Helen Brookes was born in Melbourne and moved several times before settling in Adelaide in 1929. She started her working career at the Waite Institute with Dr Davidson. Later Brookes became a technical assistant and eventually senior lecturer as a systematic entomologist. Following her retirement, in 1982, she presented her insect collection to the Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra. Brookes was a member of the Lyceum and Minerva Clubs. In 1999, Year of the Older Person, Brookes was invited to a symposium in Canberra as an outstanding older woman scientist.
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Australian Women's Register
Helen Brookes was one of South Australia's top entomologists. Due to the depression and later her work commitments, she never completed any formal tertiary studies in the field. Instead, Brookes was trained 'on the job', initially starting out as a Laboratory Assistant in the fledgling Department of Entomology at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute (1936). She remained with the institute for almost fifty years, receiving numerous promotions along the way: in 1942 Brookes became the Institute's first female Technical Assistant, in 1964 was given a lecturing role and in 1976 was appointed to the top position of Senior Systemic Entomologist.
At first her duties were broad and varied, but as she proved herself she was given specific projects to work on. In 1940 she helped translate from Latin into English the only book written about Australian grasshoppers and during the war years was engaged in identifying and illustrating wheat-associated pests. Her illustrations were published directly in the Journal of Agriculture of South Australia and used on posters delivered to wheat farmers. Later her work dealt with a range of pests including field crickets and Coccoidea - an insect superfamily that includes scale insects and mealy bugs. Coccoidea became her area of expertise and she gained international recognition in the field. She donated her large specimen collection to the Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra upon her retirement (1982). Throughout her career Helen Brookes wrote several important works and made many key contributions to the field. She was a member of the Royal Society of South Australia and a founding member of the Australian Entomological Society.
1936 - 1943
Career position - Laboratory Assistant at Waite Agricultural Research Institute in South Australia
1943 - 1957
Career position - Technical Assistant at Waite Agricultural Research Institute
Career position - Member of the Royal Society of South Australia
1957 - 1964
Career position - Assistant Systemic Entomologist at Waite Agricultural Research Institute
1964 - 1975
Career position - Systemic Entomologist and Lecturer at Waite Agricultural Research Institute
17 August 1965 -
Career position - Foundation member of the Australian Entomological Society
Career position - Study leave to the British Museum in London (ten months)
1976 - 1982
Career position - Senior Systemic Entomologist at Waite Agricultural Research Institute
Career position - Study and research leave in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Japan and London
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Encyclopedia of Australian Science