Three keys to success for top woman

Portrait of Commissioner Donna Adams 2023

As Tasmania Police’s highest-ranking female police officer, Commissioner Donna Adams has a unique story to tell.

Advancement was not on her mind when she joined Tasmania Police at 19, but her skills as an investigator, leader and innovator saw her appointed as Tasmania’s 15th Commissioner of Police and Secretary of the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management in October 2022.

“When I joined Tasmania Police straight out of school, I certainly didn’t think I would one day be Commissioner of Police, let alone as the first female Commissioner in Tasmania Police history – some 105 years after women were first allowed to join the service.”

As she has risen through the ranks, Donna has been a mentor and supporter of both sworn and unsworn women in Tasmania Police, encouraging them to seek out opportunities for professional development, promotion and to demonstrate leadership.

From her earliest days on the beat, doing the best job she possibly could was always top of her agenda.

“Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had crafted a reputation for having an enquiring mind,” she said of her early days walking the beat in Hobart.

“I knew everyone in the Hobart CBD: I knew their names, I knew where they worked and I knew all the street kids, as they were called then. I had their names and dates of birth and information about them all in my notebook.

“Because of my reputation, one day CIB came to me about a suspect in an armed robbery who had a distinctive tattoo, and I was able to steer them in the right direction.

“I identified the right person, and they were able to arrest him and get some of the money back,” she said.

It was following that success that she was seconded to Glenorchy CIB and was then able to apply for a job at Bellerive CIB.

“I’ve always had a commitment to learning and improving and being the best I can in the role I’m in.

“My advice to female Constables today is that they need three things.

“They need to be open and willing to lifelong learning, they need to be operationally credible, and they need to know the business of policing.”

Committing to always learn new things shows they are adaptable, flexible and can develop a broader understanding of themselves and the community they serve.

By being operationally credible they need to be good at their jobs and “then a path will appear before them”.

Knowing the business of policing means that they need to understand every aspect of the unit they’re in.

“Every work area I go to I try to learn everything about it. That’s what influences operational credibility because you are able to give good advice,” she said.

It’s certainly a philosophy that has worked for her.

In 2009, Donna became the first female promoted to the rank of Commander, and her skills as an investigator, leader and innovator saw her achieve the rank of Deputy Commissioner in July 2021 – a higher level than any woman before her.

In 2014, Donna was awarded the Tasmanian Telstra Businesswoman of the Year for her work which saw Tasmania Police become the first police organisation to roll out mobile devices to the frontline.

Commissioner Adams has received acknowledgement for distinguished service including a Commissioner’s Commendation for service at Port Arthur in 1996, an Australian Police Medal for Distinguished Service, a Tasmania Police Service Medal for diligent and ethical service, and being recognised by the Australasian Council of Women in Policing as an outstanding investigator.