The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will implement a new program in 2016 that aims to increase the representation of women in the force.

The Diversity and Inclusion Strategy will be headed by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and will operate in close partnership with the AFP.

“I am delighted that Elizabeth Broderick will be working with us,” said AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

“Elizabeth has a breadth and depth of experience working with organisations to achieve cultural change, particularly in relation to the inclusion of women in male-dominated work environments.” In an interview he added, “I’ll be opening every door that she needs.”

Currently, less than 35 percent of AFP members are women, with less than 20 percent performing in senior leadership roles.

Commissioner Colvin said that finding the reasons for this gender disparity is one of the program's main objectives.

“We already have a very strong framework, both in legislation and guidelines, about equality and opportunity,” he said.

“But history shows us that things are changing too slowly ... We’ve got the frameworks right, but why are we not getting the rate of change that we want? I think there’s many things that we could point to, but really, Elizabeth will come on board to help me diagnose the problem.”

Colvin believes that although the diversity needs of the AFP “are very broad and will not end with gender,” they “must start there.”

“If we can’t get gender diversity right when over 50 percent of the population are female, I’m going to struggle to get diversity across linguistics, across culture, across skill sets and across a whole range of diversity objectives that I have,” he said.

“So I’m using gender, because it’s the biggest challenge, as a way to start the process.”

Colvin also acknowledged the need to include and support non-binary gender groups in addition to increasing female representation in the police force.

“[Non-binary gender groups] form a small part of the AFP, but we want to give them a voice,” he said.

“This program might only be about [binary] gender right now, but it is about much broader goals for diversity in police across this country ... And I welcome information and advice on how we need to improve on that.”

Colvin added that the support of large organisations like the AFP will always be vital in promoting gender diversity in Australian society.

“I think it’s critically important. Whether we like it or not, organisations like the AFP have a leadership role to play. But it’s more than just supporting the causes, it’s about actually fundamentally believing in it and showing the strength that can come through an organisation having diversity and inclusion programs.”

The Commissioner anticipates that the Diversity and Inclusion program will run for approximately 12 months.

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