Queensland’s New Police Commissioner Talks About Women in the Workforce and Pay

Watch the Commissioner talk about women in the workforce and pay VIDEO:

Listen to the Commissioner talk about women in the workforce and pay PODCAST:


The newly appointed Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service, Katarina Carroll spoke to Business Professional Women (BPW) at their recent Equal Pay Day event.

Commissioner Carroll used one of her first public speaking engagements in the role, which came directly before attending the official opening of the Caboolture Police Station and Moreton District Headquarters, to address her views in relation to women in the workforce.

“I want to talk a little bit about my journey and talk about pay equality in that,” Commissioner Carroll said in the video and podcast above.

“And leave you with some thoughts, I suppose.”

Click here for the full BPW Caboolture Equal Pay Day story

Video and podcast transcript:

Good morning, everyone. And a sincere thank you for having me here today. I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners on the land on which we meet. And to acknowledge their elders’ past, present and emerging. Can I acknowledge the honourable Mark Ryan, Minister for police, Minister for corrective services. Simone Wilson, lovely to see you again, Simone. Morton Bay Regional Counsellors. I think Brooke savage and Peter, I don’t know if he’s here yet. Yes, Peter, how are you? And BPW Queensland representative, Trish Springsteen. BPW Caboolture President Linda Upton. BPW North Lakes President Laurene Coates. These are very important to get through, so bear with me. And BPW Caboolture Life And Charter member, Joy Leishman. And to all of the members of BTW, and for your annual general meeting today. Look, it’s an absolute honour to be here today. When I was coming up here to open the new police station with the minister, I couldn’t resist when he told me the offer to come and speak.

So thank you for having me. I just probably … I’ve got 20 minutes, and I’m hoping at the end of that, that you might want to ask me some questions. Because I think some of the richness of the speech come out and some of the questions that you’ll ask of me. I want to talk a little bit about my journey and talk about pay equality in that. And leave you with some thoughts, I suppose. I do come from humble beginnings. My parents were Croatian immigrants. Very, very quickly moved into the Hot Springs when I was born in Innisfail at the age of seven days old. We went to a tobacco farm. And as young children worked a lot of physical labour in the farm as you had to. We were quite humble and poor from the very outset, I suppose. And my parents came to a great country to raise their children, and a great land. And they’re the strongest Australians you can ever want to have, my parents. Such great advocates for this country.

So as I grew up on that tobacco farm, driving cars, trucks, motorbikes, you name it. And worked in the fields alongside my parents. My mother I suppose was my hero in life, because she not only did that, she also worked hard in the kitchen. My dad did not work hard in the kitchen back then, and still doesn’t. Not only raising children, but cooking for 20, 30, 40 workers at a time. I went from there to boarding school at the age of 12, because we didn’t have much schooling around our area. Where again I had extraordinarily strong women around me. And they are the Mercy Sisters. Highly independent, highly educated women. And pretty well raised me from the age of 12 to 17. And then at that boarding school is where I became very good friends with two girls whose fathers were police officers.

They were police officers in country Queensland. And I used to spend time with them on the weekend. And absolutely adored what they did in the community, and how the community related to these men in uniform. Who although they had authority, had a very, very close relationship with the people in their community. I went off to university, because I wasn’t old enough to join the place. And I did social work where again, a majority of the people doing that course, about 90% were women. It wasn’t until I went to the academy in 1983. ’83, so you can do the math. I’m getting pretty old. 1983 … I started at 10, by the way.

Where I was, I suppose confronted that I was a minority. Because women only sat at 3%. Women fell away very, very quickly. If you got married, you left. If you had children, you left. If you married, you couldn’t marry anyone in the racing industry or hotel industry. You definitely had to leave. And we had a little F behind their names so everyone knew that we were female. I don’t know why that was the case, but we had to. And you weren’t allowed to flat with any men. So I know when I was on the Sunshine Coast, one of the girls, she flattered with a guy in our shift and was told to quickly move out, otherwise she had to leave the organisation. That was 1983. However, the Fitzgerald Inquiry came along. And I sometimes talk about it being the most disturbing time of policing.

But for Queensland Police, I think one of the best. Because we went on to become a great organisation. Promotion became on merit. A lot more women were encouraged to join the job. And we are as a result one of the best policing organisations in the world. So women did increase rapidly in policing service to about 29, 30%. However, stayed quite stagnant throughout the years. As you can imagine being such a minority back then, I was always the first for everything. And it wasn’t unusual for me to turn up to a squad and always be the only woman. I was greatly honoured in 2000 … I’m very blind without those things. So that’s a good thing. In 2010 I was the assistant commissioner in the far northern region. And the only woman on the senior executive. And Ian Stewart asked me to head up the G20. And I often ask him, and even when he left the other day, he didn’t give me a fulsome answer, why he asked me of all the people on that senior executive, because there was a lot of good people on our senior executive. And someone was already doing the role.

When he phoned me, my husband and I, he was living in Brisbane with one child. And I was living in Cairns with another. We weren’t separated. It’s just the way it had to be to make things work at that time. And I desperately wanted to get back to Brisbane. And he said, “Yes, you can on one proviso. You’ve got to do G20.” Well, you can well imagine, we all knew that G20 was happening. And the history of G20 in democratic nations was not a nice one. And I think I was quite ill at the time. And I said to him, “Yes, I will do this for you and make sure that I do it well.”

In fact, a few weeks before that, we’re all looking around the table at the executive leadership team thinking, “Who’s the poor sucker that’s going to end up with this poison chalice?” Little did I know that it was going to be me. So two years after that, yes, it was a very successful G20. We did things out of the box on purpose, because we knew that if we didn’t, it wasn’t going to succeed. And would I have changed things? Definitely. You only learn some of those things on the journey on the way. With that came an offer to go to QFES who had a damning report into their culture. The way they treated women in particular, and the way they treated three women in particular was quite horrific. So I was asked to go into that organisation to transform what in some respects … I wouldn’t say was not systemic, but certainly pockets of culture that you would not want in your organisation.

And that was some four and a half years ago. What I was confronted with though when I came in, particularly in that organisation, the fire and rescue side of the house, it was again 3% of women. Where I was some 35 years previously in the QPS. During my time in the QPS, I had the great honour of doing an ANZSOG Masters. That’s through The Australian and New Zealand School of Government. And we were given a research topic. So it’s a group of a 130 around Australia, and will give them a research topic to look at. And my topic was the barriers to women being promoted to senior positions in the Department of Education in Victoria. And when they told me how many women they had in the senior executive, I couldn’t believe they thought they had a problem. They had 38% women in senior executive. And I came from an organisation that only had about 3% of women in the senior executive.

But what they found was education and health, a lot of women come in at the bottom end of the organisation and that’s about 80, 90%. But as that goes throughout their careers and into senior executive, that completely flips. And that was an issue for them. So it’s not unlike any organisation, whether it’s a public organisation or a private organisation. Somewhere along the line, it will flip. And the reason being that women are still mostly carers, mostly have the children, mostly look after elderly parents. And women in the private sector do have less pay. In the public service, in my organisation, they certainly don’t. There is pay equality. However, if you talk to QSuper, women still retire on a lot less money. Why is that? Once again, when they leave to have children and they have that career break, or come back on part-time. There’s a lot less money going into their superannuation.

One in 10 women, they say, have enough, women, to survive in retirement. But women need more than that, because we live longer than men. So you would think we will be the ones that actually need more of that money. So what is it keeping women at the bottom of the organisation? There’s many barriers. Most of it does sit around flexible work, not having the right policies, the right culture in place. There’s obviously the networking aspect. There is the fact that women themselves feel they’re imposters.

When the women actually have the skills to do the job, they still feel that they’re being imposters. It is real. There is a syndrome and a phenomenon out there that actually addresses that issue. However, the problem is, having women at the bottom of the organisation is not going to change the strategy and policy of that organisation.

You can’t do that unless you go through the organisation, and sit at the top of the organisation. At the bottom end you don’t have the influence that you need. When I went to QFES, thankfully … We had no women on the senior executive out of 12 men. And I managed to get that to three before I left, which was something phenomenal in a fire and emergency services department. I managed to get four women into the senior executive fire and rescue. Senior levels of foreign rescue. And two in rural fire. By far the most senior women across Australia in fire and emergency services. It can be done, but it is a difficult road to achieve. I’m back after four and a half years. And whilst the QPS I think has succeeded in getting a lot of [inaudible 00:10:55] through that front door. Where our challenges still lie is to get women’s through that middle management into senior management. And once again that starts not only with good policies and practises, but also developing your women and giving them the opportunity, and giving them actually the courage to take those opportunities.
If there’s one thing I’ve always done in life, I’ve never ever let an opportunity pass. Because you just don’t know where that opportunity is going to take you. So my aim is also not only to continue at the bottom end, but to make sure that our women get through the middle management, as well as into senior management. And I think in the QPS you will find that change very, very soon. I don’t want to comment how much more on my career in police. I’ll open it up for questions. But I do want to touch on policing in this part of the world. You would know that you are in the Morton District. We’re about to open up an amazing facility this morning. The new police station as well as the new Morton District headquarters. And the old police station, we will actually refurbish into the Watch House.
So I wanted to touch on the fact that you are in very good policing hands. And also policing is changing for us. Policing has been a lot more preventative and proactive. Where with other departments and NGOs and community, we’re actually intervening in people’s lives earlier. Some of that will be generational, but certainly policing does have a part to play in that. We have positive impact on people’s lives. So you will see that change come over the next few years. As well as obviously responding to incidents, we in policing are trying to get that balance right. So from my perspective as the head of this organisation, I’ve got to say that you are in good hands up here. If you ever need anything, just ask the Minister, and he’ll come straight to me.

It’s usually the why it happens, but that’s all good. No, we do have an exceptional relationship. And I’ve got to thank the Minister, because he’s very, very supportive of our organisation. But to all you women out there, keep doing what you’re doing. It makes economic sense to have women at the table. The evidence clearly shows you particularly in the private sector, women in senior roles around that board, you actually make more money. You increase the GDP of the economy. So it’s all of the evidence that’s down there. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing to make sure that we make a positive change. And I am very optimistic about the future, because I think we’re in a good place and we can only get better. So thank you very much. Much appreciated, everyone.

Thank you. Did anybody have any … There we go. Come on down, Joy.
No, no. I can yell out from here. So in your opinion [inaudible 00:14:07].
The Minister can talk to that one very well, because he led the charge at the national level. So technology’s extraordinary. It’s changed the way policing operates, particularly in Queensland police I’d have to say are the world leaders in technology, and recognised by Apple to be so. Ian Stewart was technologically savvy. He introduced what is the iPad, or we call it the [cue lights 00:14:31]. It’s rolled out to several 1000, particularly front lines. The way you used to go back into your office to do your work, you just automatically do it. Mobility, out and about. But what it has enabled to do is more police on the road with higher visibility. And that will actually … So we’re coming out with new apps, new ways of doing business. We’ve rolled out not only more of those, but body born videos. So every piece of interaction that we have with the public is now on video.

And that actually is … So I suppose it just gives the point of view that’s happening then and there as it is, between the interactions with the community and the place. So that’s taken it to another level again. The Minister just announced 7700 the other day to all of the uniform first-line responders. So where you see technology moving is into artificial intelligence. Where you used to trawl through documents that it would take you 40, 50 days. And that can take you four hours. Augmented reality where you could put your goggles on and you look at a site remotely, like a forensic site in Mount ISA. And you don’t have to fly your staff there. They can tell you what needs to be done from Brisbane. So the body worn videos within 12 months, you don’t have to take it back to a docking station and put it into our evidence cloud.

They say … We were talking to Axon the other day that that should download automatically and virtually as you’re doing your business. So this is just taking our life and the community’s life to another level. To enable us to do other things. So where you … Some countries, and I’m hoping we get to this, that you don’t have to sit down and write statements. You just produce your video in court. Once again, statements take so much longer. But it doesn’t give you that true feel of how the victim feels. It’s so much better when you see it on video. So it certainly is changing our world. Immobilisers, the Minister tried to lead this at the national level. It can be done. But I would say the motoring market is not that keen on it yet. But I think we will keep leading that. The issue for us is, I think people get frustrated when I see people doing the wrong thing.

And we have a very strict pursuit policy. And we need to, because we’ve had people die on our roads because of pursuits. And since the strict policy has come in place, that has not happened. But there needs to be some balance, because people are doing the wrong thing. I think that technology is the way to go in the future. We do use POLAIR a lot more to be involved with our pursuits from a distance. But certainly I think that’s one area it can be done. But it’s not being done by the motoring companies at the moment for that purpose.

I just [inaudible 00:17:34].

Many ways. And I think that’ll change in the future as well. So a lot of our work actually sits around mental health, interestingly. People that come into our Watch House, just aren’t criminals and whatnot. A lot of them have mental health issues, because it’s one of the diversion ways to where they end up. And sometimes very difficult to know what to do with them. In some of our more progressive areas. We have a co-responder. A programme where Mental Health, Queensland Health and police are actually co-housed. And they manage their ill people in the community together, long before anything actually plays out. And I’ll give you an example of this where we did this in far northern region. So we share information, which is one of the biggest issues around our departments and mental health. And they manage their clients in the community, and check on them and make sure they have their meds, what’s happening with them.

We went from having about two, three seizures a year. And when we implemented that programme, we had nothing for two years. Because you actually get to know your people. And on top of that, the mental health staff turn out with us, with the police when we’re doing this work. And it’s spreading. We’re doing this now around the state. [inaudible 00:18:48] co-responder. We work closely with other departments. And I mentioned that in our preventative aspect. You can only achieve these things when departments work together, and we get to know our people together. Working in silos, we really need to get past that, because we’re not sharing the right information to get it right. Mental health for our people. I sat on the Beyond Blue Board at the national level that looked at mental health police. And yeah, it is tough. It is a lot more difficult than being a member of the [inaudible 00:19:16].

It’s relentless. Because more often than not, you see the worst of life. You see a lot of good stuff, but you see the worst. There are many, many programmes in terms of what we do internally, our peer support officers, our human support officers. What we are moving to, or need to move to though when people come through the academies to talk more about resilience. We do have a new strategy coming into place as a result of all the research has been done. But I would say in terms of mental health, are we treating it as well as physical health? I don’t think we’re there yet. I think we need to be a lot more open. Have that candid discussion of, “Are you okay?” It’s okay not to be okay. And I think there’s still a stigma attached to it, particularly in those policing roles where you’re supposed to be all for everyone.

It is tough. But I would say the organisations are opening up a lot more. It was the first study of its kind across all of Australia. Extraordinary insights. The other thing that helps is flexible work, career breaks. All of those things that take you away from that accumulative effect over many, many years. And they’re some of the things that we’re looking at internally as well. Yeah. So that’s one aspect, but we do a lot of work around Our People Matters just been introduced. But that’s a strategy. But it should really just be the way that we do business. And a lot is about not just mental health, it’s physical health. Interestingly, I was to a group of people on the Gold Coast the other day. They want to bring in fitness testing again to make sure that we’re … But 50% of the organisation wants that, and 50% doesn’t want that.

So it’s actually quite controversial, let me tell you. You can do fitness programmes, fitness for role, fitness for task. There’s no way I could be academy fit, believe me. That’s just not going to happen. But they’re difficult conversations we need to have with unions. So we do concentrate a lot on health. But could we do better at it? I think yes, definitely. I think we could always improve. We do have strategies that talk about not just physical health, mental health, and keeping fit, eating right, drinking less, you name it. But the research clearly shows you that we could do it better. Thank you. Everyone have a great breakfast.

BPW Caboolture Equal Pay Day

Leave a Reply