Helen Clark

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Helen Clark was Prime Minister of New Zealand from December 5, 1999, to November 19, 2008. Her rise to the top of New Zealand politics is the culmination of almost thirty years of involvement with the Labour Party. She currently serves as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

Early life

Helen Clark was born in 1950, in the northern city of Hamilton, and spent her first twelve years on the family sheep and cattle farm to the west of the city. She is the oldest of four girls.

After five years of secondary schooling at Auckland's Epsom Girls' Grammar, where she was a boarder, Helen Clark entered the University of Auckland in 1968 to study politics. Later she lectured in political studies at the university.

It was during her time at university that Helen Clark's active involvement in politics began, sparked by issues such as the war in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa, and nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

In 1986 Helen Clark was awarded the annual Peace Prize of the Danish Peace Foundation for her work in promoting peace and disarmament.

Political career

In 1987, following the re-election of the New Zealand Labour Party, Helen Clark was elected to the Cabinet. Over the next three years she held a number of ministerial portfolios - conservation, housing, labour and health. From August 1989 until October 1990 she was Deputy Prime Minister.

As health minister Helen Clark sponsored the introduction of tobacco control legislation. This provided protection against smoking in workplaces and public places, and eliminated tobacco advertising and the sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies.

Helen Clark was elected Leader of the Labour Party in December 1993 and served as Leader of the Opposition until the general election in November 1999, when Labour was again elected to government. She won a second term at the 2002 general election.

Outside of politics, Helen Clark is an avid patron of the arts (holding the official portfolio of Minister for the Arts). She enjoys classical concerts, opera and is a keen sportswoman.

Helen Clark is married to Dr Peter Davis, Professor of Sociology and head of the Sociology Department at Auckland University.