Police pathway program gives Zahra the opportunity to achieve her dream

Zahra dreamed of becoming a police officer as a child in Pakistan, following in her father’s footsteps.

Despite her father’s encouragement, patriarchal social expectations initially set her on a different path, towards a teaching career and motherhood — until, after moving to Australia, her husband Mohammad saw a post in their online community group for the Victoria Police Diversity Recruitment Program.

“When we came here, we saw the opportunity,” Zahra said. In June, the pair became the first married couple to successfully complete the course, which supports candidates from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to navigate the rigorous Victoria Police recruitment process.

Delivered by Victoria University in partnership with Jesuit Social Services, the 15-week course aims to increase the cultural diversity of Victoria’s police force, to better reflect and represent the diverse Victorian community it serves. Since its inception in 2018, 132 students from 47 countries have successfully graduated from the program. 58 have passed the Victoria Police entrance exam, and 22 now serve as members of the force.

“It wasn’t easy, but we learnt a lot,” said Zahra of the course, which included three nights of classes per week covering core topics and skills for the entrance exam, fitness, and first aid testing.

With Zahra’s background as a maths and science teacher and a master’s degree in physics, some subjects were straightforward, and others – including swimming, abstract reasoning, and the mock entrance exams – more challenging, but ultimately rewarding.

“I could never imagine I would be able to pass the mock exam, so I’m very happy; very proud,” she said.

Mohammad and Zahra are working hard to become police officers through the Victoria Police Diversity Recruitment Program.


I could never imagine I would be able to pass the mock exam, so I’m very happy; very proud.


Zahra

Victoria Police Diversity Recruitment Program particpant

“Our program has been designed from the outset to break down barriers to participation in the Victoria Police recruitment process, to ultimately set people up for a successful lifelong career where they can reach their full potential and give back to community, either as an individual or in this case, as a family,” said Jesuit Social Services’ Relationships and Operations Manager Kate Wadsworth, who coordinates the program.

“Under expanded eligibility, we can now support applicants from across Victoria, including regional communities, from all culturally diverse communities under-represented within the Victoria Police workforce.”

Representing and protecting their culturally diverse community is why Mohammad and Zahra want to one day work with Victoria Police.

“You become a police officer because you want to be part of the solution,” Mohammad said.

“We’re here, we call Australia our home, and as a resident the foremost job is to make sure the community is safe and the people who live here are safe.”

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