Breaking the Mould: The First Police Women in Victoria
The story of Victoria’s Police Women begins in 1917 when Madge Connor and Elizabeth Beers were appointed as police agents. They had no uniform and were unarmed. Their work was to be similar to that of a social worker; looking after neglected children and protecting vulnerable women.
By 12 November 1924 the number of agents had increased to four; they were sworn into the force as police members. Police women now had powers of arrest and equal pay. However, there were still many challenges ahead for them, including battles for equal opportunities and training.
The onset of World War II saw the role of women change in the work force in Australia. Record numbers of women filled jobs traditionally held by men. Victoria Police faced a shortage of staff due to men enlisting in the war. As a result the Women’s Auxiliary Force was formed in 1942.
Since then, Victorian police women have gone on to many great achievements including: Anne Wregg (nee Cursio) being the first police woman in Australia to be awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery; and Christine Nixon being appointed the first female Chief Commissioner.
In 2017 Victoria Police celebrates 100 years of women in policing. Today women make up a quarter of Victoria’s Police employees. Their struggles and achievements over the last century are acknowledged and celebrated through a new exhibition ‘Agents of Change’ and by the objects and photographs collected and shared by the Victoria Police Museum.