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Daisy Curtis Third Woman Police Principal 1940–1951

 Leading women police auxiliaries in civil Service march 1942.

  The April meeting on the 1st April was a great success, with former Deputy Commissioner Neil McKenzie our speaker for the night. 

Neil presented an account of the 4 ages of policing which was very entertaining & then followed with accounts of a bank robber & the intensive & hard slogging work to apprehend the offender, relations with the media in policing & the investigation involved in the Megumi Suzuki murder.  Neil was presented with a certificate of appreciation & generous applause from the audience. 

A large cake was produced for the 90th birthday of Alf Jarvis, one of our willing Thursday group volunteers. Alf is a remarkable person who has been a baker, sailor, policeman in Victoria and SA and a teacher and still does not look his age.
Alf was our profiled Volunteer in the October 2004 Hue & Cry.

Foundation Day preparations are well under way & will focus on “Women in Policing” in particular Kate Cocks & the creation of the first Women Police in the Empire, with the same pay, conditions & powers of a male officer. 

The ceremony will be held in Victoria Square (northern end) on Thursday the 28th April 2005 at 11.00am, & will involve the police band, mounted division, historical society members, Commissioner of Police & the Mayor of the City of Adelaide. A plaque will be unveiled & this will be erected at a later date in Cathedral Park adjacent to Victoria Square, at a location close to the first office of the Women Police Branch.

Plans are proceeding for our open day on 22 May 2005 from 10am to 4pm.  Volunteers are urged to attend at 9.00am for a briefing & we welcome any further assistance to make this a success.  Unfortunately, because of a prior arrangement, the Police Rangers Band will be unable to attend this function.

We mourn the passing of Ken Phillips a long time member of the society and our thoughts go out to his wife Shirley and his family.

We look forward in anticipation to our next Meeting on Friday the 6th May at 8.00 p.m. when our speaker will by Commissioner Mal Hyde.


Geoff Rawson

new members

  Jack GRAHAM   
  Janice GREGSON

  Glenn & Shirley WALDHUTER
  Pat & Donald WARD
we welcome you

The way
          we were
  Women Police in South Australia
Celebrating 90 years

On April 28th this year we will celebrate Police Foundation Day with a commemorative ceremony & the unveiling of a plaque, in Victoria Square, acknowledging the outstanding contribution made by women police in South Australia over the past 90 years.

The following article was compiled by the Editor with assistance from Ms. Joyce Richardson, ‘To Walk a Fair Beat’, by Patricia Higgs & Christine Bettess, & ‘The World’s First Policewoman’ by H.A. Lindsay, with photographs from SAPHS archives.

It is interesting to note that the following advertisement, (which appeared in Adelaide’s daily newspapers on the 27th September, 1915) for positions as Women Police, attracted over two hundred answers from women from all walks of life.  However, Kate Cocks was not an applicant, she confided that she did not believe in seeking appointment but would accept it if offered.  On the 11th October, two days before applications were due to close, the Police Commissioner notified Kate Cocks that she was to assume the position of officer in charge of the women police on 1st December.

“Women applicants are invited for positions as Women Police, South Australian Police Force.  Applicants must be capable of enduring hardship and fatigue in the execution of their duty, of good character and address, and of fair average education.  Applications should be in writing, addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Adelaide and should contain particulars as to previous career and experience.  Original testimonials and particulars as to personal references should be forwarded with applications to reach this office by 13th October, 1915.”

W.H. RAYMOND, Commissioner of Police.

Kate Cocks was forty years of age when offered the position of Principal Police Matron.  She was offered six assistants but declined asking for only one woman and the woman she chose was thirty two year old Annie Ross. 

The maximum age to join the South Australian Police Force was twenty-nine years but this waived for both women. 

Kate Cocks and Annie Ross were appointed on the 1st December, 1915, on the same pay as male officers (the first in the British Commonwealth of Nations).


They opened the Women Police Office at 9 Landrowna Terrace, located on the south eastern corner of Victoria Square, occupying the ground floor, rented for ten shillings per week, with the minimal furnishing of a table, three chairs, a sideboard with drawers, two pens & a large quantity of ink in a whisky bottle. 

Kate Cocks believed that a uniform would be a disadvantage in the type of work she envisaged for the
women police and instead chose very simple clothing.  Tailored costumes & blouses in winter and long sleeve dresses in summer. Non frivolous hats, silk or lisle stockings and high cut lace up shoes with a 1˝” high solid heel. 

Their kit consisted of a police whistle, baton and identification card.
No formal training was given and their knowledge of the law was gained through experience or reading law books in their off duty hours.

Their duties were not strictly defined but Kate Cocks explained that they would attend the women’s cells in the morning & would help certain prisoners.  She also indicated that the women would patrol the streets, picture shows, dance halls & the “seaside sands in the interests of the lively girls”.

 Each week the women worked approximately 60 hours with one day off every six weeks.  Three broken shifts of 9 am until 1 PM & from 5 PM until at least 11 PM were worked each week & in most cases the women were on duty at the same time.

On the 1st July, 1916 South Australia’s third policewoman, thirty five year old, Mrs. Mary Wilcher was appointed.
The additional staff did not help with the work load, with the work of the women police becoming more widely known and the increase in people seeking assistance.


Louise Forster                                                       Cora Trestrail

In 1917 Louise Forster  and Cora Trestrail were appointed & the five women were dubbed by the male members of the force as “the invincible quintet”.

With the additional staff it became necessary to locate to larger premises and the group shifted next door to the two storey vacant premises at 10 Landrowna Terrace.  Rooms were set aside as interviewing rooms & one as a rest room /kitchen.

The work carried out by Kate and her staff was very much taken for granted by the South Australian public.  However, law enforcement organisations throughout the world watched their progress with deep interest.  The mayor of New York studied reports of the duties carried out by women police in South Australia & decided to copy their example.  As a result, the New York Women Police, patterned largely on the pioneer organisation in South Australia, came into existence. Some years ago at a world conference of police officers held in Geneva, the South Australian women police force was cited as the ideal & the best in the world.

 One by one the other Australian states established women police & today every country in the world has them. 

The work of women police still involved much social work but had extended considerably & by 1923 they were involved in forty three cases of rape, murder, abortion, abandonment of children, cruelty to children, indecent assault, indecent behaviour, bigamy, idle & disorderly fortune telling & larcenies by women & children.

At the 1924 Annual Police Conference the women police representative Mary Wilcher proposed
“That some rank or status be granted to women police constables after seven years service & after passing an examination suitable to their branch of service (& that) Miss Cocks should be given the rank of Principal Woman, Police Constable & the others be graded first, second & third grade constables”

Although the resolution was carried unanimously the promotions did not eventuate as Commissioner Leane  stated that ‘with the small number employed the Principal Matron is all that is required’.  He did not object to Kate’s title being changed from Principal Police Matron to Principal Women Police & this was duly done. 

As a result of the increased work load more women police were required & by 1929 their number had increased to twelve.

After 12 years of service in the Police Force, Annie Ross resigned to be married.  In handing over her police whistle on her last day on duty she is reported as saying “this has been at the bottom of my handbag & not used once for the twelve years; you had better sterilise it”.
From 1929 until the onset of the Second World War in 1939 the world was held in the grip of the Great Depression.  The Depression showed no form of social or class distinction with professional men & unskilled workers all forced to seek government rations in order to survive.  Before any government assistance could be given the unemployed were required to register at the South Australian Government Labour Exchange in Kintore Avenue.  Before relief could be granted their financial status had to be checked by male or female police officers. 
The visits made by the women police were embarrassing to both the recipients & the police themselves.  Government relief took the form of ration tickets.  Money was never given, as it was believed that some men would consider the publican to be more deserving than their wives & children.

    Figures taken from the Police Commissioner’s Annual Reports during the years of the Depression show dramatic increases in social problem such as suicide, prostitution, idle & disorderly conduct & drunkenness. Surprisingly the number of domestic cases coming under the notice of the women police decreased. 

In August 1934 Kate Cocks finished active service with the Police Department, resigning to take care of her invalid mother.   The respect which Kate had gained within & outside of the force is attested to by the number of presentation & dinners held in her honour. 
Superintendent Giles of the mounted police perhaps summed it up by describing Kate as ‘ a mother to the motherless, as sister to the sisterless & a counsellor & guide to all in trouble’.

In 1935 she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to the community & the forty years that she had spent in the State Children’s & the Police Departments.

1st July, 1920:

Public men are not, as a rule, anxious to admit mistakes, but a police parade on Wednesday, the Chief Secretary, the Hon. J.G. Brice made a graceful acknowledgment of what he termed “one of his many mistakes”.  That was in relation to the establishment of the Women Police.  When that proposal was brought forward he had opposed it from a sense of duty.  He was glad, however, to see women police present that day, and to admit that he had made a mistake in opposing their appointment, because he could now see that the inauguration of that system had been of material benefit to the women of the State.

If you would like to know more about the
History of Women Police in South Australia
The Society recently funded the reprinting of
“To Walk a Fair Beat”

        Copies are now available from the Society



did you know         Jim Sykes
                                                                                                                By Jim Sykes

In 1858

Willunga Trooper Shaw requested repairs to the station and the walls whitewashed. He was advised to do the whitewashing himself.

In 1859

In 1860

In 1861

In 1862

Ken Phillips

Passed away 6th April, 2005.

Esteemed member of the S.A. Police
Historical Society.



next meeting

NEXT MEETING: Friday 6th May, 2005
SPEAKER: Commissioner
Mal Hyde

 Whilst data base entering articles included in copies of the Hue & Cry since the inception of the Historical Society I have come across many that I feel are certainly worth repeating and, with this in mind we bring you our first - a very topical “Blast from the Past” – THE WOMEN POLICE IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA – CELEBRATING 75 YEARS by Joyce Richardson which first appeared in the December 1990  issue of the Hue & Cry Thank you Joyce.  We have added a few photos from our archives.   Elees.

Early in 1915 applications were invited for the position for women in the Police Force.  Some 200 applications were received.  It is interesting to note the two women who were appointed did not apply. 
Miss Fanny Kate Boadicea Cocks who worked for the State Children’s Dept. was offered the position and accepted on a 6 months trial.  Some 77 years after the commencement of the Police Force in S.A. the first two Women Police were sworn in as Police Constables on the 1st December, 1915.

Miss Cocks was offered six women for her Branch, but stated as she didn’t know what her duties would be she would be quite happy with the assistance of Miss Ross.

Annie Ross
There was a general discussion as to whether the women should be called police.  Such names as State Guards, Lady State Officers, State Protection Officers were suggested. It was thought that when questioning children, as soon as the word ‘police’ was used suspicion would engender that the officer had come to spy. 
Each week the officers worked 60 hours broken shifts and were allowed one day off on 6 weeks.  It was for their patrolling of Adelaide beaches that the women police received most publicity in the early years.  Up and down sand hills the     intrepid pair moved. Advising any indiscreet   couple to move 3 feet apart.
In 1935 Miss Cocks completed her service with the Police Department.  Her career, school teacher, social worker, Woman Police officer, philanthropist, preacher  and friend of the needy.  A life devoted to the service of others.
The positions within the Women Police Branch were Principal and Constables.

Mrs. Mary Wilcher was appointed Principal after Miss Cocks retired and following in the position of Principal were
Misses Daisy Curtis,

Violet Curtis,

Mary Poole

and in 1953  Miss Connie McGrath.  Miss McGrath brought about many changes.
There were 16 women police at this time.  Women police commenced training at Thebarton Barracks.

Although attached to the C.I.B. Women Police were not encouraged to question alleged male offenders.
Women Police Offices were established in a number of country areas.
During this period the Bodgie-Widgie cult arrived in South Australia.  Women Police formed a basket ball team, and two teams against whom they played were from the girl’s reformatories – Vaughan House & The Home of the Good Shepherd. 

Although a non contact sport the W.P. often went home stiff and bruised from well aimed elbows. 
Miss McGrath has been described as an unforgettable character – she was capable of emotionally picking up an audience of 6 to 600, charming and amusing it, rebuking it and then charming every person present.  Nevertheless, as one could bask in her charm, it was equally possible to feel the sting of her wrath; and many a grown man and woman suffered some inner tremblings before being called into her office.
In 1965 one saw rapid and drastic changes in social and moral conditions in South Australia.

Miss McGrath retired in 1965 and Joyce Richardson was appointed Principal – the last Principal appointment.
Owing to the general changes in society it was felt there was a need for uniformed W.P.  Firstly – in some instances – quick identification – secondly equality.  In 1973 W.P. were recruited for uniform work.
It was with mixed feelings that serving W.P. prepared for the end of an era spanning more than 50 years.
There were many duties carried out by the W.P. during the years 1915-1974 that received no publicity, but were most rewarding.
On the 24th March 1974 the first uniformed W.P. in S.A. commenced duty.
The W.P. Branch was disbanded and the women took   up their new positions within the Department.
The office of Principal was discontinued and the Principal was appointed W.P. Liaison Officer.
Women Police today have a much wider scope then their predecessors.  Miss Cocks’ motto “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is just as relevant now as it was then.
On 1st December 1990 the Women Police of South Australia celebrated 75 years of very active and rewarding service.

    Joyce Richardson.


Audrey is a long serving member of the society and a wonderful volunteer. 

Audrey has been involved for many years with the societies library, keeping the books in good order. 

She has been a museum guide at the former North Terrace Museum, and is currently working on the Maps and Plans Project with Alf Jarvis and Peter Malpas. 

Audrey and Alf catalogued the Roy Harvey Badge collection consisting of thousands of police badges from all over the world.

On nearly every activity, Audrey is there offering any assistance, whether moving furniture, cleaning or sorting files.  Nothing is too much trouble for this affable character.

Well done Audrey
keep up the good work, THANKYOU!

The “HUE & CRY” is
  Published by the
South Australian
  Police Historical Society Inc.,
Thebarton Police Barracks
C/- G.P.O. Box 1539 
Adelaide 5001
S.A. 5083



Elees Pick........

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