UP FOR THE CHALLENGE: Snr Const Joleene Brooker outside Grafton police station.
UP FOR THE CHALLENGE: Snr Const Joleene Brooker outside Grafton police station.

It's still an arresting job for Joleene

EVERY morning, Coffs/Clarence youth liaison officer Senior Constable Joleene Brooker goes to work with a goal to protect and serve the community.

But when she hands in her firearm at the end of the day, she goes home to her family just like everyone else.

Snr Const Brooker joined the police force 20 years ago as a fresh-faced young constable.

Having grown up in the relatively sheltered country town of Moree, her eyes were quickly opened to the 'big, bad world' when she was given her first posting at Blacktown police station in Sydney's Western Suburbs.

"I just wanted to make a difference," she said.

"I didn't have any family in the police force and my family were really encouraging, not knowing what I was going to face before I got there.

"Blacktown was a huge eye opener to what was out there."

In her early years as an officer, Snr Const Brooker says she faced some discrimination from the community for being female.

"Not so much now but I think when I was younger, definitely," she said.

"It also depends on (cultural differences) - some people believe women shouldn't have a working role in the community."

Things have been better in the years since she moved to Coffs Harbour as a general duties police officer 15 years ago, where she now works as a youth liaison officer for the Coffs/Clarence region.

Among other programs, Snr Const Brooker has worked extensively on community engagement and youth interaction in South Grafton, a challenge she has relished.

"I'm now in a proactive role more so than a reactive role," she said.

"Working with youth is a challenge, but definitely a challenge I enjoy.

"I believe I've got a good work ethic, and when you stay in one place for a long time you get to know people and get a reputation for being a good worker and good person."

This weekend, the contribution policewomen such as Snr Const Brooker have made over the years will be celebrated, as the New South Wales Police Force looks back on 100 years of women in policing.

The long-serving officer said even in the past 15 years, she had seen a big increase in the number of female

officers on the beat.

"It's not always about size or strength," she said.

"Communication is number one and the ability to communicate with people, that comes before anything else.

"Things have changed so much since I started - the powers the police have has changed; technology has certainly changed and increased our ability in investigations.

"I've heard retired police ladies say they used to carry a handbag to jobs and never had a firearm."

In fact, firearms and handcuffs weren't issued to female police officers until the 1970s.

Although the police force is still a male-dominated profession, the biggest perception problem Snr Const Brooker has faced from the community is that people often perceive her first as a police officer, and a person second.

"That's the hardest thing I have to face," she said.

"At the end of the day, I'm no different to anybody else in the community. I still go home just like everyone else to my family."

Despite this, the passionate policewoman couldn't see herself doing anything else.

"It's a great job - I would encourage any young person with an interest in the police force to go for it.

"It's not about how big or strong you are; it's about what difference you can make in the community.

"It's about communication, skills and dedication."


Women in the NSW Police timeline

1915 New South Wales Police Department advertised two positions for female police. Nearly 500 women applied for the position. Lillian Armfield and Maude Rhodes were chosen and sworn in as Probationary Special Constables.

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. Women's service was recorded on a separate seniority list until 1965. They were the first women employed for police duties in the Commonwealth.

1929 Strength increased to eight women police with the recruitment of Ellen Bennett, Rose Cuneen and Eva Rosser. They joined Lillian Armfield, Mary Paulett, Nellie Mooney, Nellie Mitchell and Mary Madden.

1946 Premier McKell approves increase in strength of women police to 36. Women who had been employed temporarily were made permanent employees.

1947 Twenty six years after the formation of the Police Association, women police are granted membership as Special Constables. Special Sergeant (First Class) Lillian Armfield awarded the King's Police and Fire Service Medal for distinguished service, the first woman in the British Empire to receive this distinction.

1948 Commissioner McKay trials two women, Amy Millgate and Gladys Johnson, at the Traffic Branch. The women develop their own uniform, based on a military uniform with a male police cap.

1949 There were now 31 women in the Women Police Office.

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

1959 Women police undertake training conducted alongside male counterparts, but this did not include any physical training, swimming or pistol practice.

1961 A departmental decision is taken to permit women to remain in employment by the NSW Police after marriage.

1972 First female Commissioned Officer at the Women Police Office, Inspector Alice Elizabeth (Beth) Hanley, at 29 years service.

1973 A women's branch is established within the NSW Police Association.

1974 Women detectives issued with firearms.

1975 Maternity leave granted by the Premier of NSW to policewomen after strong campaigning. Handcuffs issued to policewomen.

1979 Firearms become standard issue for all police-women. Jill Frazer is awarded 'Policewoman of the Year' for bravery when assaulted while arresting an offender which ultimately resulted in the amputation of her left leg and her subsequent death.

1980 NSW Police Force is forced to abandon its quota system for women recruits by the direction of the Anti-Discrimination Board.

1982 Now 307 women officers in the NSW Police Force, representing 3.3% of police strength.

1986 Recruiting height restrictions removed.

1988 1000th female officer sworn in at the NSW Police Academy, Goulburn.

1992 Anti-Discrimination Board inquiry into discrimination during pregnancy hears evidence from women police.

1951 719 women in the Police Service, representing 13.1% of police strength.

2001 Christine Nixon is appointed as the first female Police Commissioner in Australia.

2013 Senior Constable Karen Lowden is awarded the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Medal of Valour Award for her role in assisting Madeline Pulver who had been fitted with an 'explosive collar'.

2014 NSW Police Force is comprised of 22,045 employees.

Policewomen represent 26.9% of sworn personnel. Women make up 35% of the Force.

2015 NSW Police Force celebrates 100 years of Women in Policing.

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