After Ansett

Careers of Strength and Spirit


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September 2011 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Ansett Airlines collapse. Approximately 17,000 employees lost their jobs as an iconic Australian airline and brand closed overnight. As one of the senior Human Resources executives left standing, Helena Steel handled the people issues at the time of the collapse. She was given 5 Hours notice to create a call centre of 30 Human Resources staff to handle the calls of 17,000 employees. Ansett employees were generally long serving, highly technical and well trained, and many had family members who also worked for the company, due to the organisations “Hire Family” practice. Overall, they were a very specialised employee group, unprepared to face enormous change.

The closure of Ansett also coincided with September eleven and the terrorist attacks on New York, and Washington DC in the USA. It was a very tumultuous time for the whole Aviation Industry worldwide. Within Australia, the other major player, Qantas, was not hiring, and Virgin Blue was new in the Australian market. The outcomes of the Ansett collapse were some mighty “Big Career Transitions”, with many Ansett people struggling to gain employment and some moving away entirely from their careers and into other jobs and industries.

Helena was encouraged to write the real ‘people stories’ by friends and family, and has recently captured employee’s personal and honest accounts of the events.

So this book ‘After Ansett – Careers of Strength and Spirit’ is in itself a dedication to the real spirit of real Australians. Through their stories, what is clear is that there is “life after Ansett”, with the majority experiencing success and growth.

Ansett employees share insights that are raw, and true, and remind us all to take responsibility for career transition. Helena reveals the “S” Model of Change and how it relates to all people, from graduates to employees. The model encourages all employees to manage their own careers. Her tips and tools are relevant to anyone experiencing career transition. Helena’s experience has resulted in a best practice model for employers driving change. She encourages responsibility for early communication about change initiatives, giving regular, honest feedback about results. This includes being transparent with the workforce, especially when it comes to redundancies.