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How do you get more women into policing? Here's how the Wimmera's doing it

THE MODERN ARM OF THE LAW: Seven female Wimmera police officers at the International Rural Women's Day awareness event on Thursday. Picture: ALEXANDER DARLING
THE MODERN ARM OF THE LAW: Seven female Wimmera police officers at the International Rural Women's Day awareness event on Thursday. Picture: ALEXANDER DARLING

After recent recruiting the 16-hour remote police stations in four regional Victorian towns are, for the first time, being staffed by women simultaneously.

It's progress to be sure, but as far as Di Thomson is concerned, it should have happened long before 2020.

As part of International Rural Women's Day on Thursday, Horsham Police's Local Area Commander joined six other female officers at Dimboola Police station to encourage more women to sign up to become officers.

Inspector Thomson is also chair of Victoria Police's Western region Division Four Women in Policing Local Committee.

She said the advantage of more female police officers was threefold.

"We know that women are good for business, good for people and good for economics," she said.

"On a worldwide level, women represent more than 50 per cent of the community. When you apply that logic across government and non-government services, why wouldn't we seek to strive for equality with gender?

"Of course, we want more own to come to WD4, and we want to see more women in specialist areas, all the areas heavily stacked with men, because it brings perspective and balance.

"It brings a different opinion rather than stacking your teams with the same opinions, that doesn't bring critical conversations.

"They are the technical reasons why we want it, but we also want (more women) because a lot of victims of crime, particularly family violence, are women.

"They are frightened and will identify better with a woman. Men working in police departments do an excellent job when taking victim impact statements, but thinking about what the victim needs, it's probably a woman for them to feel safe.

"Rural policing gives women opportunities to operate at higher levels because we are less stacked with governance and business models than the city.

"You get more of an opportunity to investigate yourself and manage high-level incidents, but women have to see other women doing it to believe they can do it.

"You can't be what you can't see."

The towns that have benefited from the drive are Dimboola, Kaniva, Edenhope and Nhill.

In Dimboola, Sergeant Veronica Dempsey stepped into her role two months ago, having spent eight years in the Horsham policing division.

She has served in Stawell, Portland and Halls Gap, having initially wanted to work in Melbourne.

"I love rural policing," she said. "It's great to have interactions like having people wave at you on the street."

It has been an eventful start for the new sergeant, attending a rural housefire and executing search warrants in Dimboola. Sergeant Dempsey said both these incidents justified her love of rural policing.

"The warrants resulted in an arrest, and came about because of information from locals in Dimboola," she said.

"You rely a lot more on the community for information and to step in and help in times of need."

Inspector Thomson said Wimmera police had so far succeeded in recruiting new female officers by removing barriers, specifically work arrangements.

"Women are mothers. Men can have two weeks of paternity leave and not much changes in their career, but it's very different for women," she said.

"They can take up to 12 months off, and when they return they're not the same person: They've lost a year of viability and education and confidence often.

"We have to look at fair work and flexible work agreements and other stigmas associated with women in particular roles.

"Not so much up here - them men in police division four are great in accepting the changes and what we're going ot gain from equality - but in other areas where women haven't gone they are treading a path of the first time and there is resistance to that."

Inspector Thomson said there were no women in Victoria Police's Special Operations Group, which responds to incidents such as sieges.

She said there were other police divisions in which female personnel outnumbered men.

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This story Here's how one Victorian region recruited more women into policing first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.