Trailblazer Joyce Richardson OAM honoured at special ceremony

The long and distinguished life of trailblazer Joyce Richardson OAM (Women Police member) has been honoured at a ceremony held at Thebarton Barracks yesterday afternoon by South Australia Police (SAPOL) and the South Australian Police Historical Society.

The ceremony included acknowledgements of the significant contribution Joyce made to SAPOL and the communities she served. This was formalised by way of presentation of a plaque honouring the life of Joyce which will soon be displayed in the Historical Society’s museum at Thebarton Barracks. In addition, the special ceremony included the scattering of the ashes of Joyce who passed away on 24 December 2021 at the age of 101 years.

Joyce is remembered fondly by countless people across SAPOL and the South Australian Police Historical Society, particularly Retired Detective Chief Inspector Kathryn Finnigan, a close friend who attended yesterday’s ceremony.

Joyce’s decorated policing career started in 1944, when the then 24-year-old answered a newspaper advertisement calling for Women Police Constables between 21 and 30 years of age. Joyce, who was then employed in the Army Inspection Branch, officially joined South Australia’s Women Police on 24 September 1944.

Reflecting on her distinguished career in a 2015 interview for SAPOL’s ‘100 Years of Women in Policing’ celebrations, Joyce said that undertaking cell duty in her early days as a Police Constable was especially interesting.

“I’d look after the female prisoners,” she recalled. “If you got certain prisoners in, you’d have wonderful concerts downstairs.”

Between 1945 and 1961, Joyce worked in a variety of country postings at Whyalla, Port Pirie and Mount Gambier.

In June 1961, she was seconded to Darwin, where she established Women Police in the Northern Territory.

“I returned 18 months later, in 1962. That’s when I started to take exams. Thankfully, I passed my Sergeant’s exam, and from there, I worked on and on, becoming the Principal of the Women Police,” Joyce said.

Joyce was appointed to the role of Principal in 1965, with the retirement of Constance McGrath. She held the position for nine years until, in 1974, the position was declared redundant with the integration of Women Police and Male Police, and the introduction of uniforms for women.

“It was wonderful – laughable, sometimes. We had to wear the fashions of the day. Hats, gloves and handbags. Even though we patrolled for two hours, four hours – our heels still had a certain height,” she recalled.

Upon her transfer to Personnel Branch in 1974, Joyce became the first South Australian Woman Police Officer to be appointed Sergeant.

In August 1975, she spent a fortnight working at Scotland Yard and Guildford Police Station in Surrey to promote the role of Women Police. Whilst at Guildford, a bomb exploded in nearby Caterham, seriously injury many people. Unusually, the Special Operation Room for the incident was staffed entirely by women.

She retired on 31 March 1979, after 34 year’s service to South Australia Police.

During her career, Joyce earned a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, as well as the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977.

In 1990, Joyce was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her service to the welfare of the aged.

Above: Joyce Richardson in her role as Principal of Women Police in 1965.

Above: Joyce comforts a lost child at Elder Park in 1945.

Above: Joyce celebrating her 100th birthday with Superintendent Narelle Kameniar.

Above: Ceremony to honour Joyce Richardson.

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