Meet Senior Sergeant Sue Parmer. Sue joined WA Police in April 1986 when she was just 21 and had been studying Physical Education Secondary Teaching. There were 12 women out of a total of 75 recruits going through the Academy at that time. “On reflection, those numbers of women were reasonably high for the era. I am the only remaining female from the five in my recruit squad still in the job.”
Sue spent her first years as a junior constable at Central Police Station where she chased offenders and climbed fences with grace and style in skirts. As she was often the only female on shift, she would be regularly called in off the road if a female offender needed to be searched or a female victim needed to be interviewed. “No doubt when I was partnered with male officers, they found the constant returning to station annoying. Due to the small numbers of females in the job, we all knew of each other back then. This definitely isn’t the case now.”
She was fortunate to gain a position with the Mounted Police. “I grew up on a property in Jandakot and had my own horse. This was the first time I’d been back around horses for a while and I loved it. Mounties was probably one of the few works areas within the job back then where numbers of women were equal to the numbers of men.”
As a Sergeant, Sue moved to Albany Police Station as the only female supervisor at the time. Her twin boys were only 8 months old and so it was a real challenge for her to move away from family to a country location. Her partner, also a police officer, returned to work part-time. “Our time down there was great fun and it is a beautiful part of WA but, between shift work and twin baby boys, it passed in somewhat of a blur!”
Sue returned to Perth when she was promoted to Senior Sergeant as Officer-In-Charge of the Driver Training Unit – the first female to hold that role. Other roles included Officer-In-Charge of the Probationer Development Unit, inter-jurisdictional officer for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which was held in Perth in 2011 and project officer at Professional Standards, before her current position within the North West Metropolitan District.
“My current position manages six separate business areas, three of which I have worked within previously which certainly helped with getting my head across the different areas. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working in a District again and am lucky to have a great bunch of people to work with. I’ve had a diversified career so far, which for me is a real attraction to policing – it consistently creates learning opportunities and keeps the brain challenged!”
“I’ve been in numerous situations throughout my career where I’ve been the only female and I’ve felt what it’s like to be different and the impacts that can have on your confidence. Conversely, there have been times when I am the only woman in a room and I haven’t even noticed. It’s dependant on the men around us. In the early years of my career I was often the only female on shift and sometimes in a work area. We have come a long way and I rarely experience this now and it is less common to be the only female in a senior management meeting.”
“One of the biggest challenges of policing I see now is the increasing diversity of our community, and increasing the diversity of WA Police to reflect this, inclusive of gender. Working in Mirrabooka in my current role has highlighted this for me as it is one of the most diverse cultural sub-districts in Australia. I feel it’s important to acknowledge that all levels of engagement can make a difference and sometimes we may never know how much that difference is.”
Senior Sergeant Sue Parmer is the Manager of North West Metropolitan Engagement and Support.