“There was no doubt, they were hoping it would fail, I think they believed that in a couple of months we’d come back and say we couldn’t cope.” – Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon (2001)
The journey of women in policing and police leadership has been long and strewn with obstacles and issues. The aim of this chapter is to examine the historical background and cultural attitudes concerning women in policing in New South Wales as this is the largest police force in Australia and the experiences of policewomen in this organisation could be seen as broadly representative of the experiences of policewomen in Australia as a whole. It is understood that the attitudes to women in policing were often not just of the organisation and the individuals within it, but also have to be understood in the social and political context of the day and they cannot be viewed in isolation from this context.
The understanding of the historical detail of the journey of women in policing and police leadership, rather than just being a simple narrative, is important as it shows how the situation of today has been arrived at via the struggles and battles that were fought and the context within which they were fought. The detail is often lost in official histories that concentrate on the broader issues or provide a “sanitised” view of events, which is why this chapter is written from a personal, as well as historical, perspective. These issues have shaped the policing organisation and it is interesting to note that many of the issues were common to other police forces, both within Australia, and internationally. This is the critical message of this chapter.Read more