Lesbian police officer loses AFP discrimination claim

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Photo: Australian Federal Police

A police officer who was repeatedly denied a transfer to the same city as her female partner has lost her discrimination claim against the Australian Federal Police.

Detective Sergeant Kathryn Richens claimed the Australian Federal Police discriminated against her due to her relationship with female officer Senior Constable Emma-Kate McPherson. She had sought more than $800,000 compensation in the matter.


The couple began the relationship in 2013 while based in Canberra and Brisbane, respectively.

The pair made several unsuccessful requests for transfers to the same city. But Det Sgt Richens alleged they were told their case was not the same as that of a heterosexual couple.

She said superiors told them their “circumstances are not comparative to the co-location of heterosexuals who meet genuine compassionate reasons”.

“It’s not the AFP’s problem we live apart nor is it the AFP’s responsibility to co-locate people with their partners,” the couple claimed they were also told.

The officer claimed the responses constitute discrimination against her on the grounds of her sexual orientation.

Federal Court Justice Debra Mortimer dismissed Det Sgt Richens’ claim on Thursday. The judge noted Det Sgt Richens had not produced evidence of the alleged comments.

However, the judge added the case didn’t reflect well on the AFP due to their “rigid and stubborn” approach.

AFP ‘lacked understanding and compassion’ for police officer

She said as a gay female in the AFP she had felt “completely unsupported.”

“[I have felt] that the AFP Values in employment do not apply to my family unit, partner, and career,” she told the court.

“The AFP have damaged my confidence, self-esteem, resilience, reputation, depleted my ability to overcome and cope with normal setbacks by persistently treating me differently because I made a complaint.”

While she dismissed the damages claim, Justice Mortimer took aim at the force’s handling of the matter.

“In an organisation the size of the AFP, I don’t accept that was an impossible or unreasonable task [to be more supportive of the transfer requests],” the judge said.


“There appears to be have been a rigidity, and a lack of understanding and compassion, at work.”

Justice Mortimer added there also had been “something approaching a stubbornness” not to appoint DS Richens to any of the positions for which she applied.

“These matters do not reflect well on the AFP as an employer,” she said.

Meanwhile, a report into Victoria Police released in May found homophobia and transphobia persisted within police ranks.

Senior officers were accused of using violent language and gay slurs, the report alleged.

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