1991, and becoming vice president in 2013).

She was a groundbreaker for women in sports administration and has been honoured by the International Olympic Committee for her work in education and invited to become a member of the IOC Commission for Culture and Olympic Education.  She has also been a strong advocate for the involvement of more women in sport.

Additional Information:

As a young child, Helen was introduced to the sport of canoeing by her father, Os Brownlee (who was one of the founding members of the Australian Canoe Federation).  As a teenager, Helen competed in sprint, wildwater and slalom racing winning medals at both state and national championships.  She also competed at an international level.  Her focus gradually moved from participation to administration and Helen has held many senior positions in the sport of canoeing.  She has been an Olympic Judge in 1972 and served on the Jury for Canoeing at four Olympics in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000.

Helen was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia in 1985 for services to the sport of canoeing.  In 2002, she was awarded the International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Trophy for Oceania.  After devoting much of her life to the sport of canoeing as a competitor, judge and administrator, in 2011 Helen  was the first woman awarded life membership of the Australian Olympic Committee.

She was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2018, was an inaugural inductee into Paddle Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2017 and was inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.


  • Image - Helen Brownlee

    Image courtesy of Helen Brownlee, NPWHF collection