International Women’s Day: You’ll be seeing more police on the streets

By Hayley Elg of the Ballarat Courier, Australia

THIS INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day, you can expect to see more female police officers out and about.

EMPOWERMENT: Senior sergeant Michelle Kilburn, Constable Sarah Torpy, Superintendent Jenny Wilson, Constable Sheree Roberts and Sergeant Kylie Campbell. Photo: Adam Trafford

International Women’s Day, March 8, is a day to celebrate the achievements of women, to raise awareness of bias and to take action for equality.

Victoria Police is one organisation with a long history of female involvement.

Victoria Police began investigating employing women as far back as 1863, as it was not seen as ‘proper’ for a policeman to search female prisoners or suspects. While female police were called for, for decades on end the job fell to the policeman’s wife.

The City of Ballarat was one of the first to campaign for the appointment of a female police officer for the city, as early as 1915. The campaign was on the basis that the city urgently needed female police to supervise and protect at-risk women and children.

Their petition was denied and another formulated during WWII was also.

While female undercover agents were used to gather intelligence prior, the first female officers were appointed as agents in 1917.

Ballarat received its first female policewoman, Elaine Brown, in 1950.

Since then, female representation in the organisation has continued to grow. Of Victoria Police’s more than 22,000 employees, 34 per cent are female.

In the Ballarat region, 30 per cent of employees are female, including the Superintendent.

Ballarat Police Superintendent Jenny Wilson, who this year celebrates 30 years in the police force, said the idea to saturate the city with female police on Sunday would be empowering.

“We have many women in the organisation now so we thought that we could saturate a shift on International Women’s Day to reflect how far policing has come, because it certainly wasn’t like this when I started,” she said.

Ballarat police has a number of women in senior positions now, including several female Senior Sergeants.

There are also a number of female Sergeants and plenty of new female recruits, which Superintendent Wilson said was ‘pretty satisfying’.

Constable Sheree Roberts has been employed for 12 months and said it was encouraging to see senior female members in the workplace, as it represented a path that younger members could take if they choose to.

While recognising that not everybody would want to rise through the ranks, Superintendent Wilson said police had worked hard to give employees opportunities to reach their full potential.

“The organisation is really clear now that we’re clearing pathways so that everybody, no matter who they are, has the same opportunity.”