Trailblazer: Joy Murphy leads the way for police and PSO women

By Toni Brient

As the longest-serving policewoman in Australasia, to say Detective Senior Sergeant Joy Murphy has seen monumental change in her career would be an understatement.

In fact, she has driven much of that change herself with dogged determination and persistence.

When Joy followed her older brother into the job in 1973, women were generally expected to attend theorybased classes while men did physical training at the Academy.

Pushing the boundaries

But she wouldn’t have this; she ran and swam alongside the men and would later go on to be the first woman to run cross country in the Police, Fire and Emergency Services Games. “I always pushed the boundaries a little bit,” Joy said.

“I wanted to challenge myself to do that little bit more, and I wasn’t prepared to just hand things over to the guys when I knew I could do those things myself.”

On the road, Joy and the 200 other serving policewomen at the time were restricted to community policing roles.

During a stint as the first woman at D24, members used to hang up if Joy  answered the phone, thinking they had the wrong number when they heard a woman’s voice.

At a time when even general duties positions were hard for women to land, it was almost unheard of for a woman to be promoted into criminal investigations.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1977 relaxed things enough that Joy was able to achieve a position in her local CI within a few years of graduating, and was part of the inaugural crew to make up the Rape Squad in the late 1970s.

By the end of 1980, Joy was a Senior Sergeant intent on improving women’s opportunities in the job.

Pushing for change

“The introduction of part-time policing was a big thing,” she said.

“When they first brought it in, it was quite restrictive – anyone who wanted to go part-time could only work in non-operational positions.

“At that time I was Senior Sergeant at a Community Policing Squad and there were a number of women who wanted to have families but didn’t want to go part-time because they didn’t want to transfer.

“I actually did lose a member, a really good member, to D24, and that prompted me to push a bit harder to have my members go part-time but stay in an operational area.

“The push back was really just inflexibility, with people not being prepared to change.

“I’ve probably gotten on the wrong side of people at times because I push change…not for the sake of it, but because I can see that if change can benefit my members, VicPol and the community, then that’s a good thing.”

47 years and counting

Joy’s efforts over her incredible 47 years of service have been recognised with a slew of awards, including the Australasian Council for Women in Policing’s Most Outstanding Female Leader Award in 2007, an Australian Police Medal in 2008, and a commendation in 2011 for her work as a unit commander in the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

And she recently added another welldeserved award to her collection, inducted into the Victorian Women’s Hall of Fame as a ‘Trailblazer’ late last year.

While Joy isn’t ready to retire just yet (she intends on clocking 50 years in the job before even considering it), she is happy to see the next wave of changemakers take charge.

“I’ve knocked down a few hurdles, and now it’s time for somebody else to knock a few down,” she said.

“I love seeing women standing up and supporting other women.

“Some women climb up the ladder and pull that ladder up behind them – I get disappointed when I see that.

“Work hard, talk loudly, and most of all, believe in yourself and don’t be put off, because there will always be people who just don’t want some things to happen.”