Sergeant Lee-Anne Walters has been awarded the national medal after 35 years of service, including more than 20 at the Smithton station.
The national medal is Australia’s most awarded civilian medal, given for 15 years of service, with a further clasp given for every 10 years thereafter.
Lee-Anne completed her high school education with the goal in mind of becoming a vet, but the lack of a HECS system and no veterinary science courses in Tasmania made that pipe dream a somewhat difficult reality.
“Back then studying [to become a vet] meant moving to Sydney and it had to be pretty much independently funded,” said Lee-Anne.
“It wasn’t as flexible, you couldn’t do it remotely or part time, you had to move and be a full time student.”
In year 10 she attended the academy for a week as part of work experience and discovered her true passion.
“I did a week at the academy and absolutely loved it,” said Lee-Anne.
“I knew that was what i wanted to do.”
During this time period the police force was also a lot less flexible, and primarily dominated by males.
Men could join the academy at age 16 whereas women had to wait until 18 to be accepted.
There were also a number of key physical attributes, such as a certain minimum height and weight range were also in place.
Additionally, anyone over 31 was unable to join the academy.
“That’s just the way things were back then,” she said.
When she was finally accepted there were six girls in her course who would go on to bring the total of women in the force to 34, of the around 1000 police officers in the state at that time.
“Now it’s a lot closer to that 50 per cent mark.”
Though the standards were beginning to change as Lee-Anne began her work, it wasn’t long prior that women couldn’t be police officers if they were married or had children.
“After I started female police officers would get married and have children but then would struggle to return to the force because there was no flexibility or part time hours,” said Lee-Anne.
Fortunately a lot has changed since then, with much more flexible and less discriminative guidelines now put in place for aspiring officers.
Lee-Anne was promoted to Sergeant after 14 years on the job and has worked in a number of interesting and exhilarating fields prior to settling into her current role, which is a pleasant mix of administrative duties and community management.
“I like the level I’m at because it gives me the flexibility to go out into the community,” Lee-Anne said.
Prior I becoming Sergeant Lee-Anne work for the central investigation bureau in the drugs department doing plain clothes police work as well as a period as a negotiator and some time working in search and rescue.
Though one officer filling the role of Sargeant for such an extended period is almost unheard of in the modern workforce Lee-Anne says she is grateful for being given the opportunity and still loves what she does.
“I’m very comfortable at this level and I’m very fortunate to have been able to continue to do it for so long,” she said.
Sergeant Lee-Anne Walters was awarded the second clasp on her National Police Medal for 35 years of service to the force.
Pictured with Sergeant Shane Flude who received a Commander’s Certificate of Appreciation and Senior Constable James Ebsworth, also receiving a second clasp on his National Police Medal.