International Women’s Day is celebrated all around the world on March 8.
This year the women of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) will be inspired by changes over the years.
The birth of the Queensland police force was in 1864. It was in 1931 that women were first inducted into the force and were expected to look after female suspects and prisoners out of Roma Street in Brisbane.
1950 saw just 10 policewomen in the job when the states population was 1 million.
1965 saw eight police women sworn into the then Queensland Police Force at a ceremony for the first time. They had no power of arrest and performed mainly office duties, or jobs involving women and children.
Later that year, an Act was passed giving policewomen the same powers as their male counterparts.
A number of other changes occurred over the years yet the late 1980’s saw the most significant changes. The Fitzgerald Commission of Inquiry began public hearings in July 1987.
I started at the Queensland Police Academy in Oxley Brisbane in November 1988 as a teenager. After 7 months I was sworn into the Queensland Police Force on June 9, 1989.
I was issued with my uniform which consisted of blouse, skirt, blue lace up shoes, a pair of navy blue court heels and jacket. Whilst I was proud to wear my new uniform, I was a bit concerned that I like all other policewomen at the time were issued with a blue handbag where we were expected to carry our five shot revolver, handcuffs and my baton which was only 30cm long.
I was sent off to Toowoomba where I near froze after growing up in the far north all my life. I was kitted out in my skirt, stockings, my trusty puffy parker jacket with faux fur collar, and layer upon layer of winter undergarments to keep warm.
Within a month, the Fitzgerald report was handed down on July 3, 1989 recommending comprehensive changes across the entire force.
As a newly appointed probationary constable in Toowoomba, I was only one of 4 police women working at the station. I learnt very quickly that late night call outs to search and escort female prisoners were all part of the job. I learnt the tools of the trade on the job and very quickly, that I had to stand up for myself. My male colleagues expected me to do the same job they were doing, and not to complain about it. I got stuck into my work and managed to get through that first year in a blur as it was tough going.
1990 saw me return to Brisbane to walk the beat, drive the divvy vans and wrestle my fair share of hooligans. I was then off to the City Watchhouse where I saw a lot more. Next stop was Woolloongabba Station, which now no longer exists as I believe it was that old, at the time it may have been the last station without the luxury of hot water.
It was from there that I eventually transferred into plain clothes in the Juvenile Aid Bureau (now called the Child Protection Investigation Unit) in Cairns. Whilst I was pleased I was back in the far north, I only managed just over a year dealing with child abuse and juvenile justice cases before I realised this was not a career path I wanted for myself. It was there I first met Russell Parker, who now works with me in my current office some 22 years later.
Next stop was back to uniform in the Cairns Watchhouse where we moved from the old police station on The Esplanade to our current digs in Sheridan Street in 1992. After about 6 months in the watchhouse (long enough) I was back to Cairns doing first response duties, then some relief work at Edmonton.
We girls were right in the thick of it and things hadn’t changed. We were still expected to do everything the boys were doing. This included anything from wrestling offenders, jumping fences or even changing a flat on the police car. Mind you we girls were still wearing skirts back then. It wasn’t long before culottes (knee length shorts that weren’t quite a short or a short) were introduced, which made policing much more practical.
1995 saw me promoted to Senior Constable at Smithfield Station where I stayed in uniform as well as doing some relieving in the CIB. This was one of my favourite postings, but we had a massive area to cover from the Barron River just north of Cairns Airport, out to Barron River at Kamerunga, up to the lookout on the Kuranda Range, then up to the look out just past Wangetti Beach (on the way to Port Douglas).
Some shifts saw just the one crew go from one end of the division to the other, then back into town with an arrest, then back out to the other end of the division. Some shifts were extremely tiring, but at the end of the day, we got the job done and could go home to our family and friends.
Back to Brisbane a few years later where I gained experience at Regional Education and Training in Brisbane, before team policing in uniform, back at City Station. I was lucky to get a great gig in plain clothes at the City Support Group which consisted of permanent night work for 6 months in the CBD where we generated our own work with a wide assortment of arrests including drugs, robberies, assaults, burglaries and the stock standard drunk and disorderly conduct.
One of the highlights of my career was my short stint performing covert duties with the Prostitution Squad in Fortitude Valley. I’d been working in the police service for about 12 years at that stage and thought I’d seen it all. It didn’t take long for me to be shocked after I received some quite brazen propositions whilst hanging out on local street corners. My biggest concern prior to starting my first shift was that I may not have anyone approach me. I shouldn’t have worried, I was very busy.
Back to uniform and my final transfer to Cairns with my husband. Since returning to Cairns I performed uniform duties in Cairns, Inquiries and the Cairns Crime Prevention Unit where I’m now a sergeant and officer in charge of my section.
During my career, I managed to experience a variety of different roles whilst at the same time successfully juggling work and family life which involves being a wife and mother to four children under 13.
During my 25 year career, I’ve worked mostly with men however I have worked by myself out on the road, and also with fellow policewomen. I was only saying this past week that of the women I worked with out on patrol, I’d rate every one of them to back me in any situation.
Policing is certainly not a job for the faint of heart. I was punched, spat at, head butted, kicked, bitten and called all the names under the sun, all because I was wearing a police uniform and I was there sorting out someone’s dispute. Now days, I get the odd paper cut, ladder in my stockings or a broken nail. I do still miss the excitement of first response duties.
I’ve seen a number of changes in this job over the years. Hand on heart, I’ve really enjoyed and loved my career. Like with any job there are times when you wished things were different. Strength and determination are the keys to remaining resilient when dealing with difficult situations and I see local officers on a daily basis getting in and doing the hard yards for their community.
I’m proud of my achievements to date and hope to keep kicking goals in my current role. I actually think I’m the luckiest person in the QPS as I love coming to work with my dedicated team. No problem is too much for either of them and they keep me on my toes with their quick wit and entertaining tales. I’m very grateful for their support and their enduring commitment to their job.
Anyone that’s ever watched the local television news bulletins, tuned onto local radio, been to a local recruiting seminar or other crime prevention presentation would know my offsiders, Senior Constable Russell ‘The Love Muscle’ Parker and Senior Constable Heidi ‘Supercop’ Marek.
Yes you will need to stay tuned to hear more about S/C Marek’s heroics in an upcoming profile celebrating policewomen and changes over the years as part of International Women’s Day.
I’ve also managed to track down a number of other policewomen across the far north who agreed to share some stories about their careers.
For a trip down memory lane and a giggle at some of our ‘special’ hairstyles from the 80’s and 90’s see below a series of photos taken of me over the years: