As a federal agent, Karen has had the adventure and excitement she was after when she moved into policing from hospital administration. She has spent time in East Timor investigating serious crimes and in Southern Sudan developing and running training programs for local police. She is currently a team leader with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), managing the training programs for officers moving between state and federal forces. Karen likes the fact that a job with the AFP is a way she can give something back to the community and to her country.
Where was your first overseas postings?
It was in 1999 to the Major Investigations Unit of Dili Police Station in East Timor. I investigated serious crimes which had occurred during the previous troubled times war crimes, human atrocities, murder, rape, domestic violence and serious theft. There was no judicial system in place as all of the previous judges were Indonesian and had fled the country. This made for interesting experiences as, in order to expedite justice for petty crimes such as theft or assault, we had to involve the local tribal chiefs and invoke tribal justice. This system worked very well as the East Timorese respected the tribal chiefs and abided by their decision. Other interesting experiences included investigating assorted 'crimes' such as psychic assault and locals being accused of witchcraft.
I was initially deployed to Juba in Southern Sudan as the sector training officer. My work involved coordinating, developing and designing training programs for the Sudanese police. A highlight was designing and developing a basic recruitment program for the local soldiers who were to be trained as police. After developing the course, I ran it at Lologo, just outside Juba. We had no classrooms or other venues so the course was run under tarpaulins. There were 242 participants drawn from all areas across my sector. There were Sudanese police from the Dinka, Nur, Bor and Kuku tribes. It was a difficult course to run due to the sheer number of participants, the limited resources and their varying language and literacy skills. The program was a success and a model for future courses has been developed. I received the UN Police Commissioner's Commendation for Services to Training for my work on this and other courses.
It was a huge culture shock. Apart from being very hot, I had to deal with a lot of Muslim men who weren't used to dealing with a woman like me they really respected the uniform and the position though. The country has been living through a civil war for over 20 years and is very poor, so it was very difficult to get resources.