It was one of those occasions where everything goes right.
The speakers, the venue, the city, the delegates – even the weather played a part in making the 2023 International Women in Policing Conference (IWPC2023) in Auckland unforgettable for all the right reasons.
“It was just amazing,” says Conference Director Inspector Wendy Spiller. “From the opening speakers to the final session, every single keynote speaker was amazing.
“The training sessions were spectacular – there was something for everybody. It was quite overwhelming in terms of people’s response, and how invested they were in being part of it all.”
The curtain-raiser was the pōwhiri at Ōrākei Marae. Wendy cannot speak highly enough of the contribution of Police’s iwi partners.
“The coordination required to get 800-plus delegates on to the marae was huge but every one of them could feel the passion and the warmth and love of the welcome from Ngāti Whātua.”
The Parade of Nations along Auckland's waterfront was hard to miss.
New Zealand Police hosted IWPC2023 on behalf of the Australasian Council of Women and Policing (ACWAP) and International Association of Women in Police (IAWP).
It combined the 60th annual IAWP training conference and 12th biannual ACWAP conference under the Ngāti Whātua-gifted title Te Huinga Māreikura – ‘the gathering of great women’, and the theme of Refresh, Refocus, Renew.
It brought an astonishing diversity of people to Auckland, underlined by the Parade of Nations that followed the pōwhiri, with around 850 women from 75 nations in procession with flags flying.
It’s doubtful New Zealand has ever seen the like, with familiar police partners such as Australia, the Pacific, the UK and US rubbing shoulders with new friends - from Bosnia Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Nepal, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Colombia, North Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago … the list goes on.
The Ukranian delegates ready for the parade.
Most came from very different policing environments, often regions of hardship, civil strife and even all-out war.
“It was very special having the group from Ukraine there,” says Wendy. “Everyone wanted to meet them, and they really appreciated the support.”
If there were any differences between nations represented, their delegates put them to one side.
“There was a sense of unity between countries – they all came together to enable and enhance and make the conference what it was.”
The experience of being in New Zealand was an eye-opener for many. “One of the Tajikistan delegates said to their translator ‘how could a city be so clean and green?’
“So many delegates were taken aback by the kindness and warmth of the welcome they received, how kind New Zealanders were to them.”
Wendy says the 85 speakers, presenters and panel members had the delegates’ attention from day one – the opening by Commissioner Andrew Coster and tone-setting first keynote speech from Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny – until the end.
Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny's keynote speech was well received by a packed conference hall.
The diverse roster included Queensland Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford; Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, head of UK counter-terrorism policing; May de Silva, Seychelles Anti-Corruption Commissioner; Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, and former Police Major, Kateryna Pavlichenko; and Mary Haddock-Staniland, Global Senior Vice-President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.
The final day included a moving address from Judge Soana Moala. “Delegates told me it was the first time they’d seen a final session full.”
Other highlights came in IAWP and ACWAP award ceremonies, with Kiwis honoured in both – retired Detective Sergeant Dorothy McPhail receiving the IAWP Heritage Award for her years of work with the organisation, and Constable Hannah Drake receiving the ACWAP Integrity and Courage Award.
Away from the business, there were social events including a cultural day, a New Zealand night to introduce visitors to some of our national treasures, and a Chicago night with a focus on the host city of IWPC2024.
Wendy began working on the conference in February 2022. She was joined by the planning team – Senior Sergeants MJ Riddle and Bronwyn Matthews, Detective Victoria Crichton and Strategic Analyst Claire Thornton – in February this year. “They were all outstanding.”
Also on Wendy’s thank-you list are Commissioner Andrew Coster and Executive sponsor Deputy Commissioner Tania Kura “who enabled and trusted me to get on with it”.
Not forgetting the event sponsors, including long-time Police partners One NZ and Tait Communications. “Sponsors came on board early and enabled us to do what we wanted to do – people said we’d never be able to get nine double decker buses up to Ōrakei Marae, but we got it done”.
Also the many delegates and ambassadors who helped in many ways before and during the conference; and the main venue the Cordis Hotel for “their service to all of the delegates to ensure they had a great time”.