Policewomen Zara Dare & Eileen O’Donnell

This blog has been used by kind permission from the Queensland Police Museum

FROM the VAULT – Policewomen Zara Dare & Eileen O’Donnell
Queensland Police Media on Mar 4, 2014 @ 11:00am

On March 16, 1931 Eileen O’Donnell 35, and Zara Dare 45, became the first female police officers in Queensland. Although they were appointed Policewomen, they were not actually sworn and had no uniform or powers of arrest. Both women were single, a criterion consistent with the marriage bar in the public service.

QPS Zara-and-Eileen
Eileen O’Donnell and Zara Dare, Queensland’s first Policewomen, July 1931.

Miss O’Donnell and Miss Dare worked under the supervision of the Inspector, Metropolitan Division. They worked regular hours, but with one of them remaining on-call outside business hours. They do not appear to have received any formal training. One task the women had was escorting female prisoners, sometimes on long train journeys. On occasions they were required to conduct the body search of female prisoners.

Prior to joining the Queensland Police Miss Dare was an organiser in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and served with the Salvation Army in China where her work included rescuing women from the white slave trade. Zara left the Queensland Police in 1940 in order to marry. She spoke glowingly of her time in the job and passed away in 1965 just before her 80th birthday. Her replacement was a former confidential secretary, Miss Elizabeth Boyle, who was appointed ‘Supervisor, Women Police’ in June 1940.

Miss O’Donnell kept house for her brother in Gympie prior to her employment with the Queensland Police. Eileen spent 31 years as a Policewoman and retired in 1962 but passed away less than eight months later at the age of 67.

Changes to the Police Acts brought women police in Queensland into line with their counterparts in other States, most of whom who had enjoyed equal powers, pension rights and more substantial staff allocations since the time they were first appointed or soon after. The outstanding difference remaining for the Queenslanders was lack of equal pay. On the September 1, 1970, 39 years after the first policewomen were appointed, and on the same day Ray Whitrod became Police Commissioner, equal pay was finally achieved.


This information has been supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available at the time of writing. The Police Museum is open from 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: museum@police.qld.gov.au

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