“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.”
New Zealand Police hosted IWPC2023 on behalf of the Australasian Council of Women and Policing (ACWAP) and International Association of Women in Police (IAWP). The event was supported by Auckland Convention Bureau, a division of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, and the Tourism New Zealand Business Events team.
The sold-out event 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’, for the opportunity to ‘Refresh, Refocus, Renew’ together. Breakout speaker session themes included leadership, development, wellbeing, diversity, and operational policing, plus a number of practical training sessions.
The event opened with a pōwhiri welcome at Ōrākei Marae, supported by the police’s iwi partners Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
“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 Ōrākei,” Spiller says.
The welcome was followed by a Parade of Nations, with around 830 women from 75 nations walking in procession along Auckland city’s waterfront with flags flying - the most diverse IAWP/ACWAP conference delegation to date.
As well as police partners from Australia, the Pacific, the UK and US, there were attendees from every continent and as far afield as Bosnia Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Nepal, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Colombia, North Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago.
Most came from very different policing environments, including regions of hardship, civil strife and even war.
“It was very special having the group from Ukraine there,” says Spiller. “Everyone wanted to meet them, and they really appreciated the support.”
“There was a sense of unity between countries – they all came together to enable and enhance and make the conference what it was.”
Delegates also enjoyed the experience of being in Auckland. “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.”
The conference programme incorporated 85 speakers, presenters, and panel members, starting with an opening by New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster and a tone-setting keynote speech from Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny about the privilege of policing.
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 about mental health, humanity and working in the criminal justice system. “Delegates told me it was the first time they’d seen a final session full, which underlines how strong the conference content was,” Spiller says.
Other highlights included the IAWP and ACWAP award ceremonies, with New Zealanders 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.
Spiller praised the conference host venue – the Cordis Hotel – for “their service to all of the delegates to ensure they had a great time”.
Alongside the business, there were social events including a cultural day which saw many delegates wear their country’s national costume; a New Zealand night at Sky City where delegates visited the All Blacks Experience, Wētā Workshop Unleashed, the Sky Tower Viewing Deck and the Fortuna, Sky City Restaurant; and a Chicago night with a focus on the host city of IWPC2024 IAWP 2024.
Ken Pereira, Head of Auckland Convention Bureau, says that the opportunity to engage in social activities gave delegates a chance to experience Auckland.
“Hosting the International Women in Policing Conference 2023 in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland was a great opportunity to share our culture with delegates from all over the world. Our hospitality providers and entertainers provided unique and unforgettable experiences for delegates to get to know Auckland and each other, outside of the conference setting. The importance of that social aspect can’t be understated, and the positive feedback we received from conference attendees is a testament to its impact.”
Spiller concludes: “IWPC 2023 - Our Gathering of Great Women ‘Te Huinga Māreikura’, was real, it was honest, and it was heartfelt. People came together, people learned, and people will affect meaningful change globally across police as a consequence of our time together.
“I am so very proud to have been part of this inspiring group of people. I have made and strengthened working relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime.”