Female Officers Patrolled Dance Halls and ‘Seaside Sands In the Interests of the Lively Girls’

Next week marks one of the most significant anniversaries in South Australian Police history. It doesn’t commemorate a bloody shootout or the arrest of a gang of felons.

On December 1, 1915 SA appointed its first female police officers, Fanny Kate Boadicea Cocks and Annie Ross. The appointments were no knee-jerk reaction to national or international trends. Cocks and Ross were the first women police officers commissioned in the then British Empire and among the first in the world.

Kate Cocks is recognised as the first woman officer after being offered the position of Principal Police Matron. She was given the opportunity to take on six assistants but declined, asking for only one woman, Annie Ross.

It is hard to imagine, 100 years later, SAPOL without female officers. By happy coincidence, in May this year — the centenary year of the appointment of Cocks — Linda Williams was promoted to the position of the State’s first female Deputy Police Commissioner.

But in 1915 the appointment of Kate Cocks was a groundbreaking and enhanced SA’s reputation as a state which lead social and workplace reforms — a reputation which is slowly being lost.

The law had to be changed to facilitate their appointment. The maximum age to join SAPOL in 1915 was 29 and Cocks was 40 and Ross 32. The age barrier was waived for both women.

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