Police-women keeping Australians safe through science

From collecting evidence from crime scenes and analysing fingerprints, to searching for the truth in the pursuit of justice - some important roles they play in keeping Australians safe from serious crime.

The AFP is celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science by highlighting the diverse work of three female AFP Forensics members using science in the fight against crime.

From collecting evidence from crime scenes and analysing fingerprints, to searching for the truth for the pursuit of justice, Stacey Wensing, Jessica Halliwell and Jessica Bruce all have an important role to play in keeping Australians safe from serious crime.

Stacey Wensing 1
Image: Stacey Wensing (Source: AFP)

Ms Wensing is a crime scene investigator who collects and examines evidence including fingerprints, trace DNA, shoe marks, blood, glass and hairs.

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She has worked in forensics for the past 12 years, but said she is continually challenged by things she has not come across before.

“I like that I don’t know what to expect from each day and that there is always something else to learn,” Ms Wensing said.

“Science always evolves; techniques change and working with different people encourages adapting and letting in different perspectives. I am lucky that I am surrounded by so many wonderful women, those to learn from and those to mentor.” 

Jess Halliwell 2
Image: Jessica Halliwell (Source: AFP)

Fingerprint expert and specialist in the Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology cohort Ms Halliwell spends her days comparing fingerprints from crime scenes and the morgue, maintaining the national fingerprint database and presenting evidence in court.

“The work I do is very dynamic. I am exposed to a diverse range of case work where I get to apply my skills and knowledge to contribute to an investigation,” she said.

“Over 60 per cent of my team are women, and there are a lot of women throughout the different disciplines and teams in AFP Forensics, which is fantastic to see. For me, seeing women in leadership roles is inspiring and helps me overcome my own self-doubts.”

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Jessica Bruce 3
Image: Jessica Bruce (Source: AFP)

Ms Bruce is also a specialist in the Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology cohort as well as a forensic officer with the Forensics Operations Centre where she manages forensic cases with investigators.

The search for knowledge and truth for the pursuit of justice, together with practising science, is what led her to pursue a career in forensics.

“That constant pursuit of the truth to help people that have had something horrible happen to them just feels like such a worthy career,” Ms Bruce said.

“It is part of my job to accrue knowledge, from how the world works and knowledge about an investigation, to knowledge about other forensic disciplines and their capabilities. I get to spend my whole day being curious and searching for answers.”

Ms Bruce encouraged women and girls interested in a career in forensics to take the leap.

“Determine which discipline interests you, but by no means think that this is who you will be or what area you will have to work in forever,” she said.

“I started as a biomedical scientist, but I have been a technical officer, an archaeologist and physical anthropologist and a crime scene investigator. I now do none of these roles, and on top of that, I am now a mother and work flexibly.

“The idea you have to fit a specific mould to be a forensic scientist is outdated. You can be yourself and your career will mould around you. You just need to take the leap and make career decisions that suit your life at that specific time.” 

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