Timeline of the history of women in WA Police

This year, WA Police celebrates 100 years of women in policing.

Year Significant milestone
1915 Women's groups in Western Australia make representations to the government and petitions are forwarded to the Colonial Secretary requesting him to appoint women police to care for the social and moral welfare of women and girls, as had occurred in New South Wales and South Australia.
Requests receive little response.
 The Women's Service Guild of WA petition more "assertively, directing their requests uncompromisingly to the Minister of Police, the Colonial Secretary and the Commissioner of Police."1
1916 Information relating to the representations made to government regarding the appointment of women as police constables appear in the West Australian.
Colonial Secretary requests a report from the Commissioner of Police Robert Connell regarding the appointment of women as police constables.
The report reads: The type of woman required was a middle aged experienced person of lovable nature, preferable a trained nurse, who, "by kindness, could exert an influence for good over unfortunate girls." In performing their duties, women should be as little like police as possible. More preferably, appoint additional female inspectors and attach them to the State Children's Department. If they proved themselves capable, there would be no objection to appointing them as constables.1
1917 Colonial Secretary instructs the Commissioner of Police that Cabinet desire the employment of two women police.
18 August - Helen Dugdale is enrolled as a probationary constable - a first for the then titled State Police Force. Helen Dugdale, a widow, is an inspector with the State Children's Department prior to her appointment.
1 September - Laura Chipper is enrolled as a probationary constable. Her previous occupation is matron of a rescue home. She serves at Perth for a short time before being transferred to Fremantle in December 1918.
1918 In the annual report Commissioner Connell writes that women police had performed "useful and satisfactory work" which was seen as "fully justifying their attachment to the Constabulary". Because of their success, Cabinet approves two extra women police constables.
1 November - Elizabeth Austin is appointed and is the third woman in policing.
11 November - Margaret Fogarty is appointed and is the fourth woman in policing.
1933 Helen Dugdale and Laura Chipper are transferred to Kalgoorlie.
1935c Woman applicants are required to be between 25 and 30 years of age and resign upon marriage. A number of young women were appointed in their 20s, however were required to resign upon marriage.
At this time, attempts are made to remove the requirement for nursing training, but without success.
1940 An approach to the Police Minister is made for a uniform to be provided for women in patrol work. This is refused.
1941 Commissioner Mckay is concerned with the control of traffic at points where children cross roads to and from school. He calls the women police together and asks for two volunteers to be trained in point duty and traffic matters generally, to see how the use of females for this duty would work.
Amy Millgate and Gladys Johnson volunteer for duty and are posted to the then titled Police Traffic Branch as a trial and issued with uniforms.
“There is no intention on the part of the department to continue the employment of women police on this particular duty, but the manner in which they have already acquitted themselves shows the possibilities of the scheme. Public comments in regard to their appearance, their capacity for the work, and their effectiveness has generally been most favourable.”1
1946 Ethel Scott is appointed officer-in-charge of the then titled Women Police Office. Her role is to organise the unit and coordinate its activities within other branches of the agency.
1947 Ethel Scott is the first female officer to be promoted to the rank of sergeant. The appointment is acclaimed by all ranks as timely and well deserved. Commissioner Doyle is commended for his recognition of the important work the women police in general perform in the interests of the public.
1957 The requirement to be a trained nurse is removed.
1961 Ethel Scott and Agnes Brown are awarded police long service and good conduct medals for 22 years of service.
1967 Ethel Scott becomes the first female officer to reach the rank of inspector.
1969 Dorothy Hughes is promoted to the rank of sergeant – 1 of only 3 in the force at the time.
1970 Ethel Scott is awarded the Queen’s Police Medal.
1971 38 police women are now employed in the Women's Police Office numbering hundreds of men.
1971 Wilma Currie is promoted to rank of inspector - only the second woman in WA (second to Ethel Scott) to have risen so high at that time. She has risen from the rank of third class sergeant to inspector in just eight months, skipping one rank. Commissioner Wedd says this is due to the high quality of her work.
Wilma Currie has equal pay and allowances - moving into a pay bracket identical to male inspectors. The same rules and promotion principles apply, women sit for the same exams and are identified by the same system of identification numbers.
Bronwyn Keightly-Gerardy and Anna Schaper are the first female detectives in CIB.
10 June – Ethel Scott is the first female police officer to be promoted to the rank of superintendent. She is also one of the first women in Australia to reach commissioned rank and retires in August that year after 32 years of service.
Wilma Currie takes over as officer-in-charge of the Women Police Office.
1975 Francis (Fran) Dodd (nee Murray) marries Alan Dodd and is the first female officer permitted to remain working after marrying.
1976 It is recognised that the growth of various public welfare agencies has made some traditional work of the Women Police Office redundant.
A reform process leads to the amalgamation of women police into general policing and into specialised branches of WA Police. Female officers go into uniform and the restriction on married women is officially removed.
5 April – School 1/76 is the first recruit school to graduate from the WA Police Academy that includes females, with 6 of 53 recruits being female.
Helen Ann Cruthers (now Ann Dawson) is awarded dux of her school, making her the first female to achieve such honour.
During recruit training, women receive no special treatment - not even on push ups - and they perform the same duties as their male colleagues. Training at the Academy varies from lectures in criminal law and police procedures, to lessons in self-defence and weapon handling.
5 July – School 2/76 graduates with an additional 6 female recruits.
1977 Unpaid maternity leave (12 months) is introduced into the Police Award.
The age requirement for recruits is lowered from 21 to 19. Lynnette Trigwell of school 1/77 is the first female accepted into the Police Academy after the entry age is lowered.
February - Denise Clements (nee Satie) and Alida Scott (nee Morgan) are the first female cadets, shortly followed by Janice Atkinson and Karen Slater.
September - Merryn Bojcun is the first female officer to join Mounted Section.
Bridget Bachs joins as the first female Traffic Patrol Officer after graduating from the Police Academy in 1976. She has full powers to arrest and her tests included driving on the Wanneroo race circuit at speeds up to 170km/h.
Pamela Bayley is the first female with a child to be accepted into the Police Academy. She graduates with school 3/77.
1978 Karen Slater and Denise Clements (nee Satie) are the first female cadets to complete cadet training and commence Police Academy Training.
December – Gillian Jones is transferred to Albany Traffic and is the first female country traffic officer.
1979 8 November – Leachelle Armstrong, Alison Miguel, Joneen Ivey (nee Woodford), Sharron Leonhardt (Oversby) and Kerrie Trigwell earn the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.
1980 July - Sergeant Bronwyn Keighley Gerardy is the first female police officer elected to the Executive Council of the WA Police Union.
1981 Michelle Porteous is on patrol with her brother Chris, making her the first female officer to work on a shift with a sibling. They are stationed at Fremantle Police Station.
Val Doherty commences as the National President of the Australian section of the National Police Association.
1983 Jennifer Leete is the first female recipient of the Police Officer of the Year award.
Marie Bennetts is the first married female to be inducted as a recruit. She graduates in school 2/83.
1985 The Combined Operations Unit merge with the Central Plain Clothes Unit and are named the Tactical Response Group (TRG). The group advertises vacancies and Jonine Harrison (nee Ellis and previous in Combined Operations), Linley Taylor (also previously in Combined Operations), Patricia Lagan and Nicole Hill successfully pass the selection course. The four women are the first females in the squad consisting of 64 officers.
September – “An organised uniform request onslaught by central woman police constable’s resulted in a trial at the Royal Show, when female officers could wear a borrowed shirt from a colleagues with their winter trousers whilst on duty at the showgrounds. This was found to be successful with no negative public comment and allowed across the board. Unfortunately for the first few years we wore our winter trousers all year round unless you could inherit some summer trousers and have them altered." – Alison Wells (retired).
1986 Ann Winton becomes the first female motorcycle rider.
Ellen Tattersall is the first female to start in the Police Pipe Band. She starts on the pipes but switches to tenor drum soon after arriving.
Three months later a second female, Wendy Stewart, commences with the Band.
1987 Kerrie Trigwell is posted to the former mining town of Goldsworthy and is the first female posted to a “one man” station.
18 May – Nicole Hill (nee Henderson) is the first female to be stationed in the Kimberly District. She transfers to Broome Police Station at the rank of constable.
1988 Sharron Leonhardt is the first female negotiator. There is a full time negotiators coordinator while the rest of the team are on call and pulled in as required.
1989 Lily Cvijic awarded Churchill Fellowship enabling her to study child abuse investigation procedures in the USA, Canada and the UK.
20 March – Val Doherty is the first female officer to be promoted to the rank of chief superintendent (similar equivalence to the rank of commander by today’s standards) and takes up the position as the Commissioner’s Executive Officer. She is the first female police officer in Australia to ever attain this rank.
Catherine Bullen is sent to Dowerin and is the first female officer-in-charge of a country police station.
1990 Lily Cvijic is awarded the National Medal.
Michelle Porteous is the first female police court prosecutor and commences at the Perth Children’s Court.
1991 Jenifer Jones is the first female to qualify as an arson investigator.
10 June - Val Doherty is the first female officer to receive an Australian Police Medal and is awarded the Australian Medal for Distinguished Service in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. She retires in 1994 after 34 years of service.
1992 WA Police celebrates 75 years of women in policing by holding a conference ending in a gala dinner.
1995 Patricia Lagan is the first female drill sergeant instructor and recruit graduation parade commander.
1996 Michelle Porteous is the first female appointed to the internal investigations unit and remains in this role until 2000.
Louise Ball is posted to Bunbury Detective’s Office and is the first female detective to receive a permanent country posting.
1 July - Jane Kennaugh is the first female officer to be killed in the line of duty after a traffic accident. She is a senior constable.
1997 The Australasian Council of Women and Policing (ACWAP) is formed.
Natalie Morris is the first female sports star of the year.
1998 Jodie Pearson is the first female bomb technician in Australia.
August 28 - Cheryl Klumper is killed in the line of duty as a result of a traffic accident.
2001 WA Police establishes flexible work options including 6 weeks paid parental leave and 40 hours carer’s leave for police officers.
Kellie Properjohn is the first female officer-in-charge of a detective training school
4 July – Jodie Pearson is the first full time member of the Bomb Response Unit.
2002 Michelle Fyfe is the first female to serve with then titled 79 Division/Major Incident Group.
2003 Natalie Robertson from red squad of school 1/2003 is the first female to win the recruit of the year award.
2004 Catherine Bulllen is the first female appointed to the role of district superintendent and is responsible for the peel district.
20 September – Barbara Etter is the first female promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner. It is the first time a female officer has been appointed to this rank. Her first appointment is to Professional Development, followed by Traffic and Operations, Strategy and Performance, and then Corruption Prevention and Investigation.
2006 Lee-Anne Vincent is the first female dog handler and remains in the position.
Siobhan O’Laughlin is appointed Forensic Discipline Manager and is the first female bomb scene examiner.
Amanda Kennedy graduates from the Academy as a probationary constable. Her mother is Sandra Kennedy, a currently serving senior constable. Amanda is the first female officer to graduate with a mother as a currently serving police officer. There are lots of daughters in the job but up until this point they have had serving fathers, not mothers.
29 May – Catherine Bullen commences 12 months overseas deployment in the Maldives to assist in the development of the Maldives Police Service.
2007 Nearly 30 years after women amalgamated, Kellie Properjohn is appointed superintendent of the Police Academy and is the first female officer to hold such position.
February – Kylie Whiteley is the first female officer-in-charge of a country detective’s office.
2008 The proportion of women holding commissioned rank reaches 8%.
2010 Kellie Properjohn is the first female superintendent of a metro district.
26 April – WA Police introduces the role of police auxiliary officer and the first intake consists eleven females.
2012 Michelle Fyfe and Kellie Properjohn are promoted to the rank of assistant commissioners.
2014 Nicole Hill and husband Tony Hill transfer to Goldfields-Esperance District Office as inspectors and the first husband and wife commissioned officers to be stationed together at a regional WA district office.
2015 December - Heather Carter is the first female officer to be appointed to the Gold Stealing Unit. She is a detective senior constable.
2016 Elisha Vines becomes the first female Tactical Flight Officer (Fixed Wing) with WA Police Air Wing.
2017 WA Police celebrates 100 years of women in policing.

1 Source: Into the Blue: A Celebration of 80 years for Women in Policing in Western Australia