Women in Policing

I was delighted recently to join the Governor, the Chief Commissioner of Police and senior police at Government House to celebrate Victoria’s 100 years of women in policing. We had hundreds of past and present women who have served Victoria Police there on that evening. It was a great opportunity to honour the contribution of women to the vital work of Victoria Police.

In 1917 Madge Connor and Elizabeth Beers became the first female police agents, and a lot has changed since then. The recent rededication of Madge Connor’s grave was a moving service that I was privileged to attend. Madge led the way, and her contribution was crucial for so many women, including me, in being able to hold the positions we do today. Women have now held every rank within Victoria Police. The pay at the time was half that of the male officers, and they had no arrest rights. They were working in conditions that seem unimaginable now. Through Madge’s work, women in Victoria Police achieved equal pay for equal work, nearly half a century before this became law in Australia.

Despite this, significant barriers continued for women. For example, until 1986 female officers had to carry their firearms in a police-issue handbag, and trousers took a few decades to become part of the uniform. In 1924 there were four female police officers. Now there are more than 4000 women in Victoria Police. There is more to be done to continue to attract increasing numbers of female recruits and achieve real equality for women within the force. I want to thank all those past and current women who serve or served in Victoria Police. You have helped to build a better organisation.