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.