NZ policewomen mark 75 years in the force with symbolic Dunedin torch climb

By Rhys Chamberlain

Constable Kala Baker from Waihi Beach will be taking part in the paton relay marking 75 years of women in the police force. Photo / File
Constable Kala Baker from Waihi Beach will be taking part in the paton relay marking 75 years of women in the police force. Photo / File

The heights of Baldwin St took a toll but did not defeat Dunedin's police personnel as they transported the torch marking the 75th anniversary of women in policing to the top.

About 20 officers, men and women, walked or ran up the world's steepest street in honour of those women who paved the way for today's female police officers.

The highlight of the event yesterday came after the torch was officially welcomed to Dunedin by Mayor Dave Cull in the Octagon. The attire some of the women wore during the ascent included uniforms from bygone eras, chronicling the long brown dress and bowler hat uniform from the 1940s, to the navy skirt and knee-high boots of the 80s, all the way through to the more universal modern navy uniforms of trousers and a utility vest.

Sergeant Kate Saxton, of Dunedin, said Baldwin St was a challenge but just a "small sacrifice" compared with what the earliest female police officers had to overcome.

"I think it's really an occasion to celebrate and recognise how far we've come since those early days and recognise what those women did for us,'' Sgt Saxton said.

The month-long event, culminating on August 1 with a national parade in Wellington, was an "extremely significant'' celebration, she said. "It's also a fantastic opportunity to highlight policing as a career, especially to young women, and really to celebrate the fact that there are so many women in the police and the distance that we've come."

Yesterday's events also included a visit to the University of Otago and an afternoon tea at the Dunedin Central police station. The torch would be taken by Coast Guard to Port Chalmers and then driven to Blueskin Bay and Palmerston before being handed on to police in Oamaru today.

It was in Queenstown and Middlemarch before arriving by train in Dunedin yesterday. June 24 marked the start of the celebrations and the torch relay began simultaneously from Bluff and Cape Reinga.

- Otago Daily Times

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