Meet Michelle Porteous. She joined the WA Police Force on 7 April 1980 and went on to achieve a number of firsts for women – including first female police court prosecutor and first female appointed to the internal investigations unit.
“I always enjoyed a challenge. Before I joined the WA Police Force I was studying at Nedlands Teachers College, working part time in a family business and was an Army Reservist. I had a family member who had been a police officer and my brother was a cadet. The WA Police Force was an employer that allowed its members to continue to undertake Army Training at the same time. I believed I could make a difference in helping people and that I may be able to make a difference for women in particular. In the 1980s women had started to make inroads into predominately male dominated organisations, but I believed that women were an integral part of policing.”
Michelle served in a number of metro and regional locations during her impressive 22 year career.
“One of my best memories was when my brother was transferred to Fremantle Station from Hilton Police in late 1981/1982. We were both on the same shift relief and on a day shift were rostered on van patrol. The humour from VKI when we booked on air at the start of our shift was obvious. What was even better was that although both of us were constables at the time, I was the senior one which made for a very interesting day.”
In January 1989 Michelle made the move to the WA Police Force Prosecuting Branch as a court orderly. It wasn’t long before she was appointed to the role of police court prosecutor – making her the first woman in the WA Police Force to take up such position.
In 1996 Michelle became the first woman to be transferred to Internal Investigation Unit.
“I am proud to have made progression for women both in my promotion to sergeant and also Internal Investigation. However, although I was successful in qualifying to be considered for promotion to the next rank, when it came to progressing further, the opportunities were not there.”
“I am pleased to see there has been a larger number of women wishing to joining the WA Police Force, and more importantly enjoying better promotional opportunities than those available in the 1980s and 90s. I would always encourage policing to women as a career, however, I would also like to see more support for women, both mental and physical given the roles undertaken by women in both their work and personal lives.”
Michelle left the WA Police Force in September 2002 and has since followed on from her experience working in the Internal Investigation Unit to work in an investigative role for a State Government oversight organisation.