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Short History Of Women In Policing In NSW


Short History Of Women In Policing In NSW
(1915 to 1995)

The New South Wales Police Department advertised two positions for female police. Nearly 500 women applied for the positions. Two applicants, Lillian Armfield and Maud Rhodes were chosen and subsequently sworn in as Probationary Special Constables. Maud Rhodes resigned in 1920 and Lillian Armfield retired after 33 years service in 1949. The women were required to sign an indemnity releasing the Police Department of any responsibility for their safety and wore civilian clothes, as they were not issued a uniform. Their service was recorded on a separate seniority list until 1965. They were the first women employed for police duties in the Commonwealth.

Mary Paulette recruited. Lillian Armfield promoted to Special Constable First Class.

Maud Rhodes resigns.

Nellie Mooney recruited.

Strength increased to four women police with the recruitment of Nellie Katheen Mitchell.

Mary Madden recruited.

Strength increased to eight women police with the recruitment of Ellen Bennett, Rose Cuneen and Eva Rosser.

As a result of wartime difficulties in recruiting men, there was a further increase in strength from eight to fourteen women police. Over 500 women responded to advertisements for policewomen. Six women were selected: Rita Collins, Coralie Lucas, Catherine MacRae, Nancy Morgan, Ita Taylor and Joan Weaver who would later become Officer in Charge of the Women Police Office.
Two policewomen, Rita Collins and Eva Rosser, transferred to Newcastle.

Six women temporarily recruited to aid the Health Department locate people suffering from venereal disease.

Premier McKell approves increase in strength of women police to thirty six. Women that had been employed temporarily were made permanent employees.

Twenty six years after the formation of the NSW Police Association , women police are granted membership as Special Constables. Special Sergeant (First Class) Lillian Armfield awarded the Kings Police and Fire Service Medal for distinguished service, the first woman in the British Empire to receive this distinction.

Commissioner McKay trials two women, Amy Millgate and Gladys Johnson, at the Traffic Branch. The women develop their own uniform, based on the military uniform with a male police cap.

Thirty one women in the Women Police Office. Twelve women were transferred into the CIB, four to divisions and others to traffic. Lillian Armfield retires as Special Sergeant First Class, receiving no remuneration on retirement.

School Lecturing Branch formed. All women recruits now commence at the Traffic Branch, then move into plain clothes work as vacancies arise.

Two woman police, Pat Stuart and Joan Banner, transferred to Wollongong.

First migrant woman officer, Johanna Suchy, recruited. First certified woman police driver, Special Constable Patricia Clancy.

Fifty women in NSW Police Force. For the first time, the two women from the class of 1958, Janice Mossfield and Nellie Hobart are permitted to participate in the passing out parade with their 53 male counterparts.

Women police undertake initial, intermediate and secondary training conducted alongside male counterparts, but this did not include any physical training, swimming or pistol practice.

Departmental decision taken to permit women to remain in employment by the NSW Police Department after marriage.

Centenary of the New South Wales Police Force.

58 women of various ranks sworn into the NSW Police Force as regular officers (under the Police Regulation Women Police Amendment Act No.64 of 1964) with full police powers and other employment conditions and entitlements. Women police given separate registered numbers to male police, establishing a separate seniority system for women police. Women police now known as Policewoman in place of Special.

Del Fricker and a number of policewomen commended by Commissioner for their role in the apprehension of two armed offenders, Ronald Ryan and Peter Walker who were wanted for escaping from lawful custody and murder..

Del Fricker receives British Empire Medal for her involvement in the 1963 arrest of a violent offender wanted for rape.

Seventy women in the NSW Police Force.

Three women police, Senior Constables Nerida Keeley, Gwen Martin and Jill Frazer obtain their Diploma in Criminology from Sydney University. Del Fricker is awarded the WD & HO Wills Trophy for ‘Most Outstanding Policewoman’.

Gwen Martin and Del Fricker accepted into the Detectives Training Course, later to become the first women detectives. Policewomen lobby the NSW Police Association for more direct representation to improve their position within the Police Force through the establishment of a Women’s Branch but are rejected. Lillian Armfield dies aged 87 years.

First female commissioned officer at the Women Police Office, Inspector Beth Hanley, at 29 years service. Beth Hanley is awarded the ‘Most Outstanding Policewoman’.

Gwen Martin is awarded the ‘Most Outstanding Policewoman’. A Women’s Branch is established within the NSW Police Association. Del Fricker is the inaugural President and Carol Tubnor, inaugural Secretary.

Policewomen become eligible by statute to sit for promotional examinations. Policewomen Barbara Galvin and Jacqueline Milledge transferred on probation to the Police Prosecuting Branch. Women detectives issued with firearms.

Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, 60 years of Women in Policing.
Communication to Commissioner Hanson from the Premier that the NSW Police Force will be required to comply with the International Labour Organisation Covenant signed by the Commonwealth. The Commissioner established a committee to examine aspects of this covenant, which aimed at discouraging discrimination especially in relation to women. The committee reported back to the Commissioner in 1976, recommending and reinforcing the status quo. Maternity leave granted by the Premier of NSW to policewomen after strong campaigning by the NSW Police Association on behalf of women police. Policewoman Dianne Bennett (Gould) was the first woman to receive maternity leave benefits (backdated). The NSW Police Association successfully proposes to the Commissioner that policewomen be integrated into the promotional system. Handcuffs issued to policewomen. First police woman attached to the Scientific Investigation Section, Cathy Brown. Del Fricker promoted to Detective Inspector Third Class.

Beth Hanley awarded the Queen’s Police Medal. Four women transferred to general duties on trial basis: Claire Brittain to Mascot Airport police station; and Christine Nixon, Christine Ridley and Margaret White to Darlinghurst police station. Newly sworn policewomen were provided with integrated registered numbers. Inspector Del Fricker appointed Officer in Charge, Women Police Office.

NSW Parliament passes the Anti-Discrimination Act. Del Fricker awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal.

112 women police in the NSW Police Force. Women’s Co-Ordination Unit report to the Premier, ‘The employment position of women police in the New South Wales Police Force’ blasts the departmental committee report into position of women in policing and recommends better training, integration and affirmative action for women in policing. Commencement of integration into male ranks for all non-commissioned officers. Women integrated into the seniority list (completed in 1981).

Firearms become standard issue for all Policewomen. Gwen Martin is the first female appointed to the Executive of the NSW Police Association.
Jill Frazer is awarded ‘Policewoman of the Year’ for bravery when assaulted whilst arresting an offender which ultimately resulted in the amputation of her left leg and her subsequent death. Women provided with the same training as men, same selection criteria for Detectives Training Course.

NSW Police Force is forced to abandon it’s quota system for women recruits by the direction of the Anti-Discrimination board after a complaint lodged by Victoria Carr. Successful appeal of a female police applicant, Elaine Thompsett, whose application for joining the Force was rejected on the grounds of her marital status. First policewoman attached to the Police Air Wing as an observer, Constable Christine Simpson. First police woman appointed to the Highway Patrol was Constable Jennifer Sheehy in December 1980 to Goulburn (Country).

Disbanding of Women Police Office at the CIB. Classification of Woman Police Officer removed and women were transferred to a variety of duties. Women’s Branch of the Police Association abolished. Second policewomen appointed to the Highway Patrol, Constable Julie Richardson (metropolitan).

307 women officers in the NSW Police Force, representing 3.3% of police strength. First Aboriginal Policewoman, Sandra May. Spokeswomen’s Network Program established by the NSW Premiers Department, and the Police Force establishes a Spokeswomen’s Network. First policewoman attached to the Mounted Police, Constable Janet McGillivray.

First policewoman Highway Patrol Cyclist, Constable Val Bryant.

Last passing out parade at Redfern Police Academy. 720 women in the NSW Police Force. First female General Duties Inspector, Pat Hynds. First female country Inspector, Ruth Styles at Warilla. Introduction of first stage of merit based promotion. First policewoman certified as a Police Diver, Constable Lisa Ford. First policewoman certified as a Police Rescue Squad operator, Constable Sally Verhage.

Recruiting height restrictions removed. First policewoman attached to the Water Police, Constable Lisa Ford.

Part-time maternity leave trialled by 5 women police in metropolitan and country areas. 1000th female officer sworn in at the NSW Police Academy, Goulburn. First female Patrol Commander, Inspector Bev Lawson, at Engadine.

1,293 women in the Police Force, representing 10.1% of police strength. First female Superintendent, Bev Lawson, Patrol Commander, Wollongong.
Merit based promotion for sergeants introduced.

First woman appointed to the Executive of the NSW Police Association, Bernadette Dubois. Taskforce established to review Sex Based Harassment. Commissioner’s Taskforce on the Status of Women & Minority Groups.

Physical requirements for recruiting change and the height of the wall is reduced allowing more women to enter.

Christine Nixon appointed as the first female Assistant Commissioner in New South Wales. Seven women attend the NSW Police Association Biennial Conference as delegates.
First woman in Dog Squad (tops course), Constable 1/c Debbie Lee.

For the first time two women are appointed to the Executive of the NSW Police Association, Beth Stirton and Marea Rayment. First all female Appeal Board at the Government and Related Employees Appeals Tribunal (GREAT).

Chief Superintendent Lola Scott appointed Commander, Internal Affairs Branch. 1,719 women in the NSW Police Force, representing 13.1% of police strength. Eighty years of women in policing in New South Wales.


One thought on “Short History Of Women In Policing In NSW

  • Grahame mccarthy

    The first female in traffic outside the metro. Area was Jan McCarthy (broomham) at Wollongong around 1986 and went on to be acting div. traffic Sargent before retirement in 1990
    Started in 1978 and straight to Darlinghurst station Sydney ,Nth station Sydney,Frenchs Forrest,and Wollongong for a total of 12years,worked in G/D,school lecturing,then in traffic for the remainder of her service


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