Leading Senior Constable Maha Sukkar

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Sukkar made history when she became the first policewoman to wear the hijab.

“Don’t call me a pioneer”, says Australia’s first hijab-wearing officer changing perceptions.  Maha Sukkar is a Senior Constable working in the Dandenong Police Station. Many years ago, she made history when she became the first policewoman to wear the hijab.

Refusing to call herself a pioneer, she is inspiring other Islamic women to follow in her footsteps and set an example for police forces around the world.  She is a familiar face in Dandenong, one of the suburbs in Melbourne’s southeast region.

She migrated to Australia in 2000 from Lebanon.  She noticed that after the September 11 terror attacks, society’s attitude towards her changed and she embarked on a mission to change it back.  People started saying bad things and she wondered what’s changed; I am still the same person. So, she wanted to change people’s perceptions.

In 2014 she did, making history as the first hijab-wearing officer.  In November that year, Maha Sukkar held the Qu’ran high above her head as she swore an oath to the Victoria Police and received her badge from then Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon.

Over her 13-year career in blue, Maha has seen a lot of change, mostly for better.  She says she still gets occasional questions about her headwear, but she delights in every opportunity to disprove the stereotype of a Muslim woman.  “I’m happily divorced. I’m a police officer who works night shifts and afternoon shifts. If I’m oppressed, how could I do that? I choose to wear it.”

Her Lebanese descent is an asset in the Multicultural Liaison Unit at the Dandenong Police Complex. There is a positive change in the way newly arrived community members see the police, and also how the police think about the communities they serve.

Maha says it is not about tolerance, it is about acceptance.  Figures from the Victoria Police Muslim Association suggest that, over the last decade, the number of officers in the State who identify as Muslim has risen to about 130.  Maha has assisted more than 10 women of diverse backgrounds to join the Victoria Police but some believe her influence reaches further than State and even national borders.

The Islamic Council of Victoria s Nail Aykan said he believes Leading Senior Constable Sukkar is not just the first hijab-wearing officer in Victoria, but also in Australia, and in many English-speaking countries.

He said she is an example to the world of how well diversity and law enforcement can combine, “in profiling and modeling the diversification of the police force; to say, look, if it works for Victoria, if it works for Australia, it can work for us.”

But, despite her achievements, Leading Senior Constable Sukkar refuses to be called a pioneer.  “I’m just a normal human being doing a job.”